Category Archives: Inspiration

People, places, pictures, poetry, and prose to inspire us in our own lives.

New Year, New York

By calling upon my West Coast roots and operating on Pacific Time tonight, I have about half an hour before January 2015 comes to a close. Things have been quite busy since the new year began, and I want to reflect on it and savor it before February starts and the new year isn’t quite so new anymore.

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New Year’s with the family. San Jose, 2015.

I had such a wonderful time with my family in California that leaving was quite difficult. I think it’s because we become closer each time. My mom likes to point out that we’re just a quick phone call and a short plane ride apart — as she likes to remind me, staying in touch is much easier and far less expensive now than it was in her day. Still, saying goodbye to my family is not easy, and re-adjusting to real life seems to get harder each time I leave California.

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Flying back into NYC. NYC, 2015.

I felt pretty subdued and even sad during my flight, but I perked up as we approached JFK. Looking down on the lights, I felt a wave of excitement for what 2015 might hold. Seeing how vast the city is, imagining the 8 million plus people down there, I felt united with them in not knowing exactly what the future had in store for us.

Unfortunately, that feeling of unity didn’t last long once I was on the ground. Waiting alongside masses of impatient New Yorkers for our bags to glide by on the carousel, I was firmly back in the reality of NYC — cold, crowded, ruthless. I really missed the comfort and support of my parents and brother. The nicer strangers. And the warmer temperatures.

The next day, I was riding the subway when a man come on board with his drum and his music. Up until that point, the ride had been a typical New York public transit experience: crowded but silent, each person minding their own business, mostly tired, few smiles. I was personally exhausted and feeling pretty down about being back in New York without Dante and Baritone Boy (both of whom were staying in California for a few days longer), but this gentleman brought a smile to my face and to the faces of many others. He said:

“When you wake up and go outside, don’t be afraid to be you, the unique you that only you can be, the you the world so desperately needs. As long as you are part of the solution and not the problem, don’t let anyone distract you from what you’re doing.”

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And with that, I felt united in the unknown, the excitement, the adventure that awaits us all this new year.  New York, you really know how to get a girl back on her feet and ready to take on whatever you throw at her. Here’s to 2015 and what it might bring!

Once: Moved and Inspired

If you believe in music, hope, and love, go see Once. If you don’t, go see it anyway and you’ll be inspired to believe. And if you’re a singer (or other kind of musician) definitely go see it to appreciate the musicianship and the keep-making-your-music-someone-will-hear-you message.

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Pre-show jam on stage. Broadway. NYC, 2014.

When Baritone Boy and I made our way to the theater, we’d both had a long day and were low on energy. We were in the midst of packing to move (and wow is moving in NYC a pain), and at one point I even wished we hadn’t gotten the tickets so we could just stay home and keep packing. That all changed once we walked into the theater. The house lights were up, the stage lights were up, and the cast was on stage playing and singing before the show even began. It was warm, relaxed, and inviting, and I was very glad we made it. Continue reading

A Washington DC Weekend

Being a singer is a huge part of my identity, something I work on and think about daily, but I was reminded this Thanksgiving that life is — and should be — more than singing. To remind myself of that, I’m looking back on happy moments from this past year that were not centered around being a singer.

In July, my brother, who lives in California, was in Washington, DC, for a work conference. The distance between us was going from 2,900 miles down to 226, so there was no way we were going to miss this opportunity to see each other. As a bonus, his birthday fell right in the middle of the trip and I wanted to be there to celebrate with him.

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Outside the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress. DC, 2014.

It was my first visit to DC since the 1st grade. The weather was good. And I hadn’t seen my brother in about six months. We walked until our feet were about to fall off, took pictures until the batteries ran out, and enjoyed being tourists. Continue reading

Enjoying Fall in NYC

If there’s one season I’ve consistently written off, it’s Fall. With its dull browns and gloomy grays, Fall is unremarkable and pales in comparison to the two seasons it is awkwardly sandwiched between, seasons that are a lot more fun.

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Dante in one of his sweaters. Fort Tryon Park. NYC, 2014.

At least that was the opinion I had before I moved to NYC, before I experienced the humid stuffiness of Summer and the biting, slippery danger of Winter. Now my eyes are opened and I celebrate this fantastic opportunity to wear boots and sweaters (and to dress Dante up) without my fingers and toes freezing off. The change in weather seemed to happen overnight — one day we were strolling along in short-sleeves and sandals, and the next morning the sidewalks were filled with hats, scarves, and long coats. Continue reading

Reading Dante, His Life and Poetry

Pubic libraries are magical. You walk in and pick books, scores, DVDs, and CDs off the shelf and take them home for free. My latest find was this gem, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw:

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Color-coordinated and reading in the park. Bryant Park, 2014.

As you know, Baritone Boy and I named our puppy after this genius. Every time I come across the name Dante in this book, this is the face I picture:

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Dante the Puppy hanging out at home. Washington Heights, 2014.

Moving through a series of seven themes — Friendship, Power, Life, Love, Time, Numbers, and Words — Shaw weaves together biographical information and commentary on Divine Comedy to lead us through a journey of Dante’s life, principles, literary works, and aspirations. With this kind of introduction, I can’t wait to pick up a more traditional biography and also read the full poem, all 99 cantos.

These 99 cantos are divided into three canticles, each corresponding to a different leg of Dante’s pilgrimage through Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. He began writing in 1307 (or 1308) but set the journey in the year 1300. This allowed the characters of Divine Comedy to be able to accurately forecast and allude to events of the “future,” which in the real world had already occurred. Mind-blowing.

I am so used to conceptualizing Italian words as part of music that it is startlingly impactful just to read it as poetry.

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Competition and Contemplation

I had a lot to be grateful for this year, developments and opportunities I was eager to share, but I deliberated for a while before deciding to share some of my very private thoughts about singing in this year’s Musical Merit. It would have been easier to say nothing about my experience, but as this blog is about life and not just the best and most amazing parts of being a singer, I felt it was important not to sweep it under the rug.

So what happened? I was nervous in the hours leading up to my time slot, but once the music started, most of the nerves melted away. I started with “At the Well,” and the judges asked for “Silver Aria,” Presentation of the Rose, and “Green.” Everything went just fine. Nothing terrible happened. Perhaps if something had gone horribly wrong, I would have been able to come up with a clear cause-and-effect — I made Debussy roll over in his grave with my intonation and horrible French diction, therefore I did not place. 

There were a few things I wish I’d done differently (hmmm that C# could have been narrower and taller), but overall, I was happy with how I sang. I left the room in a great mood and ready to enjoy the rest of my mini-vacation:

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Feeling pretty good after the semi. San Diego, 2014.

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Astoria Music Festival 2014: Friends and Music

Astoria, OR was just as quiet and friendly as I remembered it, and the Festival was as inspiring and satisfying as I could have hoped. We packed an impressive amount of singing into a short amount of time, and I came away with suggestions that made an immediate impact, ideas that I’m still working through, and words of encouragement that I’ll hold dear to my heart for a long, long time. Just yesterday I had my first voice lesson back in NYC, and my teacher was very pleased with the adjustments I’ve been making.

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The historic Liberty Theater. Astoria, 2014.

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Stop and smell the heather

Dante and I went on a long walk, trekking all the way up to Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters on a beautiful day. I love New York City’s parks. They are little pockets of peace and color, reminding us that there’s more to life that squeezing onto a crowded subway car or waiting in line for morning coffee. Stop and smell the heather, the roses, the lilacs and lilies! Spring has arrived.

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Heather garden at Fort Tryon Park. NYC, 2014.