Today’s wonderful studio recital, graciously hosted by the Edwards family in their beautiful home, was a smashing success!
We went from Pergolesi to Brahms to Rodgers & Hart to Ellie Goulding, and finished with a barbershop extravaganza. Singers performed solo in public for the first time, tried difficult rhythms and lightning-speed text, blew kisses and hearts to an imaginary crowd in Berkeley Square, were Bewitched, and stretched their vocal and dramatic talents to new limits. I was not nervous (well, hardly!) for anyone; they were pros.
Congratulations and thank you to all my wonderful students!
Prepare for a bit of horn-tootage. This is just a bit of documentation for my new venture—SingAsana SUPPORT—so please forgive the self-indulgence.
Since its official launch at the beginning of April, SUPPORT has taken on two major projects. The first was the marketing and publication of Volti’s new multimedia choral performance art piece, Pandora’s Gift. Coordinating the print press, social media, online listings, digital ads, and blog for the project was one of the greatest publicity challenges I’ve faced, and it went swimmingly. It certainly helped that I had passionate artists, excellent images and sounds, and motivated professionals with which to work. The show was a huge artistic triumph (congratulations to all the artists!), and both performances were sold out. So . . . success!
The other project just wrapped is a mobile app for the Golden Gate International Choral Festival, coming up next month (July 12-18 in the East Bay and San Francisco). I built the app on the Attendify platform, which is reasonably priced and seriously easy to use. You could do it yourself, but since this tech stuff is an annoyance and so frustrating, why not let me?! 😉 Anyway, you can download the app here, and you should, because it’ll connect you with some amazing international children’s and youth choirs coming to do a week of concerts in the Bay Area. Check it out!
Please contact Justin at SingAsana@me.com if you need business support services for your arts non-profit or other small business. Thank you!
Ends of things are so poignant. Ends of songs, ends of movies, ends of books . . . ends of concerts, ends of relationships, ends of eras . . . One such era comes to a close this summer, when Beth Avakian—my supervisor, mentor, and friend at the San Francisco Girls Chorus—retires after 32 years as the Level IV and Chorus School director. The special mix of respect, fear, and awe that students, parents, and colleagues have in common for Beth is far outstripped by the overwhelming love for this inspirational music educator. I’ve known only a few music teachers in my life who were uncompromising in their standards and belief in the capabilities of young musicians. Interestingly, all of them are women, and Beth is among the chiefest of these. She will leave a meaningful and lasting legacy at the Chorus, and we will feel her absence poignantly, even as we rejoice in what I hope will be frequent visits and copious advice.
I’ll let Beth’s words inspire, as mine surely fail to do in comparison:
“Music and singing have fulfilled me throughout my life, and I’ve been able to give this gift of music to these generations of girls and young women. I’m very grateful for that. And for the families, who understood that we can change lives with this music. It’s a very demanding art that asks for commitment and sacrifice. And so many of these girls have stepped up to this. Music has filled them.” – Elizabeth Avakian
This past Sunday, at Z Space—an awesome, architecturally spare, imagination-freeing venue in San Francisco’s booming Mission neighborhood—I saw and heard an awesome, visually rich, imagination-freeing performance by Volti and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir of Pandora’s Gift. The music was by Mark Winges—a primarily, but hardly solely, choral composer who also acts as Volti’s artistic advisor and composer in residence. I’ve always found Winges’ music intellectually fascinating and obviously brilliant, but often mechanical or chilly. Here, Winges intentionally left space for the stage movement to be incorporated, but also imbued his inventive melodies and harmonic crunches with the softness of Pandora’s early discovery, and the hope left at the bottom of her box, rather than just the violence and horror of what was released.
Volti always sings difficult new music with technical assuredness and surprising artistry, given the demands placed upon this 20-voice virtuoso choral instrument. Here, their very bodies became part of the art, bringing Erika Chong Shuch’s stage direction to darting, writhing, reaching life. Choral singers don’t move well. It’s a trope well founded in the countless misguided attempts at what we usually condemn—choralography. In Pandora’s Gift, the Volti singers and the amazingly game, equally masterful PEBCC choristers shredded the choralography epithet. They moved as if trained to do so all their lives, and every gesture was completed, every facial expression married to the text, and all the singers committed 100% to the physical drama as much as the vocalism.
For an organization equally accustomed to risk-taking and accolades, Volti was again able to stretch, grow, and surprise. Two sold out audiences rewarded Volti with rapturous applause, and their inspirational creation of new, vital art was hugely deserving of it.
But wait—what could be more inspirational than the Great American Songbook and a bit of shameless self-promotion?
Clerestory sings the final concerts of its 9th season at the end of this month. Songbook is filled with a cappella arrangements of 20th century American popular songs—jazz, spirituals, barbershop, folk, and Broadway. We’ve finished about half our rehearsals, and the guys are completely enchanted by these foundational songs of our country’s musical history. All of this music is quintessentially American, and all of it is easy on the ear and uplifting for the spirit. I’m thoroughly enjoying singing it, and can’t wait for audiences to hear it. Learn more about the program and get tickets here. If you’d like to hear who Clerestory is, you can visit our Soundcloud for some recent tracks. And remember—Clerestory wasn’t heard, nor was music truly made till there was you . . . 🙂 🙂 🙂
I can’t believe the end of the year is already upon us! Students, you have made wonderful progress in 2014-15, and I appreciate all your hard work, your excellent lesson attendance, and your delightful spirits along the way.
Summer Session lessons will begin in June, and I’ll be scheduling the whole summer this month, if possible. Of course, we can adjust as need be, and I’ll bill monthly as usual, but if you plan to study over the summer (and I hope you do!!), let’s please try to set things up soon. Email me to schedule. Thank you all!
SingAsana Summer Session 2015
June 1 – August 25, 2015
Here are some highly recommended (and not just because I had something to do with most of them) upcoming concerts.
Chorissima and several singers from Level IV of the San Francisco Girls Chorus perform the second of their two Children’s Crusade concerts Sunday, April 19, 4pm at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco. These preternaturally talented young women have learned difficult music by Lili Boulanger, Philip Glass, and a new piece by Ralf Gawlick – Kinderkreuzzug. It’s a 35 minute cantata on a famous poem of Bertold Brecht about children journeying from Poland in search of refuge from the perils of World War II. Hearing such young artists sing so skillfully and passionately about the struggle of life and death represented in all three works on this concert is amazing and meaningful. Go. Tickets and more info here.
Clerestory – Love and the Knight – at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco. This is the last outing of our popular early-music oriented spring set, presented by Noe Valley Chamber Music. Come and hear songs of courtly love and gallantry Sunday, April 26, 4pm. Tickets and more info here.
One of the most ambitious works premiering in 2015 is Volti’s Pandora’s Gift. This world premiere choral performance art piece features the Bay Area’s premiere contemporary chamber choir, as well as the award-winning Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. The unique multimedia work—by composer Mark Winges, poet Denise Newman, and stage director Erika Chong Shuch—combines singing, movement, poetry, lighting, and drama in exploring the beauty and power of the Pandora myth.
The audience is invited to a post-concert Inter-ception—an interactive reception with refreshments in which they can share reactions and observations on the performance, and ask questions of the creative team.
Jazz and Beyond–one of the most entertaining and inspiring concerts in the excellent Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir’s season–will focus this year on Latin swing favorites and torch songs frequently sung at this year’s venue–the historic Sweets Ballroom in Oakland. Hear the high school men and women of the Choir sing rockin’ a cappella arrangements of familiar tunes, as well as take turns at the solo mike for an evening of smooth singing fun. Thursday, May 21, 8pm. Tickets and more info here.
I can’t fully express how excited I am to croon Songbook with Clerestory, May 30 & 31. Journeying through America’s own musical traditions, the program will encompass folk songs, spirituals, jazz, barbershop, and the Great American Songbook. Join us for a dapper, suave look at the music that makes us unique and captures the imaginations and hearts of generation after generation. Tickets and more info here.
In addition to my work as a teacher and performer, I have spent almost ten years doing professional and volunteer marketing, digital communications, payments integration, press, social media, web design, and branding for small businesses, arts non-profits, and performers in the Bay Area. SingAsana SUPPORT is a business arm of SingAsana that offers marketing, digital media, web, and brand services to artists, non-profits, and small businesses at competitive rates. From personal experience, I understand the challenges of organization, technology, and self-promotion faced by every such entity, and am ready to set up streamlined, user-friendly, practical solutions your business can use to thrive and grow.
Email Me to discuss your business needs and get a quote. Rates range from $40-75/hr depending on the scope and complexity of your project.
As in singing and in yoga, mindful, clear intention and dedicated practice can help a business to be healthy and sustainable for life. SingAsana SUPPORT can help find your unique voice and position you for success.
Now that I’m singing at a church again (Grace Cathedral–love it!), I’ve got another calendar layered over the top of life–the liturgical calendar. In addition to the big, easy to remember holiday seasons like Advent and Lent, there are swaths of time in the calendar that don’t correspond with major feasts or holidays–called Ordinary Time. Although we’re still in the fifty days of Eastertide, the major activities of the church year have slowed to a lull and things seem more ‘regular’ to me.
Ordinary Time proper will begin at the end of May with Pentecost, but for me, it seems to already have come. I’ve finished most of my major concerts for the year; arts groups all over seem to be wrapping up their seasons. School is winding down, and end of the year performances loom on the horizon. I’m actually quite excited and looking forward to the mundanity of a ‘regular’ week or two this month and next, with no special gigs or events.
We have become addicted to the high in our modern American lifestyle. Everyone fills his or her life with more and more events, activities, and devices. We argue about who’s busier, and we proudly complain about how exhausted we are. Even yoga classes are getting faster, hotter, sweatier, and more ‘powerful.’ We’re losing Ordinary Time.
This month, and for the next few once it officially begins, I’m celebrating ordinariness, mundanity, the plateau of a regular life between holidays, peaks, and valleys. While my ego may be unsettled by the lack of accomplishment and stimulation, my Self awareness and heart are ready and happy to be Ordinary.
This is the time of year to dream big. I think we’ve grown collectively weary of the new year’s resolution cliché. I have often scoffed at the notion that the flipping of a calendar date can prompt a new lease on life’s dreams and aspirations, or even change behavior patterns in the short term. It is however, possible and even likely that at this time of perceived renewal and opportunity, we can reflect on our hopes and goals. Taking steps toward those goals through persistent, dedicated action is the hard part, and the challenge of any new year’s resolution. I invite you to join me in dreaming big and then following those dreams one small, resolute step at a time.
My dream life in five years includes:
• teaching yoga and voice out of a home studio
• publishing a book, some articles, or other written words outside of this blog
• world travel
• to be debt free
I think the first two are totally possible in that time frame. The third should be, but will require much more of the dedication of which I so blithely wrote. The latter two are financial and not as important in the grand scheme of things, but hey, we’re dreaming here right? 🙂
And speaking of Resolutions, Clerestory has a concert coming up by that very name! You have several opportunities to hear the program live, or as always on our website after the concerts. We’ll be taking it on tour to Madison, WI next month for the North Central ACDA convention. An exciting start to the year!
Surely it’s not been since September 22 that I wrote anything here?!
In an attempt to bring new content to the site and collect my thoughts around Thanksgiving for posterity, here’s a short list of things for which I’m thankful. Please feel free to share your reactions or your own thanks in the comments. Let’s create a cornucopia of gratitude!
1. My Family – We have several visitors this week who will warm our home and fill our table. This weekend, the extended SF ‘family’ had a traditional (and now several-years-habitual) sit-down dinner, complete with the newest addition to our group. And yes, for my family in the mountains and Midwest, I miss and am grateful for you. Loved ones are the mirrors in which we mark the changes in ourselves and the passage of our lives and times. They are our friends, our confidants, our playmates, our moral compasses, our teachers, our lovers, and our living history.
2. Food and Shelter – Joe and I constantly marvel that, while we’re not rich by any standard in this country, we are constantly well-fed, clothed, entertained, with a roof over our heads and comforts that abound. In fact, we got rid of cable this year because we were watching too much television, and I frequently lament the tightening fit of my clothing with shows how I have too much to eat. Let me never forget that this is not the case for the vast majority of the people in the world, and let me remember to share my abundance with them as best I can.
3. Students – You provide my livelihood, yes, but you also teach me, improve my own singing and yoga by inspiring me to practice or showing me new paths by your examples. I have many friends among you, and all of you hold a special place in my heart. Keep practicing!
4. Music – This year, I have reconnected to singing in a profound way, both by renewed interest and progress in my own vocal practice, and by accepting more opportunities to sing for money, fun, or both. I have also enjoyed listening to so much music this year, both live and recorded, and think it’s been an especially fertile year artistically for the entire diverse musical world. I hope we continue to enjoy that abundance in the future.
5. Technology – Those who know me well (or even a very little!) will understand why this makes my short list. Products by a company I won’t advertise for by mentioning here make my life so much easier, richer, and more interesting. Advances in web hosting and website creation have allowed me to create several websites for myself, my groups, and my friends this year. Music and yoga alike have been shared, discussed, promoted, and expanded through social media. And access to the riches of knowledge, art, entertainment, and discourse continues its increasingly rapid march toward democratization and universality. I hope this continues and that we personally and societally prioritize the sharing of technology among all people.
And now my longer list of things that need less explanation:
6. Green things
9. Furry friends
11. San Francisco
15. The ability to read
16. Henry Purcell
17. Benjamin Britten
– – this list is neither exhaustive, nor is it in order of importance, so i’ll finish with…