Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year in Review: 2008

I thought this year I would take a different turn and do a pictorial review of 2008. Here goes!

In January, I began my adventures working for Opera for the Young, a touring opera company based in Madison, Wisconsin. It was my first real "opera" job, and I felt it really helped me grow as a musician and colleague.

In February, it continued to snow...and snow...and snow. I thought winter might never end.

In March, I sang my third concert with Music of the Baroque, the St. Matthew Passion, which was an amazing and moving experience. Nick went to Greece for two weeks without me to do business, so my mom came up to spend five days with me over Easter. We spent Easter at my church choir director's house with the other paid musicians from our church. It was my third Easter as soprano soloist at Trinity, and some of my colleagues there have become my best friends:

In April, I spent nearly the entire month touring with OFY. It was pretty exhausting, and I would be happy not to see another Super 8 for the rest of my life, but I made some lasting friendships with colleagues and had many funny stories to tell!
And I made my debut at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison!

May brought a more relaxed time for me work-wise, but at home we welcomed Nick's sister and nephew, Chrysanthe and Angelo, from Greece, who came for the wedding of Nick's brother Chris. It was very different for us to have a three-year old in the house, and I think we both learned that we're not quite ready for a child just yet! We also traveled to Kalamazoo for the wedding of my cousin Katy.

We always have a great time at family weddings...

June was a very exciting month...Nick proposed! I had known that he was shopping for the ring, but the day he proposed I wasn't expecting it at all! We started planning our August 2009 nuptials pretty soon after that.

In July, we traveled to Fort Wayne for the wedding of my good friend from high school, Stasi. I've known Stasi and Adam as a couple since the beginning of their relationship, so I was very excited and honored to be a bridesmaid and sing Ave Maria as Stasi walked down the aisle. The trip also gave us a chance to celebrate our engagement with my family.

with fellow bridesmaids and best friends from high school Allison and Brooke

Browns get hitched!

with the lovely bride

August brought two trips to Indianapolis to celebrate birthdays with each of my grandmothers. It was a very special birthday for Grandma Hofmockel-80th!-and our whole family surprised her with a party over Labor Day weekend (and my mom made her wear that tiara).

September saw my return to a more rigorous working schedule, with my teaching jobs starting back up, Music of the Baroque concert, church job, and High Holidays temple job. Once again, I was so thankful for the amount of singing work coming my way. I am constantly amazed that I managed to pay the better part of my bills this year with singing and teaching and can only hope that the New Year brings more exciting work my way.

In October, my mother and sister came to Chicago for a short visit filled with shopping for bridesmaid and mother of the bride gowns. We also attended a bridal show at Navy Pier. Wedding plans continued and the ceremony and reception locations were secured, DJ and photographer hired, my gown purchased and many other details worked out. I decided then to take a break until after the holidays!

At the end of October/early November, I spent another two weeks on the road with OFY, which took me as far north as Aurora, Minnesota (2 hours north of Duluth!). And I had another exciting career milestone when I was selected for the Central Region Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions! I sang two pieces for the judges and a live audience in a concert/competition format in Nichols Hall in Evanston on Sunday, November 2nd. The concert was broadcast on WFMT, the classical station in Chicago, and so my parents were able to listen via live streaming on the internet! I didn't win, but I felt so great about my singing and received some terrific feedback. Once again, I felt encouraged to continue my pursuit of a singing career!

And finally, we come to December. A great month for musicians, and I was lucky enough to have lots of work keeping me busy. We threw another great holiday party, which is quickly becoming a tradition for us.

It was a very, very good year. Certainly there were ups and downs, what with the crumbling economy and feelings of uncertainty about the future. I continue to be the eternal optimist and have great hope that 2009 will be a better year for those who struggled in 2008. I will continue to pray for those that are without jobs, those that are lonely, those that feel hopeless or without a clear path of "what next?" I have certainly been there, and continue to find myself there at times. Have faith that things will get better, because they will. And if your 2008 was blessed and happy, have faith that good things will continue to come your way. Happy New Year, my friends.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008

'Twas a fantastic Christmas at the Lyday house, albeit far too short. Delicious food was eaten, many presents given and received, several naps taken, and a much-needed four days of relaxation had. It seems to be an ongoing tradition that our drive to Fort Wayne is filled with snowy danger, but we returned to a warm city and no more snow! Sadly, Nick and I returned to work today, but I'm off for the rest of the week and Nick has half day Wednesday and all day Thursday off. We are continuing a tradition begun last year and spending New Year's Eve in Aurora with our friends Allison and Ryan.

Many blessings in the New Year from my family to yours!

Monday, December 22, 2008

done and done

Well, kids, I did it. I survived another December as a musician. There were times, like yesterday morning circa 9:00 am whilst attempting to ice-pick my car out of a parking spot, when I wasn't sure if I would make it, but I persevered through two snow storms, an ice storm, and Arctic winds in order to sing five lovely concerts this past weekend. A lot of elderly folks in festive Christmas sweaters are extremely happy. And I will be too come December 30th when that paycheck lands in my bank account!

Some action shots courtesy of one Mr. Nick :

my big solo!

Mom and Dad made it up to hear me!

In all seriousness, it was a fun concert, and I continued to strengthen my relationships with my colleagues in this group. So many of my current jobs have stemmed from my connections in this group, and for that I am very thankful.

And now I am off for two weeks! After the exhausting run of concerts, I've spent today mostly in pajamas (although I did just shower and am about to bake some ginger cookies). Tomorrow I get to see my Andrea, my best friend who lives in NYC whom I NEVER get to see! We're going to paint the town red (as much as that is possible in this weather and during the hours of 10:30 am - 2:30 pm) before Nick and I head out to Fort Wayne tomorrow afternoon for family Christmas festivities.

Wishing you and yours the warmest and happiest of holidays. Stay tuned for the annual A Year in Review update.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Caroling at the Drake, or Why It's So Fun to be a Singer at the Holidays

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this past Saturday I was hired to sing Christmas carols with a quartet at the Drake Hotel. Easy enough, decent pay, and at least it isn't outdoors, I said to myself. But the catch: I had to wear a costume. Behold, the costume:

It was actually kind of cute, but the hoop skirt kept getting stuck between chairs and tables as we went around the tea room and Drake Bros. restaurant singing. The three other singers were lovely people whom I had never previously met, and it's always nice to meet new singers. And of course we all had so many friends and colleagues in common -- the classical singing world is so small, it's more like 1 or 2 degrees of separation.

The most difficult part of the day, by far, was watching all the guests indulge in the amazing looking buffet in the restaurant. For our lunch, we were sent down to the employee cafeteria....let's just say that was certainly an experience I won't forget. Usually, we singers are treated a bit better than that...we're not the maids and busboys for crying out loud! But for one day, I can handle it, and we got a good laugh and a great story out of it.

After my day of caroling, Nick came and met me and we spent a lovely evening on Michigan Avenue doing a little shopping and having a nice dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't get any Christmas gifts purchased, but I have some free days this week for that. Thank God I'm able to shop mid-week, the weekend around here are just insane.

This week is busy, with five Music of the Baroque Holiday concerts in four days. Tonight is our first dress rehearsal, and tomorrow is our second, then we get Wednesday off before the madness ensues. Truthfully, I'm really looking forward to them, and it's amazingly luxurious not to have to do anything but sing this week. If you're interested in tickets, head over to But hurry, because they will sell out this week -- one performance has already!

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. I know it can be busy and crazy (and cold), but it really is a wonderful time of year. And if you need some cheering up, go get a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks. Good LORD is that drink amazing...