Classes I Wish I Could Have Taken in Grad School

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It’s been awhile, I know. Rather than going through all the tired excuses and apologies, lets just all pretend I’ve been diligently posting for the last 8 months and leave it at that, shall we? Join me in a shared delusion that my posts have been interesting, informative, and inspiring. Ahhh.

I took a lot of wonderful classes in Graduate School, and many of them have proven to be useful in my professional life. But there  areas of knowledge and understanding that I feel grad school failed to address. Here’s a short list of classes I wish I’d been able to take during my Masters study:

 

MUS 522 Networking for the Socially Awkward: “But what exactly do you say to people?!”

For those who understand that they should be networking, but who have honestly not the foggiest clue how to go about doing it.

 

MUS 561 Taxes for Musicians: Can I deduct this?

An exhaustive course in filling out a schedule C and other tax forms so you don’t get audited for guessing.

 

MUS 547 Contract Negotiation: How much am I worth?

Suggested fees for every gig and lesson you might ever get asked to do given directly and in simple dollar amounts.

 

MUS 631 Getting Hired I: Get your foot in the door of academia

CV writing for every job that you think you might want in the future, and several you haven’t even considered yet. Includes frequent cover letter coachings.  (Prerequisite: MUS 522.)

 

MUS 632 Getting Hired II: Defeating the Experience Spiral

How to get college teaching experience without already having college teaching experience. (Course not open to TA’s, the lucky bastards.)

I expect to see these fabulous courses showing up on college campuses all over the country. What about you, faithful readers? What classes do you wish had been offered at your school?

 

Riding the Wave

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Riding the Wave

Oh hello! I have a blog!

Why is it always

Sometimes life

See this is exactly what happens every time I pull up this stupid window to try and write a blog entry. What moments ago seemed to be clear, easily verbalized thoughts suddenly turn to absolute crap on the page, I glare at this blinking cursor in disgust for a minute or two, then blow out an exasperated sound like “ughhrhhrghhg,” close the window and go back to reading endless blog archives or watching Poirot on Netflix. But if I stay away much longer, I’m going to have to just erase this blog and give up, or leave it to atrophy like thousands of other little broken threads hanging from the Interwebs.

No! Since the whole theme of this thought I’ve been struggling to get on the page is to pull up one’s big kid undies and carry on, it seems appropriate for me to suck it up and start here.

You might have noticed this too: 2012 turned out to be largely total shit right up to the end. Or maybe you didn’t! Maybe 2012 was a great year for you (you lucky jerk). It’s not that nothing good happened all year long. Lots of great things happened–they were just so hilariously, ridiculously outweighed by the crap that they barely budged the scale. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I have to at least explain where I’ve been for the last few months, and why I find myself in need of this internal pep talk to begin with.

We spent the last year living in Pennsylvania for my husband’s internship, part of the requirement for finishing his doctorate. And he met that requirement! He loved the work he did in his internship and he grew a lot over the last year. But, as internships are wont to do, his ended at the end of July, and he found himself jobless and hung up indefinitely in his career path by that other big requirement of graduation: his dissertation. He hoped to be done before his job ended, but that didn’t happen. In fact, he was only able to finally finish his first draft on December 29th and send it to his chair to begin the long (oh for craps sake) process of edits that will last until…who knows. You might notice the significant gap between the beginning of August and now. It’s awhile. And he’s been unemployed and writing furiously that whole time.

While in Pennsylvania I worked a few jobs including teaching, singing and retail. These were not enough to keep us afloat there for any significant amount of time. Right around Mid-October, as it was becoming suddenly clear that he would not be done with his dissertation (and therefore employable) by Christmas, we decided to take drastic action. So we made arrangements to move back to Louisville, where Husband’s family were, very generously, offering us housing in a property that was currently up for sale. It’d been on the market for two years with no movement at all. We’d pay a small amount of rent there, I’d be able to find work, and he’d have time to finish his dissertation so we could MOVE ON already.

So we packed all our stuff up to move it into a storage unit until such time that we could afford to rent a truck and move it down. We were ready to cram all our essentials into our cars and drive to Louisville when we learned that the property we were moving into the next day had sold. The new owners would want us out by the 15th of December. Whee! Lacking any better option, we took out a good amount of the stuff we’d planned to create a little mini household with, threw it into the storage unit too, and took off for Kentucky.

We’ve been pretty much scrambling to figure out our next move ever since then. We stayed in the property as long as we could, then with generous and wonderful relatives in Indiana. Then to North Carolina for the holidays, where a friend had an empty apartment and I had family to crash with when needed. It was great to be with family, and we had a wonderful Christmas, but a pal of uncertainty hung over us the whole time we were there. We rang in the new year with friends on the beach, which I think was a good way to reset our brains for a new start. Then we drove back up to Louisville, and are currently living in the guest room of some extremely awesome people. I’m still job hunting, Husband is working on his first round of dissertation edits and looking for temp work. Our only income since mid-November has been from my Etsy business, which is not exactly booming, but has helped us to keep gas in the car.

It’s been very hard for me to think about young artists programs, applications, auditions, or really singing in general for the last couple of months.

But for the first time since we left our apartment in PA, I’m finally feeling like we’ve come rest somewhere, even if it’s just for a moment. I feel like I can catch my breath and start planning, rather than just having to react to circumstances that are changing too rapidly for us to get ahead of them. It’s 2013, a truly New Year, and I hope it will be a good one. I can do my part to see that it will be.

So I’m heading out on the town tomorrow a bit to follow up some job leads, sing for a local choir director in hopes of finding work, and PRACTICE. I can find a temp job for now, and something that will further by career goals after that. We WILL be back in our own place soon. I will be able to pay for applications again soon. I will sing for people, I will find gigs and auditions. I will find students and start teaching again. This will all be fine. Life rolls right along, and I can either be swept along by it, or get on top of the wave of craziness and ride it.

Hipsters, Floods and “Fallafel”: Newport Folk 2012

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**One of the consequences of neglecting your blog is that you find half-finished drafts of posts regarding events that happened months ago, which makes it hard to finish them. Serves me right.**

That title would have been cooler if I could have thought of a third thing starting with “f,” but look folks, there were a ton of hipsters in attendance. It was hard to miss them.

My mom and I headed up to Newport on Friday morning, a drive that was surprisingly long–turns out it takes longer to get through Connecticut than it looks like it should.  Finally, we drove across a really beautiful bridge and into Newport. After the inevitable hemming and hawing and searching via Urban Spoon for food options, we headed downtown, and ended up at a great little hole in the wall bar called Pour Judgement. Those who know me will confirm that I get…difficult…when I get too hungry. I don’t want choices. I don’t want you to ask me questions. I don’t want to make decisions. I just want to eat something, and eat it soon. Apparently the universe noticed this, and sent me a sign:

Indeed, universe. Indeed.

My mom went to a concert Friday night, but I stayed in and watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and ran Italian text instead. Good choices all around, I feel.

Saturday started out gorgeous, sunny with big fluffy clouds and a nice breeze in off the water. We took a somewhat dubiously-navigated shuttle ride from the hotel, crammed into a van with 8 of the douchiest guys I’ve ever spent time that close to, but it did get us where we were going. We grabbed the water taxi across to the island, and set about claiming a little patch of grass on the giant lawn in front of the main stage. We got a pretty good spot, in view of the stage, though quite a ways back. The place was packed, the mood festive. We got to see the Alabama Shakes which was amazing, and I got introduced to awesome groups like First Aid Kit.

I wandered around some to check out the vendors, and bought some delicious “fallafel” from a dude who really shouldhave spell-checked his sign.

As the day wore on, it got more an more cloudy, and everyone started checking the weather on their phones compulsively. Our main goal for the day was to see My Morning Jacket, the last act on the main stage in the evening, so we started moving up bit by bit. It’s quite the tactical exercise, wandering around trying to spot a patch of empty grass just big enough for two chairs, then using complicated hand signals to tell the other person to pack up and make a mad dash before someone else snagged the opening, or the groups around spread out. But the threat of a pretty big storm was upon us, and the casual attendees started abandoning the concert and heading to the water taxis. I walked around some more and got some pictures.

The “party barge.” They blared their own music the whole day, which was…confusing.

We inched our way forward as MMJ came on for their set, all the while watching the storm roll in. We had packed and piled our stuff up so that we could leave it and crush forward with the rest of the crowd.

They played an amazing set, Jim James his usual enigmatic self, floating around the stage with his cape over his head for reasons only he could know.

They brought on Alabama Shake’s Brittany Howard and her massively powerful voice for a couple of songs, and the crowd went nuts.

As you can see from the picture, we had moved quite close to the stage by now. My mom went up even further, while I stayed close to our little pile of stuff.

By now though, the rain was starting to fall, and the crowd was thinning out. We ignored it, put on our ponchos, and danced in the rain with the rest of the committed concert goers. Eventually the guys had to quit for lightning, but they nearly made it through the whole set. We gathered up our things, adjusted our ponchos, and made a beeline for the water taxis. We made it all the way through crush of people, the vendors…only to realize that the line started a bit further back. We followed the line back, back through the vendors, back across the field in front of the stage, back almost to the far side of the island. Whee!

On the concert field 20 somethings danced in the mud and played with beach balls happily. The rain was coming down in buckets, and soon the road on which we stood was a river. Our shoes and pant legs were soaked. We huddled under our ponchos as best we could and shuffled slowly forward.

We stood in line for two hours, as cars tried to inch their way through the crowd, as the henna lady’s tent was blown over into the puddles and she struggled to right it again (with the help of bystanders). It got dark, and cold, and everyone was pretty much soaked through to the bone. But spirits remained pretty high, overall.

By the time we got to the end of the line, the rain had slowed to a drizzle.  Eventually we were on a taxi and headed back to the mainland. I called the hotel to find out about getting a shuttle ride back, and was told that we had to meet the driver back on the other end of the main drag, where we had been dropped off in the morning. We hiked up our wet jeans and started walking. We got there, our spirits beginning to falter as we watched happy, dry people eating dinner through restaurant windows. But we knew we wanted to get changed before we got dinner, so we shook out or ponchos, and folded them up, and waited for the shuttle. Surely, we thought, they should be there in 20 minutes or so.

PSYCH! It was another hour and a half before the shuttle showed up. We were less than sympathetic, until the driver mentioned the flooding. Apparently, the whole area had seen massive flooding, and there were roads closed everywhere. In fact, our hotel had flooded, to the dismay of one of the other passengers. The whole lobby and first floor had been under water. We were silently grateful to be on the second floor as we rode back through the damp streets. We ordered a pizza, since there was no way we were going to get back out of the hotel, and settled in for the night. I was reminded, painfully, that I need to put sunscreen on my legs, too.

The next day dawned damp and still very cloudy. We headed to Walmart to buy a tarp, and discovered that every other concert-goer had already been there. We were successful, though, and we made it over to the island while it was still relatively quiet, and staked out a great grassy spot in front of the smaller stage where the Punch Brothers would be appearing in the afternoon.

Once again, we saw some really awesome groups like Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons, Gary Clark Jr, and New Multitudes, and we discovered that the benefit of having a tarp is that it creates a distinct boundary which other concert goers are likely to honor, even if you go to get food or walk around. By the time the Punch Brothers came to the stage, we had packed up our stuff again, and made a run for chairs within the pavilion–just in time, since the rain cut loose again halfway through their set–which was of course, totally awesome.

After the festival we made the still surprisingly long return trip  to PA, I packed for a month in Colorado, and we both flew out the next morning. But Colorado is a story for another long-overdue blog post.

As for the Newport Folk Festival, despite the rain and the flood it was a wonderful weekend–I hope we can go back next year! In fact, I sorta fell in love with Newport, and found myself figuring out how we might relocate there. I chalk it up to the Cleveland effect:

30 Rock: Cleveland

How to Shop: A Remedial Lesson in Etiquette

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Tis the season for shopping! The store I work at is getting busy, gearing up for the holiday season, and the now 24-hour madness that is Black Friday is almost upon us! So I thought perhaps it’s time to talk shopping etiquette.

Before I started working in retail a year ago, I would have thought most of the things I am about to write about went without saying. Surely everyone knows these things, right? WRONG. Working in retail has taught me that People (the corporate version of the word) are unrepentant jerks, slobs and thieves. Thusly, the following remedial shopping guide:

  1. Pay for merchandize you leave the store with. In other words, don’t steal. This might sound familiar, from the 10 commandments, the warnings on the insides of fitting rooms that this store prosecutes shoplifters, and your mother, but apparently some of you missed it, so here it is again: Don’t. Steal. You are not being that sneaky, putting your ripped off tags under the little round stool in the fitting room, stuffing them behind the edges of the mirror, or putting them on top of the wall. You are also not fooling anyone by leaving your old shoes in the box and wearing out the new ones. This is a store, not a take a penny leave a penny situation. Just don’t do it
  2. If you are going to try on clothes that you have to remove other articles of clothing to put on, do so in the fitting room. And close the door when you’re in there. Please don’t stand in the isle in front of the mirror and strip. And don’t do the same thing with your child.
  3. If you are going to try on clothes that you DON’T have to remove other articles of clothing to put on, don’t then leave the things you’ve tried on in piles on the floor, inside out, or draped over nearby racks in heaps. Don’t stuff them in between racks, under other items, or behind the mirror. Just put them back. Or at least put them on the hanger and leave them on the front of a rack so I can easily find them and put them back for you. You want to know why we don’t have more mirrors? Because y’all can’t use them responsibly.
  4. If you knock things off of a rack, pick them up. If your child knocks things off a rack, either have them pick them up, or do so yourself. This teaches your child to be responsible for his/her own mess, and can only do him/her good in life. This request includes that ridiculously overstuffed clearance rack. I know it’s a pain to shop over there, and that things fall off hangers if you look at them. You know now I know? Because 400 of you went through there today, and I’ve picked up that same shirt 15 times already, as well as the 30 shirts right around it. If we could, we’d give you more space, believe me.
  5. If you (or your child!) knock over an ENTIRE RACK, or an arm off a rack, or a peg off the wall, thereby strewing merchandize all over the floor, pick that up too. I am not your mom. It is my job to clean up after you, but since there are 400 of you, and one of me, it’d be great if you could at least make a small effort to keep this place neat. This all goes double for the shoe section.
  6. If you are one of those people who need to pick up one of every item and unfold it, hold it up and examine it, that is fine! But please, then, learn to fold things a little neatly, and do so. One of you folks can cut a swath through a section of my store in 10 minutes that will take me an hour to put right.
  7. If you pick something up, carry it around for awhile, then decide you don’t want it anymore, please don’t then HIDE that item behind the bath towels or boxes of diapers, or inside plastic tubs, or in the yogurt case, or under the bikes. Either continue carrying it and give it to the check-out person, or at least put it neatly on the end of a rack or table for us to quickly find and re-home.
  8. Be nice. Much like the stealing thing, this seems like it should have been covered way back in like, Kindergarten. But given the bad attitudes I get every day, I think some folks could use a refresher in good manners. If you are nice to me, I will be nice to you. I will be more likely to go out of my way to help you, which seems like exactly what you would want out of your interaction with me. If you treat me like a person and with kindness, even if I’ve had a crappy day, I will be nice to you. I will take you right to the item you want, offer to help you find it in a different size, let you know other places in the store where we carry something similar, clue you into that same thing in another color that just went clearance and is super cheap. If you treat me like an idiot, or are rude and hateful, I will politely point you in the right direction and leave you to it. Good service is a two-way interaction.

If any of these requests seem unreasonable to you, or like too much work, I regret (not much) to inform you that you might be a dick.

Happy Holiday Shopping, folks.

Double Rainbow…What does it mean?

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Double Rainbow…What does it mean?

I have this half-written entry about the Newport Folk Festival sitting in my drafts, and had every intention of writing updates from here in Steamboat Springs…but then I got busy.

Busy with what, you ask? Well, I’m an opera with this guy. And this other guy. And this gal. It’s been a pretty awesome experience so far, once I got (mostly) past the terror of being the least experienced person on stage. Woo!

So instead of a real post, I’m going to leave you with a couple of photos, and get back to work. We’re finishing staging the finale today.

Spoooooooons

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Spoooooooons

Hands of folks addicted to Pinterest? Pretty much everybody? Well, if you like crafty things, you might have seen a pin floating around linking to this A2D project.

Cool, huh? Well, as it turns out, I am currently facing a huge amount of uncertainty about where I will call home in a month or two, and this apparently makes me a little nesty. I love the shades of blue that she used, but I decided to go with reds and yellows for my living room.

Now that I look around, I have to admit that this was fairly arbitrary. In my grad school apartment, I had one red accent wall, and a red futon cover, and thusly went with a lot of browns and yellows and oranges in that room. But that wall and that futon are both long gone, as are the red and yellow throw pillows, and the yellow wooden plaques that I’d painted with Italian tile designs… In fact I have more blues and greens in here right now than reds. Whatever.

I spent an evening watching TV with the Husband and cutting the handles off of spoons. I discovered that it was easiest to score the plastic just a bit with the scissors, then snap it off. Cutting all the way through with the scissors caused cracks and chips.

Instead of trying to glue and tape together an 18 and a 12 inch MDF wreath form, I just bought an 18 inch one and a sheet of foam board. Much easier. I hot-glued that sucker on there, cut out the circle and poked holes through the foam from the back using the pre-drilled holes in the form to use as reference when lining up the spoons. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I put on some netflix reruns and started gluing down spoons.

Right about then, I realized that I hadn’t ever cut out the center circle to put the mirror behind. Bummer. After some careful measuring, cursing, measuring some more, and the judicious use of a knitting needle, yarn and a pencil, I marked off a center circle of about the right diameter and cut it out. Woo! I continued gluing on spoons over the next couple of days, whenever I had free time. I had to make a second trip out to Big Lots for spoons, because I can’t read. But finally it was done!

It actually looked really pretty with just the white spoons. But not really what I was going for. Now in the original blogger’s instructions, she says that its super easy to paint each individual spoon, but that she primed and spray painted the whole thing first. I just used a Krylon for plastic spray paint, and painted the whole thing yellow. It looked really cool when I just put that first really light coat on since it mostly painted the outer edges of the “petals,” but didn’t get all the way down into the overlapping curves of them. You could do a lot just with that, either over the white of the spoons, or with two shades of spray paint. I gave them a pretty good coating though.

Now, let me just tell you. It was not easy to paint each individual petal. It was awkward as all get out, since i was intent on painting the edges and the undersides as well. It took forever. And the acrylic paint I used required more than one coat per petal to not look like streaky crap.

To create the color fade, I started out in the middle with a dark red, then kept adding yellow to the cup for every round. When the whole thing was done, though, I was very pleased with the result. I used some plastic roping that we had laying around to hang it, and taped rather than glued the mirror to the back, in case I should someday change my mind. It looks pretty cool just as a big starburst wreath. I also went over each petal with a layer of varnish leftover from a previous project, to both seal the acrylic paint and to make the whole thing a little shiny and finished looking. This could easily have been accomplished with a can of clear spray paint, but I am cheap and didn’t want to go back out.

I liked the way it turned out so much that I decided to make two smaller ones to accompany it (if HGTV has taught me anything, its that things look better in threes). I used the center circle I’d cut out of the larger mirror for the smaller one, and had enough spoons leftover from the first one to do the second. This time I laid out the spoons on the circle first, figuring out how many would be in each round. Then I spray painted the foam circle first (DO THIS!), and all of the spoons individually. I painted each spoon before I glued it down, and though that seems like it should have taken a lot longer, it really went faster that way, since I wasn’t having to hold the thing at an angle and get a little brush up in there to get the undersides. I glued the whole thing together, taped on the mirror, and added a piece of twine to hang it with.

I did this one in shades of orange rather than starting with red. The third will between the two sizes I have, and be in shades of yellow, but I have to go buy another mirror and some more dang spoons before I can put it together.

They’re on the wall  now, though not in their final home. I think they turned out really well!

When opportunity knocks

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This Spring, I was invited to participate in a summer program. It’s a good program, run by great people in a beautiful place. But, despite being offered a truly amazing deal, I couldn’t afford to do it. And that was a bit of a heartbreak, since it was something I wanted to do very much.

So, when I got offered a spot in another summer program for a similar amount of money, I turned it down easily. Not because I didn’t want to do it, or because it wouldn’t be a great opportunity–but if I couldn’t come up with the money fast to do a program I loved, I couldn’t justify coming up with it more slowly for a program I liked. I shut the door, and started looking ahead to the next round of auditions in the fall.

Imagine my surprise when this second program continued to pursue me, not once but three times. Opportunity wasn’t just knocking, it was fairly banging down my door, significant scholarships in hand. Trying hard to not be a total idiot, I finally accepted the insistent push of the universe, and decided to make it work.* And that was all at once terrifying, gratifying, and exciting.

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been rapidly shoving Mozart recits, arias, quintets etc into my head in preparation to perform Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro. This is not a role that has ever been on my radar, but now that I’m getting to know her, I think Marcellina and I will get along famously. There have been a few shenanigans along the way to make me question whether this was actually a great choice for me…but I have to keep reminding myself of some simple, inescapable facts:

1. It’s not like I have a whole lot else going on right now, professionally. I’ve been teaching, and I did a production of The Mikado this Spring, but other than that, my stage time and professional development have been at a near standstill. I’ve been working in a vacuum, and that’s not a great way to grow as a singer.

2. This will go on my resume, not only as a Summer program, but as a performance of a role with a company. That’s good stuff, and my resume can’t take a year’s worth of nothing after grad school.

3. I get to work up some new arias in preparation for the fall audition season–which, by the way, has already gotten underway. Not a moment too soon. I needed some fresh blood on my Top 5 (the five arias that I will consistently offer at auditions this year) to make me competitive.

4. While this is still going to cost me some money (y u so e’spensive, plane tickets?), it is money being well spent on my craft.

5. It’s going to be seriously scary and new for me, process-wise. This is going to be the shortest turn-around I’ve ever had for a show that isn’t a musical. I’ll be performing with people who are legit working professionals, singing at major houses all over the world. And I have to not only keep up, but prove that I deserve to be there. Nothing motivates quite like fear of failure, and this is good for me.

6. Thinking is fine, but over-thinking/worrying about crap that doesn’t matter in the long run will make you crazy. So don’t do it.

Right now my Figaro experience is mostly one of barely-contained terror as I learn this role (and it’s not a big one, so it’s going pretty fast) in a very short period of time. Italian does not come naturally to me, and it is some serious work getting it to stick in my head. I couldn’t ask for a better way to improve my skills than this.

Meanwhile, Husband’s job ends at the end of August, his dissertation is still 4 guys short of a full data set and we have no good job prospects on the horizon for a briefly ABD psychologist. Whee! Upheaval and change! This seems to be the name of the game for 2012. I’m slowly learning not to fight the uncertainty, but, instead, to ride the current and see where it takes me.

 

*If anybody would like to make a donation towards my living expenses during this 20 day program, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down.