Reframing My Goals for Musical Merit

Over the past few days my nervousness about Musical Merit has increased. I know after giving my recital that my technique will most likely stay intact, but how do I stack up against other singers? I know I’ve improved since last year, but by how much? And is it enough? What if they (the judges) don’t like me or my singing?

Dante helps me pack for my trip to San Deigo. NYC, 2014

Dante helps me pack for my trip to San Diego. NYC, 2014

These questions are common for singers to obsess over, but they’re not doing me any good. So, to combat my rising nervousness and doubt, I’ve decided to shift the focus of this trip from hoping to place in the competition to 1) singing each piece of music with conviction; and 2) treating myself to a mini-vacation

A surprisingly glorious view from the AirTran on my way to JFK. NYC, 2014

A surprisingly glorious view from the AirTran on my way to JFK. NYC, 2014

Rather than basing the success of my participation in Musical Merit on the outcome as decreed by the judges, I’ve set goals for each piece. If I do what I set out to do in each piece, then my singing was a success. Here are those goals:

  • Green. Diction diction diction. Open up the [œ]. Don’t confuse [ã] with [õ]. Give a little more space before the entrance at “Rêve des chers instants.”
  • At the Well. Keep the vowels in smile and water clear. Tell the story as if it is the most interesting secret in the world. Different agogic accents for the first two statements of “whenever they go to fetch water.”
  • Phöbus eilt mit schnellen Pferden. Inject the first half of the recit with more speech-like rhythm and pacing. Keep [l] more forward with the back of the tongue relaxed. Let the aria dance without rushing. Maintain tempo in the B section until the final cadence.
  • Breit’ über mein Haupt. Dramatically motivate a contrast between the still, suspended atmosphere of the first half and the more emphatic, declaratory second half. Augen: keep the [a] tall and have a clear dipthong to [u].
  • Zion’s Walls. Find different groups/types of people to address throughout the repetitions of fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. Remember in the return of the A that there is one less repetition of “the walls of Zion.” Embody the pride, love, faith, excitement, and warmth of the message.
  • Silver Aria. Use the consonants to bring out the beautiful and seductive poetry of the words. Stay relaxed in approaching the C# at the end.
  • Zeffiretti lusinghieri. Keep the long melismas legato and sing them as emotive phrases, not scales. Discover different intentions behind text repetition. Move B section forward with a pleading quality. Return of “Zeffiretti lusingheiri” after B section is more personal than first statement. Bring out the contrast between short and long phrases.
  • Presentation of the Rose. Establish where Octavian is standing and how we interact with each other. Use the moments when I’m not singing to create the dramatic context for each measure I do sing. Keep “wie himmlische” floating and save the build for a little later.

And instead of “competing,” here’s my to-do list for the next four days:

  • Enjoy myself and serve the music when I perform on Friday.
  • Have coffee with my former voice teacher and maybe have him listen to my singing now (since he gave me really pivotal feedback last summer).
  • Catch up with a fellow soprano friend who has been doing really well in the past year – so proud of you, Jen!
  • See my cousin Eddie and his girlfriend.
  • Hit up my favorite boba tea places and maybe even try a new one.
  • Indulge in a pedicure (it’s been so long since I’ve had one that I’m not even sure when it was…).
  • Go to a yoga class led by my first yoga teacher, Natasha (schedule permitting).
  • Memorize a few more pages of Despina.
  • Go to the beach.

Whatever the outcome of Musical Merit, I will have a fun follow-up post about this visit!

Enjoying a morning mocha with Baritone Boy at 5:30 am before heading to the airport. NYC, 2014.

Enjoying a morning mocha and words of advice from Oprah with Baritone Boy at 5:30 am before heading to the airport. NYC, 2014.




7 responses to “Reframing My Goals for Musical Merit

  1. Pingback: Competition and Contemplation | SINGING life

  2. Pingback: California Girl at Heart | SINGING life

  3. It is so easy to obsess over competitions – I love your outlook and attitude. Hope you are pleased with your performance and have a fabulous mini-vacation! 🙂

    • Hi Susanna,

      Thanks for stopping by! It was a fabulous, fantastic, much-needed vacation that off-set some of the stressing and obsessing I got caught up in. I haven’t been competing much the past few years, so it was definitely a bit of a shock to be back in that environment and mind-set… What a wake up call! But I’m glad I had the chance to exercise my positive thinking and to sing some of my favorite music 🙂


  4. Perfect piece. I only discuss my year end grades with my very best couple of friends and then only if they push me, I never ask anyone else’s grades, comparing yourself and your marks isn’t good, if you’ve met your targets as you’ve set out that really is what counts.

    Competitions are a tough one because the desire to win is in me, however, learning how to deal with disappointment helps in later life when I get rejected for roles I’d love to get.

    Good Luck, try to just enjoy the whole day.
    Best wishes

    • Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I did not win the competition, but I did enjoy the day and my visit 🙂 Finding the balance between competitiveness and contentment is definitely not easy, and it is something I am still working on. Whenever a rejection hits hard and leaves me feeling hurt, I remind myself that this is something I must learn to deal with in order to be in this field… We singers might be sensitive souls, but we’re also very tough!


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