Friday, October 23, 2009

No Ulterior Motives: Part 1

Just on a vacation in New York and I had no professional reason to go. This is a change of pace.


I met my dad and brother at JFK since our respective planes were mere minutes apart in landing time. We were chauffeured into midtown by cabbie Stuart Joffe (read the link, seriously this guy was ridiculous), a little Jewish guy from Brooklyn who has been driving a cab in New York for almost fourty years. He regaled us with tales of the celebrity passengers he's had (focusing mainly on who was gay and who was a jerk in real life).

We grabbed some lunch at Juniors (tip: always share anything here), saw Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (my first Broadway play, cute and fun), and had a late dinner at Five Napkin Burger where the highlight was the espresso brownie sundae (sorry, no picture). I slept sooooo good that night.


We were all up bright and early to catch a ferry to Ellis Island for the morning. The day was sooooooooo perfection! Dad had secured us some sweet reservations for the official Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island cruise. Yea, it is touristy, but it's a history museum, so I know I'm gonna love it.

They do try to recreat the imigrant experience for you in the process of getting on the boat (metal detectors, huddling everyone together in long lines or in a big tent) but we were happy to do it.

The three of us waiting to board the ferry.

Wind in my face and liberty at my back.

Lady Liberty as we passed.

Her original name (btw) is "Liberty Enlightening the World" and she wasn't as big as my brother thought she would be. We actually didn't disembark on Liberty Isaland, although it was an option. A floating photo op was good enough for the likes of us. Considering we couldn't climb up into the statue anyway (a privilege reserved for those who had the foresight to get tickets months in advance) we headed straight to Ellis Island where my dad's grandpa arrived from Ireland in the 1920s.
Approaching in the ferry

The grounds were beautiful, and the building has been restored as a museum.

Enjoying the audio tour in the "registration hall."

We all loved the museum and would give it high recommendations (definitely invest in the audio tour, so worth it). It was very revealing not just about the process on the island but the immigrant lifestyles before and after arriving in the United States. Fascinating stuff. A must see even for the most cynical.

The day just got nicer and by the time we left we could take a relaxing stroll from Battery Park to Stone Street in the Financial District. We got there at the peak o the lunch hour and it was hopping with people (which I thought was super fun). Chowed down at the Stone Street Tavern (pretty good but not too memorable) and walked up to Wall Street to catch our train back to midtown.

Sam (my brother) had wanted to go down to Washington Square Park to photograph the arch (and anything else cool looking.)

My brother is a photographer. :)
He also wanted to do some shopping at some stores downtown. So I went with. The coolest store we went to was Uniqlo a Japanese store with so many sweaters I wanted to move in.

It looked like a clothing Ikea with three floors of very affordable merchandise.

After such a big day we decided to lay low grab some grub and enjoy the NBC Thursday night line-up (ok, that was mostly for me.) Searching for a place to eat I happened to hear a few random things about Mooncake Foods and all three of us were glad I did. It was this fantastic asian diner with absolutely no frills but AMAZING service AMAZING food for AMAZING prices. We had lobster and mango summer rolls and edamame for an appetizer, New Zealand lobster, craw fish and mushroom wonton soup, and steak kebabs with peanut sauce for dad, sam and me respectively, plus two glass of Sapporo for the guys for the price of what we had been paying for lunches. Go there, now

Lobster dinner special.


Steak kebabs.


Friday was finally supposed to be the day we did what we came here for which was to visit the PDN Photo Plus Expo, featuring photographers and cameras and all things photo related. It was interesting and I did learn a few tips but honestly, after an hour I had pretty much got the gist of it.

My brother graciously escorted me to my desired destination for the day: central park. We strolled and enjoyed the upper west side for a few hours before meeting with Dad for lunch at Manganaro's Heroboy, where diets go to die.

My selection was the day's special: chicken cutlet with spinach and mozzarella. Yum!

I only ate half and took the rest to go, so I wasn't too bad. This place get a big thumbs up from me not only because of the food but the atmosphere which consisted almost exclusively of locals.

Dad headed back to the Expo and Sam and I needed naps after our epic walk around the west side. It started to get rainy which made all of us desire some more delicious Italian comfort food. We braved the weather to get to Carmine's, a popular spot in the theater district known for family style dinning. We got there at nine and got a table at ten (it's the kind of place where you should make a reservation, is what I'm getting at) but the time flew because of the great company!

The gentlemen enjoying drinks at the bar.

Each dish at Carmine's is enough to feed six people. Luckily the guys had been here before so we decided before hand just to order salad and an entree.

This is just my share of salad.

Up close and personal with our main course.

We made a respectable dent in the seafood linguini (which featured some of the most velvety scallops I have ever had the pleasure of tasting).

The clam broth of the pasta was also too delicious to resist soaking up with some bread!

The final verdict for Carmine's? It is super busy, and a little touristy, but the food is totally worth it! Next time I wouldn't go with less than four people (five or six would be perfect) and I would make a reservation.

Next installation coming in a bit! Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the rest of my vacation.

I was in the Sondheim Review!

A couple months ago I worked for Light Opera Oklahoma and was Anne in their production of A Little Night Music. It was great fun. A few days a go a colleague of mine sent a copy of the review of the production to the cast. The article appeared in the Winter 2009 quarterly The Sondheim Review (a publication dedicated exclusively to the works of Stephen Sondheim) and was lovely. This was my section:
Anne Egerman... received outstanding performances from Jessica Salley... Salley was a luminous Anne, portraying the self absorption and thoughtlessness of youth without obscuring its undeniable charms. Salley also boasted a pure soprano and admirably clear diction even in the highest reaches of "Soon." -Christopher Weimer
Isn't that nice?!

The Sondheim Review is only not accessible on the internet but you can buy this issue here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Foodie diet

My beloved Kasey and I are officially fed up with being fat and lazy! Although I prefer to think of myself as corpulent and shiftless. But the food lovers in both of us will not give up without a fight. The great compromise is of course eat what is both delicious and nutritious and eat less of it. My problem is I love food indiscriminately and in massive quantities; Kasey's is a similar conundrum. Upon careful consideration we realized that it is mostly a matter of eating less and trying to pick smarter food choices.

Example: Sunday we made sushi at home with lots of veggies, totally delicious, totally healthy, totally filling. Monday now in the mood for something more hearty I made us some veggie chili topped with plain Greek yogurt and green onions. Also, we try to order things to split, or sub the side for a salad, etc. Typically tricks and tips you heard a million times. I have heard them too.

It has only been a few days so I'm trying not to count my chickens but so far I have been feeling proud and satisfied. I put on some pounds since last year (approx. 20 lbs) and I most recently weighed in at 177 lbs (eeeekkk!!!!!) Yea, I said it. Even 20 pounds ago I wasn't where I wanted to be. So as I recently heard in a movie, it's time to nut up or shut up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Epic Post About Massachusetts: ENJOY!

It has been sometime since I have been around but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy. After New York I headed to Amherst, MA, the home of my mom’s sister and her family. My aunt Suzie is my godmother and she is probably my closest older female relative (not including my mom), I mean she is such a great listener (that might be because of her profession as a therapist). Clearly I was excited to see her and my cousins (two of whom I don’t think I’ve seen in multiple years) and my uncle George.

The Heron-Duranti family lives in a teeny tiny town called Shutesbury. It is like a minute from Amherst, a slightly busier college town in western Massachusetts. They live up on a little mountain in the woods where cell phone reception dare not go. This can be frustrating in our day and age when the thought of not being able to contact or be contacted this very instant sends some into a frenzy of anxiety (I won’t name names, but you all know who you are). Luckily since my last trip they have installed satellite wireless Internet that is, as my cousin Valerie said, “slightly faster than dial-up.” But the difference was noticeable. The last time I visited their home was about six or seven years ago and dial up was the only option in a rural area that the cable company refuses to wire!

The first day Valerie and I went to Vermont (my first time there) to this little cheese factory to check out the cheese as it was being “cheddared.” Did you know that cheddaring is a verb and cheddar cheese is named after the process of making the cheese? Well this is something I learned at the cheese factory! The other really great thing I learned was about the delicious cheeses made there. The cheese factory provided my cousin and me with ample and generous free samples (my favorite two words) of speciality Vermont cheddar cheeses and spreads and mustards. My personal favorites included a sage cheese, garlic cheese, and an AMAZING soft horseradish cheese spread. We also sampled “cave aged” cheddar made in the original style of cheddar aging. It was aged coated in animal fat in the back of a cool cave the way it was done when cheese making was first invented. It was definitely tasty and unique; it was very hard in texture but not overly sharp. Another cheddar fact, the longer a cheese ages the sharper it gets. We picked out a couple cheeses to add to the menu for Val’s wine tasting party later that week and headed back. Val took me to one of her favorite little spots, a cute Asian fusion cafĂ© with a specialty of “tea rolls” (a house invention almost like a teeny burrito with Asian influenced filling). Delicious.

The next day was also very busy with day tripping. Val and I headed to Newport, RI for the day. It’s about a two hour trek from Amherst to the beautiful mansion dotted shores of Newport but two hours flies by when the mean travel time I’d spent in the car this trip was about six hours. Rhode Island was another place I had never been (I know I’m such a rube, I mean who hasn’t been to Rhode Island?) so I was psyched. Especially after getting all juiced up on the hopes of having fried full belly clams, ogling beachfront estates, and watching the sail boats while sipping a hot drink. Newport is very pretty. It’s one of the many New England retreats for the North Eastern elite (the shop prices reflect this appropriately). We started the visit on the cliff walk, a public trail that ran right on the edge of the water and right next to mansion after mansion some public for tours and some still owned by private parties. It was a breathtakingly perfect day and the walk was charming. Unfortunately, I happened to visit Newport the day that Flo’s Clam Shack. Something about the off-season *grumble*grumble* and it being in the middle of the week *grumble*grumble* so the famous Flo’s was not an option. Now, we are completely hopeless, starving, and have no idea where to eat without handing over an I.O.U for our first born in lieu of payment. We happened to end up at an unlikely pub where we dined on oysters, clam chowder, and fried clams for about 20 for each of us. The real treat was the chowder. It was quite a surprise to have a clam chowder with the perfect consistency of a white broth (not thick and starchy) and the incredible element of fresh dill! Anyway it all worked out. Val and I grabbed some hot cider and hung out on the wharf gossiping and watching the sea. Then we headed to the Newport vineyards for a wine tasting (the whites were great, the reds were ok, and we go to keep our glasses as a souvenir!) This being a Wednesday Coastline Show Chorus rehearsal was the next stop. We headed just back into Massachusetts and met up with Suzie.

Coastline Show Chorus is a top Sweet Adeline’s Chorus (they’re actually competing at international this week, go Coastline!) Suzie joined a couple years ago (inspired in part by my own mothers participation in Sweet Adeline for fourteen years and counting with the City of Lakes Chorus, among others). Val just joined in the summer, and is already completely submerged in the culture of competitive choreographed women’s barbershop choral singing. It is actually pretty intoxicating. Coastline’s competition music is great. I had such an emotional experience watching them rehearse. How inspiring it is to watch people work so fervently toward a common goal simply because they love singing and performing. I am humbled and reminded of some of the things in the entertainment business that lead so many of us to become embittered. But these singers just give. It makes me want to do that too, all the time.

The last full day I spent in Amherst was mostly dedicated to prepping for the wine tasting party Valerie planned with her friend Alyssa. We bought little snacks, tidied the house, made party favors, and got glammed up (the attire was semi-formal, fancy huh?) until guests started arriving around 6:30. Val had assigned certain items to certain guests. We had made quite a few little bites (crab cakes, spanakopita, cheese spreads, shrimp cocktail, chocolate fondue, pigs in a blanket, crackers, etc.) the wines and a few other treats were assigned. Guests were asked to bring a bottle of wine or some cheese or chocolates, whatever. The party was a huge hit! People really got into tasting different things. There were even buckets to dump out excess and a water carafe to clean one’s glass between tastes. I know those things have fancy wine tasting names but I don’t know what those are.

I retired early from the party to get some sleep because I was planning on driving halfway to OKC the next day, and that is exactly what I did! I drove from 8:30 to 11 on Friday, slept, then drove 9 to 8:30 Saturday. It wasn’t as bad as it seems although I’m hardly ready to become a teamster. Tucked back into my bed in Oklahoma was rewarding. What a great trip.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pitts, Rochester, Friends

After leaving Leah's (sad), I stopped by to visit my Grammy in Pittsburgh. It was a really short trip but nice to see a few relatives that I haven't seen in years! Then it was off to my next school stop. I was in need indeed of some school time.

Rochester was the only stop on my schedule route where I didn't know anyone. My hotel was luckily within walking distance from Eastman. I saw four faculty members there through my trip. Interestingly I got four different opinions about my vocal future. Of course that is to be expected but never have I seen such hugely differing opinions in technical approach and general style one right after another. Honestly, it was a little jarring and shook my foundation about what my basic goals were with this quest(?)

I took the evening to do some soul searching and suddenly had the realization that so much more of my vocal and performing future is dependent on me. I know that sounds so obvious and juvenile to have to "realize" but I never had the opportunity to do so before.

In many ways I was under the impression that the voice will naturally reveal itself with time and healthy singing and that it would lead you in one way or another on it's own. Even as I type that it seems so strange. It is strange to imagine one's voice as some sort of separate and mysterious entity over which you have no direct control because (and I only became personally aware of this yesterday) it is simple not true. I'm not trying to be extreme or anything, I mean if you just don't have the notes there are certain fachs you will never inhabit, but there is a lot more room in there to play.

Example: in two separate appointments I had with teachers back to back at Eastman they had two technical approaches and brought out two completely different voices from my body. The first was broad and open and full and had lyric lyric lyric written all over it. The second was spinning and sparkling and delicate and had coloratura right in the sound. This was in the course of two hours. Basically to feel like I had more options then I had originally thought sent me into a mini-existential crisis. I already was feeling overwhelmed with choosing what to do next with my life let alone perhaps choosing a completely different vocal path.

I'm not finished chewing on my options but I am leaning in a particular direction (revealed at a later date). In related news Rochester is a lovely town. Who wouldn't be inspired at a school like Eastman:
I can't write about this anymore... later.

Friday, October 2, 2009

En route to kentucky

My second day in Tenneessee was at least as interesting as the first. Got in a coaching and a lesson after sleeping in a bed! I am right now listening to a music rehearsal UT opera. They are producing The Crucible. It's kind of pandemonium in here. Definitely relaxed to say the least. It is a far cry from the task mastering I have experienced. The good thing is that the students are so talented work is still getting done.

The aforementioned lesson went REALLY well. The teacher heard my issues and seemed so interested in helping work the things out that I need to get worked out. I am now a lot more interested in the school in general. This teacher also helped me realize why it has felt like i have a family of slime eels living in my throat since I got here. Apparently, like so much of this country, the pollen is bad. Note to self: always take allergy meds!

On the bad side I of course feel so completely confused about what kinds of things I should sing! *FRUSTRATION* I have decided that I simply have no choice at this time in the season I will own my choices and polish them to the highest degree I can.

I feel like I have been making a major life discovery every day recently. Going on these trips is sooooooo good for me. Taking myself out of my comfort zone has put into SHARP focus the problems I have in all areas: technique, work ethic, practice style, learning. As long as I glean as many new habits, tricks, tools, whatever this whole situation will be so worth all the trouble and time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

From the mountains

I am currently enjoying the view in Knoxville, TN. Yesterday I made a horrible decision to start a four week long road trip from OKC through the Appalachians up to New England and then all the way back down again. If you think I'm insane you are correct.

My sanity not with standing it may turn out to be a good decision. Knoxville seems to have been worth a harrowing 13 and a half hour drive through the wilderness with only my ipod to keep me company (and the lovely conversation of Kasey, Leah, and my mom). Upon arrival I was greeted with immense hospitality by Dixie and her roommate Patrick. Dixie and I go way back to this past summer when we worked together at LOOK.

I rose with the dawn my first day in the smokies and went to visit UT Knoxville for the first time. Patrick is the coach at UT and he was gracious enough to show me around the music offices before my meeting with faculty. I also got a chance to hear some of the students and I tell you what, those kids aren't messing around! There seems to be some real voices up here. The graduate seminar I observed was an absolutely fantastic way to see a school.

This place definitely has it's pros. One of the big things that attracted me to look here in the first place was the Knoxville Opera Studio which is the type of program popping up more and more these days. Basically, if asked to be a part of the opera studio a singer would work for the local opera company (in this case obviously Knoxville Opera) while getting their masters or post graduate degree at the affiliated school. Their are several school across the United States that are attempting such partnerships and although I am hardly an expert on their individual success I admit that as a perspective student it makes the school look like an immeasurably more beneficial opportunity.

Of course all factors must be weighed. Just having a company affiliation or more "professional" credits does not guarantee a positive learning experience. After all, at the completion of a degree you are hopefully a more well rounded well versed and stronger singer with a tightened and polished technique. If you simply spent two years working for free and you didn't have the coaching and lessons you needed to become a more marketable professional than it won't matter.

I had an experience like this. Last year I was invited to join a resident artist program like I have been describing with a regional opera company. Instead of accepting this invitation I chose to respectfully decline, not because it was a bad place, but it didn't feel like the right environment for me to meet my greater vocal and professional goals. It was actually because of this experience that I realized that I was going about my career path in the wrong way and ultimately was one of the major reasons I am on the current expedition. I now realize should I make the investment of quite a bit of time and money I need to make sure it is the right place. Taking a gig is just different than going to school and should be approached differently.

Tangent aside UT is staying on my list. I have another lesson tomorrow and might get a chance to watch some of the opera rehearsal for Robert Ward's The Crucible (based on Miller's allegorical drama) so that should make for interesting mind fodder on the drive to my next stop.

Also: the graduate voice adviser at UT reminds me very much of foodie/travel idol Anthony Bourdain which just makes me miss the travel channel.

En Why See

I went to the big apple, enjoyed the hospitality of good friends and had an audition... just wanted to keep myself on track and put it on the record.