Tuesday, November 10, 2009


After having had a few days off in a row, I spent my Sunday in San Francisco learning how to market myself.

I knew that I didn't have much of a clue regarding the how-to's of marketing a human being. I knew that marketing was extremely important and I assumed that the truly famous hired firms to manage that aspect of their careers. One of the many important things that I didn't know is that even when you aren't famous, there is still an immense amount of marketing to be done, and if you don't have enough money to hire a firm, you have to do it all yourself.

Self-marketing is a full time job all by itself.

By the time I was half-way through the day, I began to wonder how it would be possible to actually do all that was required to successfully market myself, while practising, going to rehearsals, arranging music, composing music, recording music, being in 5 performing ensembles, and sleeping.

I'm not sure it is.

But I can see how good marketing can pretty much make a career. So, I am going to select the key items and see what happens.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Resting Up

Aside from my 2 church jobs, I have no additional performances for the remainder of this month. And although I really enjoy performing, I am a bit relieved at the light schedule. December and its' busy schedule will be here soon enough.

I am enjoying a much needed respite this week after a very busy performing period. I have gotten a lot of rest and I have successfully focused on relaxation.

As a singer, I will be quite busy during the holiday season. I need this rest to fortify myself for incredible schedule ahead.

UPDATE - The "light schedule" disappeared almost immediately after this post. Replaced by "way too much to do".

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Coro Ciconia Concert

I had a lot of rehearsals and concerts over the past 10 days.

I increased my obligations this month by adding another singing ensemble. It is an Early Music ensemble. Our Autumn concert was Sunday night (night before last).

It was a fortunate that we were using a huge hall that doesn't have installed seating, because we had more than a full house and had to bring in more seating. The room is mostly wood and very lovely for singing. The house lighting was off and we sang by candlelight.

Our program included works by Josquin des Pres (1440-1521), Johannes Ciconia (1373-1411), Francesco Landini (1325-1397), Vincenzo da Rimini (14th century), Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474), Jacopo da Bologna (ca, 1355-1370), and 2 selections from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (ca.1399).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Unexpected Busy-ness

I had no idea that that this week would become so terribly busy for me.

I now have 2 church jobs. Crazy, right? You bet.

I thought I was only marginally booked for music obligations, but apparently, I am very booked. I have more than the 2 church jobs on my plate.

From Oct 25th to Nov. 3rd, I have 6 performances and 10 rehearsals and it's not even Advent or Christmas yet.

Oi vey!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alto Pride

In polyphony of the Early Music periods, every line is important. Altos were featured greatly. Many of the lines in Early Music polyphony that are marked as soprano lines today, were actually alto lines. The re-labeling of these parts beginning to occur during the Classical era.

Once we entered into later periods, particularly starting in the Classical era, the alto line in choral music became more like what seems "an after thought" for many composers. Creating parts that are terribly boring, or conversely, alto lines that "fill in the gaps" of the chordal and/or rhythmic structure without having much of a line of their own, that verge on the unmusical. The "catch-all" line.

You know the joke: "Altos are just sopranos who can read."

Well, no.

Yes, there are a few modern composers who write real lines for us, but altos have never really regained their position in choral music in any kind of widespread way.

However, now, alto sections are littered with the remains of sopranos who have been "demoted" because they have lost their high notes, or who never trained to have any.

Yes. I said "demoted". That is the word I have heard used time and time again in regard to this common practise. It's negative propaganda. As if being an alto is somehow, a lesser position, rather than a voice type. And that negative propaganda has certainly led to that widespread mindset and perpetuation of "after thought" alto lines in compositions. And that propaganda has certainly effected the numbers of altos who are putting it out there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm An Alto

A contralto, really. Not a mezzo. Not a soprano without a range. A real alto.

It's not so easy to be a true alto. Throughout my career I have encountered literally dozens of people who refuse to even use the word, as if mere utterance of the word itself would somehow cause the earth to open up and swallow them. I have had my bio changed after submission to read "mezzo soprano" in programs, countless times, for reasons that still elude me to this very day. The message has been sent time and time again, that for some reason, being an alto is wrong.

How can it be wrong? I am what I am.

As educated as most musicians are, it astounds me that so many think that the alto voice isn't actually a real voice type. Voice type isn't about range, it's about quality within a range. A soprano who has lost their top notes doesn't magically become an alto by virtue of a limited range. But this seems to be how this is viewed.

I have a 3 octave singing range. Not merely 3 octaves of notes I can voice. I am an alto. I am in the middle.

Altos are like air; we are mostly invisible and largely taken for granted. Sopranos and baritones covet our solo music.

It's not easy to be an alto. But it's absolutely wonderful.