Monthly Archives: July 2013

Farewell, desert!

I started this blog two years ago as I was preparing to move to Arizona. Now I’m in the midst of another big transition: leaving Arizona to move to New York. My belongings are in a U-Box, traveling across the country via truck, and yesterday I made the 11+ hour drive to the Bay Area so I could drop my car off with my family. I’ll be catching a flight out of San Francisco tomorrow, destination: New York City.

Some of the things I’ll miss:

  • The very supportive environment at ASU. I had wonderful teachers and mentors there and also lovely peers to learn and work with.
  • Arizona Opera. They are going through exciting growth and changes, and their 2013-2014 season is going to rock! I was very lucky to be a study cover in their productions of Le nozze di Figaro and Orfeo ed Euridice, and there are several roles in next season’s line-up that I would have loved to work on.
  • My church job. The music director and choir were some of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met, and we sang beautiful music ranging from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary songs.
  • Friends. But they’ll be auditioning in NYC, so I’ll see them soon!
  • The weather. It gets to be really, really, extremely hot in the summer, but the rest of the year is quite nice. The sky was blue more days than not, and the sunsets are gorgeous.
  • My quiet little apartment with its dishwasher, washer and dryer, closets, and storage space.
  • The rent on my apartment.
  • The ability to drive myself places.
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Sun, clouds, and palm trees. Tempe, 2013.

Taking stock of where I am and who I am compared to two years ago:

  • I’m a little bit wiser and a little more experienced after my time in Arizona. I wish I was even wiser and even more experienced, but I’ll just channel that hunger into making the most of my time in New York rather than having regrets.
  • I’m a better performer (at least I hope so). The direction and coaching I received at ASU helped me expand my concept of performing from what the character is feeling at a particular moment to how the past, the environment, and the present circumstances shape a character’s thought process in the moment.
  • I’m more realistic in my personal goals of where and what I sing, and more aware of how hard it is to be a professional singer. I knew there were many steps in the road to becoming a successful singer, but I didn’t realize how each of those steps were comprised of many other smaller steps … nor did I realize over how much time those smaller steps would be spread out. I’m getting a much better sense of that now.
  • I know a little more about the business of singing. I’ve come to see that sheer determination and lots of practicing — as important as they are — aren’t enough.
  • I’m more passionate about education and convinced of its necessity. I think singers should see themselves as performers and educators concurrently, not one before the other, or worse, one and not the other (our education system makes this difficult).

Two years went by so quickly. I wish I could stay another year and be part of more productions, take more German, do more with Arizona Opera, coach more, learn more, strengthen friendships and professional relationships. I almost re-auditioned for the Arizona Opera chorus with the hopes of getting another contract and cover studying a few more roles, but I decided to make a clean break. If I’m going to be serious about making the most of my time in New York, I have to be in New York.

A lot of people ask if I’m excited about moving to NYC. Of course I’m excited to live in a new city, to be with my boyfriend, and not have to fly to auditions anymore. But I’m also nervous, apprehensive, and worried about money, finding a job, being so far from my family, surrounded by pavement and 8 million crazy people, and trying to balance work and singing.

I am very grateful for the opportunities I had in Arizona and appreciative of the people who have helped me grow along the way. I’m very thankful to have graduated with a relatively small amount in student loans to pay back (otherwise my stress level would be 10 times higher). Part of me wishes I could stay in Arizona where I have friends and where I know people, but I have to be brave and bold. My apartment is empty and my keys are turned in. All my library books and CD’s have been surrendered. Who knows when I’ll be back … my secret (well it’s not so secret now that I’m confessing to it) hope is that the next time I’m back in Arizona it will be because I’m singing in some fabulous concert or because I’ve been hired to sing a role or invited to give a talk about what it takes to make it as a singer.

Everything happens for a reason. Every step leads you to the next. So, farewell, desert! You have been good to me, but now it’s time for the next challenge.

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Health Care and Health Insurance

One of the main contributors to my nervousness and stress of graduating from school and trying to make it as a singer: Health care and health insurance.

Disclaimer: I’m not a health care or policies expert. I honestly don’t think I have the solution to any of the problems I might point out. This isn’t about politics. This is about me wondering how I’m going to survive in the real-world and some of the research I’ve done to educate and prepare myself.

As I’m learning, being a singer isn’t just about singing; it’s about finding a way to incorporate singing into a happy life. My parents have always said a big part of happiness is healthiness. And as my health insurance through school approaches its end date, the prospect of being without health insurance is scary.

About 60% of Americans receive coverage through an employer (employer-sponsored insurance or ESI), and that number has been falling since 2000¹. Of course I will be applying for jobs in NYC, and I hope I can get a job that includes health insurance as a benefit. However, most part-time jobs don’t offer health insurance and fewer employers are offering ESI these days. It would be great to have a full-time job with benefits, but there’s a good chance I’ll have to work several part-time jobs initially.

There are also individual health insurance policies I can look into (and I will). The downside of these policies is they are either expensive or provide shoddy coverage. The plan with the lowest monthly premium of $185 doesn’t cover office visits, prescriptions, or preventative care; only emergency room, surgery, and hospitalization are covered. It is an indemnity plan, and the people who use it are considered uninsured. Any conditions you have when switching from an indemnity plan to another kind of insurance plan can be considered pre-existing, which can impact your eligibility.

So yes, there are ways for those without coverage to get coverage, but what is the point if the coverage you get isn’t affordable and comprehensive? The indemnity plan I described above is not geared toward helping you be healthy and stay healthy — it is a safety net for when something goes terribly wrong (or if you have a baby … in which case the labor and delivery is covered but pre-natal care is not). So actually, it is an health insurance plan. It just isn’t a health care plan. I don’t think I properly appreciated the difference between those two terms until just now.

Health care in this country is expensive. A visit to the doctor’s office — just a visit, no procedures — can cost $150 out-of-pocket if you don’t have health insurance. If you do have health insurance, you’re usually responsible for just the co-pay for the visit, which in my experience has been from $10-30 (it could be more or less depending on the plan). So if you do have insurance and are paying $10 for each visit, that doesn’t mean the doctor’s office is only making $10; they are charging you $10 and the insurance company $140. Keep in mind that was just to see the doctor. That $150 did not include any extras. This is why affordable and comprehensive health insurance is a necessity — people can go bankrupt due to medical bills.

I have three degrees. I am smart. I’m a hard worker. I’m not the standard by which people should be deemed deserving of health insurance and health care; my point is that the uninsured are probably more like me and like you than some would expect. It doesn’t seem right, that in a  first-world society where over 91% of adults have cell phones², only 44% have health insurance³.

I have chronic allergies and use a daily intranasal spray to alleviate post-nasal drip and swollen nasal passages. Before a doctor diagnosed me and wrote me this prescription, I thought I was just always sick. I don’t like the idea of going back to daily sore throats and stuffy noses, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue filling this prescription. My current health insurance through school doesn’t include a prescription plan, just a prescription discount. I’m paying almost full-price for this nasal spray as it is, so it will be just a little more expensive once this discount is gone. But what am I going to do once my refills run out? There’s a chance the school doctor won’t approve additional refills without seeing me in person, which will be impossible once my coverage ends and I’ve moved to NYC.

A few years ago, I was laid off from my full-time health-insurance-included job. To maintain my coverage through COBRA, I was paying about $600/month. This continued even after I landed another full-time job and had to wait several months until I became eligible for my new employer’s ESI. In 2009, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), my premium was reduced by about half. When I got that letter in the mail, I cried.

I am not completely familiar with the Obama Care Plan and other legislation passed regarding health care, but I am relieved that New York is one of the states implementing a Health Benefit Exchange. This Exchange helps individuals, families, and small businesses acquire coverage. They begin accepting applications this October, and coverage will begin in January of 2014. I am researching whether this is a good option for me.

Regardless of politics, I think health care should be seen as a right rather than a privilege. Healthiness and happiness go hand in hand, so let’s pursue both.

For musicians and artists looking for information about health insurance, Fractured Atlas is a good place to start. Here you can become familiar with terminology, get quotes, learn about health care reform, and find more resources. 

Footnotes:
1. http://www.rwjf.org/en/about-rwjf/newsroom/newsroom-content/2013/04/number-of-americans-obtaining-health-insurance-through-an-employ.html
2. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/06/cell-phone-ownership-hits-91-of-adults/
3. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/04/survey-finds-rate-for-young-adult-coverage-improves-while-others-decline.html
Aside

July 2013 I’ve just graduate with my Master’s in Opera Performance. It’s a relief not to have homework and papers anymore, but I am also terrified. Two years flew by. My teachers have been wonderfully supportive, and I’ve learned a … Continue reading

In the works update (July 3, 2013)

IN THE WORKS @ July 3, 2013

Updating my audition package!

  • “Chacun le sait” from La fille du régiment 
  • “Vedrai carino” from Don Giovanni
  • “Tornami a vagheggiar” from Alcina (Handel)
  • “Du gai soleil” from Werther (Massenet)

Early Music concert in Berkeley, CA, with Eugene Petrushansky and friends, August 2013

  • Le Dépit généreux (Michel Pignolet de Montéclair)
  • Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202 (J. S. Bach)
  • “Languia di bocca lusinghiera”, from cantate HWV 123 (Handel)
  • “Endless pleasure” from Semele (Handel)
  • “Chi t’intende?” from Berenice (Handel)
  • Flow my tears (Dowland)

For fun, when I have free time:

  • “Solitudini amiche, aure amorose … Zeffiretti lusinghieri” from Idomeneo (Mozart)
  • Breit’ über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar (R. Strauss)
  • “Che sento? Oh Dio!…Se pietà” from Giulio Cesare 

Astoria Music Festival 2013

Just got back from a great experience as an apprentice at the Astoria Music Festival in Astoria, Oregon. What a great 2.5 weeks! I’ve got less than a week to finish packing for my move to NYC, but I hope to post in more detail in the next few days.

For now, some highlights!

Astoria, land of beautiful sunsets:

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Sun shining through shifting clouds as seen from a pier along the Columbia

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Sunset as we drive across Youngs Bay

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Setting sun reflected in windows along the Columbia River

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Low tide sunset along Astoria Riverwalk

An incredible range of Festival events:

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Masterclass with Ruth Ann Swenson

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My view singing in the Otello chorus at the Verdi concert, featuring Ruth Ann Swenson, Allan Glassman, and Richard Zeller.

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Baroque opera with a Baroque ensemble led by Gwendolyn Toth

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Copland’s Appalachian Spring in the original chamber orchestration performed to a film of Martha Graham dancing her original choreography

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Setting up for the Wagner concert at the historic Liberty Theater

I loved being part of a Festival, working on my own repertoire and role while attending language classes, coachings, rehearsals, workshops, masterclasses, and performances. I made wonderful new friends and got to work with amazingly knowledgeable and generous professionals. I was in the same room as Ruth Ann Swenson and Richard Zeller — which I never in my wildest dreams ever thought would happen — and talked to them and hugged them. I experienced music that made me laugh (Gianni Schicchi) and cry (Dido and Aeneas and Appalachian Spring), singing that made me hold my breath (Ruth Ann’s Desdemona) and made my jaw drop (Allan’s Otello and Richard’s Iago). I knew I would learn a lot from the program, but I came away with so much more than I’d expected. At a time of big changes in my life and in my voice, Astoria Music Festival helped me to appreciate where I am now and gave me hope for the things to come.