Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nothing to Lose 2007

Yes, I know, I have been a very bad blogger. My life has been a whirlwind lately, and although I'm constantly thinking about blogging, somehow it just hasn't gotten done. So I apologize. BUT this post is going to be chock full of excitement and pictures! So get ready...

I returned yesterday from a whirlwind forty-eight hour trip to New York City to audition for the Natchez Opera Festival. The major bonus of this trip was getting to spend quality time with two of my best friends, whom I have seen approximately once a year since they both moved to the Big Apple. Robert lives in Astoria (sort of, see his blog for a full update on his living situation), and Andrea lives in Brooklyn. I flew in Sunday after church and arrived in Astoria around 6:00 pm, where I found Robert and Amanda (my other good friend from DePauw and Robert's roommate), putting all of their belongings into plastic bags in preparation for their second bed bug extermination. Again, check out Robert's blog if you want the full story. Andrea came to meet us, and we all went to dinner at a delicious little Italian place in Astoria called Napoli. Wine and delicious pasta was had by all, and I laughed harder than I've laughed in a long, long time. My friends are funny like that. After dinner it was off to Andrea's apartment in Brooklyn to spend the night and rest up for the audish. Her apartment is tres adorable, as is her boyfriend Cory (like me, she's also living in sin). So Monday morning came, and I was feeling in good voice. I dressed and readied for the audition, then headed out to meet Robert in Manhattan. Robert, as you may or may not know, is also a classical singer, and is going full throttle this audition season as well. He's aptly named it "Nothing to Lose Audition Season 2007", and I've happily taken up his motto as my own. Robert was also auditioning for the Natchez Festival, albeit a couple of hours earlier than me, so we met up in Manhattan and had some lunch together near Lincoln Center. Afterward, we hoofed it to the audition site...I can only describe this place as pure mayhem. Two opera companies and one musical theater company were auditioning on the same day on one tiny floor of a building in New York City: one narrow hallway packed wall to wall with agitated opera singers and musical theater actors preparing to audition. It was more than I could handle for more than twenty minutes, so after Robert sang, I headed around the corner to have a tea and chill out until my audish. I listened to my new pump up song a few times, reapplied makeup, and headed back with confidence to sing the hell out of Norina's aria. And it worked! They asked for a second aria, even though the monitor said they would only hear one, and got up to shake my hand when I was done! The two auditors seemed really excited about my audition, and I felt very good vibes from them, so no matter the outcome, I feel like I sang my very, very best. I floated out of the building on a total audition high, met up with Robert, and downed a couple of margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in the East Village. Then we headed to Brooklyn to hang at Andrea's apartment, have some more drinkies, and go to dinner at a hip Thai place in her 'hood. It was a wonderful evening spent with my best buds and their significant others (the only thing missing was MY significant other, but sadly he had to work so couldn't come with). I was reminded of how terrific and funny and intelligent and ambitious my friends are, and how much I miss having them in my daily life. But I count myself lucky that I get to visit them in one of the greatest cities on earth (and that the entire thing was a tax write-off!). Here's a shot of me and Robert pre-audition:

The trip home was a bit difficult, due to my having major motion sickness, which may or may not be related to the amount of drinks I consumed on Monday night. I didn't feel hungover at all when I woke up, but fifteen minutes into the plane ride a wave of major nausea hit me and didn't stop until we were on the ground in Chicago. Unfortunately, it didn't end there, since Nick was at work and couldn't pick me up from the airport, so I had to haul my sick self onto the orange line. I made it as far as Roosevelt and hailed a cab to Nick's office, where I laid down in the back and sipped Sprite until I felt better. Thank goodness I did, because I then had to take the Metra to Palatine to teach eight lessons. But I survived, slept for ten hours, and woke up a new woman today. Which is a good thing, because I've got much work to do to continue on the road of "Nothing to Lose Audition Season 2007".

And, backtracking a bit to two weekends ago, Allison and Ryan's wedding. It was a gorgeous weekend, full of good friends, good times, plenty o'booze, dancing, and fun. I'm having trouble uploading photos right now, so here's one to tide you over until I can post some more. The happy couple looking oh so happy in the back of the booze trolley (I think I was the only one who called it that, mostly because I packed several mini bottles of wine in my purse for the ride).


Thursday, October 18, 2007

ode to Allison

My friend and loyal Reader of Blog, Allison, is getting married on Saturday. Allison is my oldest friend. So I thought it fitting that I write a post in honor of Allison, who is a tremendously fun gal to be around, one of the kindest people I know, one of the few great listeners left on this planet, and is about to tie the knot with a handsome young chap named Ryan! We're all making the trek back to the Heimatland, Fort Wayne, Indiana, to send these two off into married life with a bang. But let's go back a little bit....

Allison and I met at church during early elementary school days, and we bonded over a shared love of singing. When we were eight or nine, we began singing duets together in church services, many of which were captured and immortalized on home video (wow, what was I thinking with the permed bangs?). As we got older and began attending the same school, we became closer friends and ran in the same circles. We moved beyond singing at church and started singing in school talent shows and in show choir (also immortalized in home videos -- seriously, if you want to waste several days of your life, I could sit you down and show you the progression of Emily: the performer in great detail). Some of my greatest memories of high school include riding around town in Allison's Geo Prism, singing Abba at the top of our lungs, then heading to Bob Evan's, or "Bob's" as we called it, to sit for several hours, only ordering a cup of coffee and irritating the wait staff.

After high school, we went our seperate ways, but stayed connected. I visited Allison and our other two best friends, Brooke and Stasi, at Purdue on a regular basis, since the party scene was way more fun than at DePauw. Allison introduced me to my first serious boyfriend (which would later end disastrously, of absolutely no fault of hers). And we always had the summers and school breaks in Fort Wayne, all of us feeling a bit cramped and ready to get back to school and away from the parental rule. Although somtimes it had been months since we'd seen each other, it always seemed like no time at all with Allison. We would catch up and dish about our relationships and our dreams and what was bothering us. I could always, and still can, tell her exactly what's on my mind and expect honesty and kindness in return.

Luckily for us, we both ended up in Chicago, where we continue to build adult lives. Yes, we've had our share of falling outs and fights, but like any good friendship, it has stood the test of time and come to be a comforting presence in both of our lives. When you've known a person since you were eight, though every stage of life, there is a bond that is unlike other friendships. When you've been through as much as we have, you know that that person will be in your life forever.

So this weekend, I will be standing up for Allison, and singing two beautiful songs during the prelude of her ceremony. She's found a really special guy who is going to take care of her and love her forever (and keep her in stitches---he's hilarious!). It's comforting to know that as we both move into "adult life" (blech), there will always be this great reminder of my youth and a friendship that has lasted nearly twenty years. And who knows, maybe our daughters will sing duets together someday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

star of the small screen

Many of you will remember my debut on the silver screen last year in Stranger than Fiction. Well, it was only a matter of time before I made my small screen debut, and folks, the time is nigh. Last week I got a call from the producers of Check, Please!, a notorious Chicago PBS show where regular, everyday people review different restaurants and talk about their experiences together on the show. It's moderated by this sommelier named Alpana Singh, and basically....I was dying to be on the show, being the foodie and restaurant fanatic that I am. I applied online in July and when I got the call last week I was ecstatic!!!! The only catch: They were calling me for their new extension of Check, Please airing on NBC -- which meant I didn't get any free meals (on the PBS show they pick up the tab for the places you are sent.) My job was to review a restaurant I had mentioned in my online application, Merle's BBQ in Evanston, as well as talk about Cafe Casbah, a mediterranean place in Lakeview that they wanted me to go try. So today I trekked out to the West Loop to their studio, wearing an adorable dress and my knee high brown boots, hair and makeup perfectly done (they informed me there would be no makeup on site). Once I arrived, I met the two producer dudes, Steve and Doug, who were really nice and gave me a little more info about what I would be doing. Basically, they are trying to take Check, Please! to other cities and are branching out by doing small segments on NBC. I was on camera all by myself in front of this painting of some grapes, and they asked me questions about the restaurants. For Cafe Casbah, I had to watch a tape of another reviewer's opinion and say whether I agreed or disagreed with their review and why. The producers liked me a lot, they said I had the best energy out of anybody they'd filmed so far! (Duh, it's my job as a performer to have energy). When they found out I was an opera singer, they asked if I would sing their web address for the new website launching November 1st. Of course I agreed, as all publicity is good publicity. So come November 1st, you can find me singing on! And my restaurant review segments will air sometime in 2008. I will make a big announcement on the blog when it will air (although only my Chicagoland friends will be able to tune in). The producers are also going to put in a good word for me with the casting people of the PBS Check, Please!, so that hopefully I can get on that show too (and get some free meals out!)!! I will have a career in food and travel journalism yet!

Speaking of food, here is a yummy dish I cooked up last week:

Asian Ginger Chicken Noodle Bowls, courtesy of Rachael Ray, and my own recipe of Crab Rangoons! These were my first foray into rangoon making, and after several more tweakings, I now have it down. Here is the recipe:

1 package Wonton wrappers (found in the produce area of grocery, usually by the tofu)
1 8 oz container of cream cheese
1/2 a package of imitation crab (or crab with a "K", as Nick likes to call it)
scallions (to taste)
1 clove garlic
vegetable oil (about 2 or 3 cups for frying, depending on how big your pan)

Begin to heat the oil in a deep pan or skillet. Lay out wonton wrappers on clean surface. In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, crab meat, and chopped scallions (mostly white parts). Dollop small amounts of the mixture into the middle of the wonton wrappers, and pinch sides together to make a purse. Gently (I use tongs), place the wontons into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown.

Aaaaaaand, this weekend we added a gorgeous new piece of furniture to our home: a dining room table!!!! Here are some pics of the dining room now. I'm still needing things for the walls, but it's difficult with the way the crown molding is arranged in squares. I'd like to paint, but I don't know how long we'll be here and it is quite a bit of hassle and mess. We'll see.

As you can see, it's huge, and that's not even with the extra leaf in it! There are two more matching chairs at my parents' house that we plan to bring back as well. There's going to be some kick ass dinner parties happening here, folks!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I got an audition with Florida Grand! Getting the audition is a victory in itself, but now I've really got to step it up and get my shit together. The last week of October and first week of November are going to be insane. But insane in a good way. Now, must ward off illness and spend all my money on coachings and lessons. It is ON, people. It's time to pump up. Which reminds me...I need a new pump up song for this audition season. Any ideas?

Monday, October 08, 2007

oper (no i didn't forget the a, that's the German word for opera)

It wasn't much of a weekend, since I subbed in Palatine all day Saturday and had my usual church gig on Sunday, but I did manage to have a few fun outings. Friday night my friend Julia invited me to see a show at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It was a new production of Stephen Sondheim's Passion, his latest composed musical to date (1994), and one with which I was not familiar. Ana Gasteyer played the main role, with various Chicago actors in the suppporting roles. The best part was that it was in their smaller, "upstairs theater", so a very small, intimate setting (and one in which I could bring my beer into the theater, albeit in a coffee to-go cup). I found the story rather odd, but Sondheim's music is always a treat to hear, and the staging was really interesting. Plus the show opened with a topless sex scene, so there's that. I love free tickets to shows, and it had been awhile since I'd been to a live performance. Enjoyable experience had by all! My next live performance will be day after tomorrow when Nick and I have our first opera date of the year -- La Boheme!!! We splurged on season tickets this year, and we are seeing five operas, the first of which is Puccini's masterpiece. I'm trying to remember if I saw it in Vienna, and for the life of me, I can't. I saw so many operas there, only the most phenomenal ones stand out in my mind (I mean, they were all terrific, but some really blew me away, namely this insane production of Roberto Devereux that was much like watching a psychological thriller). Of course, the opera world is rocking with the news of Angela Gheorgiu's firing. Truthfully, I'm sad I won't get to hear her, as I've purchased some of her albums in the past and have admired her singing for some time now. However, her behavior sounds deplorable; truly unprofessional and disrespectful of her colleagues and everyone else who worked their asses off for her benefit. It's good that the opera world doesn't let these people get away with these things. But, as long as there is opera, there will be divas, and as long as there are divas, there will be outlandish behavior. It's the name of the game.
In the world of this diva...I had a fantastic voice lesson today, and I'm feeling more confident about the upcoming auditions. I booked my flight to NYC for the late October audition, and I'm extremely excited. The only fun part about auditioning out of town is visiting with my long lost DePauw friends! They started migrating to New York during the past couple of years, and I'm lucky if I see them once or twice a year. So I will hopefully be drinking and carousing in the Big Apple with Robert and Andrea and Amanda after a successful audition! I'm still waiting to hear from most of my other YAPs. I got an audition with Santa Fe, but I think I'm going to have to cancel it due to out-of-town obligations that weekend. Not that I had a shot in hell at that one anyway. We'll see. Kein Stress, kein Stress.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

lesson mobile

Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I make housecalls to teach many (most) of my students. Their mothers just can't muster driving their child to one more activity, I suppose. Since I'm just starting out, and since most of the students are located in the same general vicinity, I agreed to do housecalls. Once I build up my studio, however, I'm hoping I can let people know I won't be making housecalls anymore and they will have to come to my studio (which is at the church where I work, who lets me teach there for free), and hopefully by that point people will want to keep studying with me enough that they'll be willing to make the short drive. But until then, I am the lesson lady, driving around in her lesson mobile. The backseat has become a library of vocal and piano music, as most of my music ends up tossed back there as I travel from home to home. I stock plenty of healthy snacks and most days you can find a Big Gulp of Diet Coke in the driver's cup holder and the radio tuned to NPR. One of my friends (jokingly) suggested that I might like to paint a logo on the side of the car as an advertisement. I'm the lesson lady! It's a good life though, and I'm certainly not complaining. My day generally goes something like this:

9:00 am - wake up (on my own, without alarm)
9:15 am - make coffee, eat breakfast, watch morning shows, catch up on emails, check YAP tracker
10:00 am - gym
10:45 am - shower, make phone calls, work on YAP applications
12 pm - vocalize, practice audition pieces (this doesn't always happen every day as sometimes I am lazy or voice is tired)
1:30 or 2 pm - head out to teach
6:30 or 7 - finish teaching
8 pm - home, try to get dinner on table by now, eat with Nick
9 pm - watch shows, catch up on blogs (reading and writing), cuddle and chat with Nick
11:30 pm - bed (Nick has usually been asleep for over an hour by this point)

It's a pretty good schedule. I'm hoping to start teaching a bit earlier in the day with some of my NU undergrad non-majors, and will possibly be extending my schedule in Palatine until 9 pm one day per week, which would be nice, since money is certianly not flowing as I'd hoped it would. Unfortunately, the job at the high school in Waukegan fell through, due to lack of interest on the students' part. The choir teacher was really upset and surprised, but it is a blue collar area, and I guess their choir is going on a big trip this year that is costing a lot, and people just didn't think they could afford lessons. I guess I'm going to have to stick to the North Shore, where the parents don't bat an eye at my rates. In fact, one woman was like, "that's all you charge?" Which of course made me irritated that I hadn't charged more. Next year I'll raise my rates, I think. In the meantime, I need to find a job for Wednesdays. Every other day is pretty much booked, but I had kept my Wednesdays open for Waukegan, and now that that isn't happening, I need to find something else. I'm hoping to schedule some more students, but in the meantime...who will hire me to work one day a week? I'd love to work at the hipster coffee shop around the corner from my apartment, but I'm not sure they'd have me. I'd probably just consume my profits in the form of vegan cinnamon chip scones and lattes, but wouldn't it be fun to commune with the hipsters in a chill coffee shop all day? Plus, I'm starting to miss adult company...I spend most of my days alone or with children ages 5 to 13. I made a lunch date tomorrow with my friend Mark, because I was starting to feel a little crazy.

So there you go, a day in the life of the lesson lady! Maybe you'd like to spend a day riding around in the lesson mobile with me?