Tag Archives: family

New Year, New Audition Outlook

Happy New Year again! The lunar new year was just last week on February 19th, and Baritone Boy and I enjoyed a wonderful if not-quite-traditional celebration at home after a long day of work for both of us. I lack the culinary skills to create a real Chinese New Year feast, but I did stop by Chinatown on the way home for groceries and successfully cobbled together a meal inspired by the foods that remind me most of home and family: noodle soup, potstickers, zongzi (sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves), and nian gao (sticky new year’s cake). Each course brings to mind very specific family memories, so this meal made me feel close to my family despite being separated by the width of the North American continent.

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A family-memories inspired New Year’s dinner. NYC, 2015.

It has been years since I spent Chinese New Year with my parents and brother, but I loved sharing this holiday with Baritone Boy and Dante and indulging in some delicious dishes. This New Year marked not only the start of the Year of the Sheep but also wrapped up what has been a very busy seven weeks since January 1st.

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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!

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

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. – Albert Schweitzer

I’m the first person in my family to pursue a singing career, which is liberating and lonely at the same time. There’s no pressure to follow in someone’s super-successful footsteps, and I had the luxury of exploring my interests to pinpoint what I’d like to devote my life to. However, this exploration was a bumpy one, and in the midst of the various mini-crises and breakdowns there were times I wished someone with classical-singing street smarts could walk me through the process and warn me of both obvious and camouflaged pitfalls. My parents voiced similar concerns, knowing the connections and knowledge they had acquired through their careers would be of little help if I went in my own direction.

I’m old enough now to appreciate how they’ve let me go off on my own into unknown territory. If you’re a parent, an older sibling, or just someone’s good friend, you know the protective feeling of wanting your loved one to be safe, secure, and successful. What exactly went through my parents’ heads when they saw me struggling through various jobs? And when I started to take voice lessons again? And when I announced I was going to apply to graduate school for voice? Well, I’m not sure. But they gave me pep talks after rough competitions and congratulated me after each little hurdle.

In 12 days I will be leaving this city behind to mingle with singers who have not taken a four-year hiatus from studying music. I’m trading a steady paycheck for negative income (ah, student loans). I’m a soprano (there are too many of us!) and not even a rare Wagnerian soprano (enjoy the slow build or fast forward to 4:27). A lot of ladies are singing the same rep, which means I have to do it better best. I’m committing the next two years of my life to a tough field. As a professional tenor friend put it: there is no runner-up, you either book the job or you don’t. This isn’t an industry where second-tier performers can land a mid-level position. Which is why you better be best.

In the midst of all the late-starts and questionable odds, my parents have been remarkably cool about my decision to pursue a singing career. They might not know much about the business, but they’re with my each step of the way.

I’ve experienced a wave of love and support at a level that was completely unexpected. Three weeks ago I began a fundraising campaign to jump start this wild summer of music. My hope is to raise enough funds to cover the cost of the BASOTI program – a lofty, dreamy goal. After all, in such a big world who would be interested in my little campaign? Answer: family, relatives, co-workers, friends, and even high school friends I haven’t seen in almost 10 years.

In a time when opera houses are closing down and states are cutting funding for the arts, I have proof that music and passion and dreams are worthwhile. Through words, smiles, and actions, my supporters have urged me forward. I feel so lucky and so loved to experience such generosity and kindness.

Honor is such an old-fashioned concept, but in an age where we want things “in writing” and the only non-refundable purchases are cars and digital music, it is the right term to use here. I am honored that my friends and family believe in me despite the riskiness of pursuing music. They did not demand a demonstration of my skills or a legally-binding document before betting on me. I have never been more aware of or more appreciative of the good company I keep. A singer can go pretty far on pure determination, but we last longer and go further when we have others backing us up.

Thank you. I have no flowery phrases or elaborate metaphors. Just thank you, thank you, thank you.

Humbled, honored, and with a heart full of love,

Joyce