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Friday, June 28, 2013

Traveling across 2013

Updates 
Hello! It's been a while since I last wrote and lots has happened.  A warm winter at Florida's Sarasota Opera has come and gone, I'm spending a cool summer up in the Rocky Mountains at Colorado's Central City Opera and this spring I got accepted to Nashville Opera's Mary Ragland Young Artist Program! So next winter I'll be in Tennessee.

Sarasota was everything I had been told it would be as a company to work for. I made fantastic friends while I was there and definitely received great advice from the company about being your own artist, making your own choices and standing by those choices.  I think I grew a lot while I was there.  One of the reasons I didn't write all winter though was because Sarasota Opera does not permit it's employees to write/post things about the company and what goes on in rehearsals etc. so I couldn't write about my experiences.

Central City Opera
Back here at Central City Opera ( I was here in 2011) I'm having a blast!  We have classes every morning and rehearsals every afternoon and evening. Our classes include diction, movement/dance, stage combat, acting, musical theater, audition class and master classes! I love how much training we get here.

The new head of the program, Marc Astafan is fabulous and has set up lots of auditions for us while were here including Houston Grand, Lindemann, the Met, Utah Opera, Yale and two management companies!  We are having one on one sessions with him next week to get feedback on our resumes and to discuss which auditions we should take while here.

Transitions
I'm starting to feel like an emerging professional rather than a struggling recent graduate. When I did my first young artist program in 2011 I didn't know what I was getting into. Now, not only do I know what to expect, I know so many singers in the YAP circuit that I actually knew half of these people before I even got here.  Feeling very thankful for moving up in the world, however small a move it may be:)

Cheers,
Amy


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reflections on 2012

New Year Reflections
There are five days left until I leave for Sarasota Opera! I'm looking forward to being in the Apprentice Artist program and am in the midst of a final memorization push.  In other news - Happy New Year!  A friend of mine recently posted a list of her top 10 greatest moments/achievements of 2012 and invited friends to post theirs in a comment. Let's do it! Here are my "Top Ten of 2012" and I'd love for you to leave your's in a comment.

Sarasota Opera House

Highlights for 2012

10
Surgery for my septum, not fun but it has made me a healthier person 

9
Moving into my new very cute apartment with my very cute roomate

8
Learning to sing in Russian and rocking it!

7
Getting to be there for my little sister's college graduation

6
Singing my first professional roles in years

5
Winning first place at a singing competition and cash awards at others

4
Getting down to the weight that had been my goal for years
(even if some pounds came back on)


3
Spending tons of time with my best friend, Chelsea, while in NYC doing auditions!

2
Meeting my wonderful boyfriend, Colin.

1
Getting accepted to four young artist programs with alternate status at a fifth.  



Gratitude
This past year I feel like I have finally gotten my career off the ground.  I am so thankful that years of hard work are finally paying off. That said, I feel I'm missing moments with friends and family.  As I decide on New Years resolutions, I will bare in mind ways to focus on strengthening relationships with the people in my life and making time to see my family more frequently, even if that means skype.


Happy New Years everyone!


Cheers,
Amy



Monday, December 3, 2012

NYC Audition Tour

It's that time of year: only two more auditions to go!  I went to The Met for the first time ever this week to see Don Giovanni with my best friend from undergrad! For $33 dollars we had standing seats in the orchestra so the sound was great and I also brought a pair of opera glasses so I was able to see just fine as well.  Here are some pics from my trip so far!

The Met by day
The Met by night
Alice Tully Hall

Exciting!

Cheers,
Amy

Monday, November 26, 2012

Back on Blogger

My good luck tea
After a long hiatus, I'm back to blogging!  I'm getting ready to go back to NYC tomorrow for another round of auditions. I'm excited, young artist program auditions are the auditions I work all year towards and I'm feeling really good about everything.  I'm in NYC strictly for business, but because so many other singers are in town too, I get to spend time with a lot of friends from all over the country that I haven't seen in years. It's a wonderful thing...

Cheers,
Amy

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Competition Season

Ready, set....go!
Competitions are to spring what auditions are to late fall: inseparable.  Tons of singers ever year after fall auditions start gearing up for competitions in the spring.  This was my first year diving in and I wasn't too sure what to expect - I hadn't done many in the past. In addition to the rules and requirements of each competition being different, the character and structure of each competition varies as well.  There is far more variation in competitions in fact, than in auditions. I picked two competitions that I thought I was ready for and could afford to apply to, the Connecticut Opera Guild and MetroWest Opera.

MetroWest Opera Young Artist Competition
Who: Metro West Opera
Where: Weston, MA
Established: 2011
Age Range: 21-35
Number of Live Rounds: 2
Attire: Prelims, Audition Casual / Finals, Formal wear
Prizes: 1st $600 and lead role / 2nd $400 / 3rd $300 / Encouragement Award $200

This is a small regional competition open to New England Residents which is run by a small local opera company of young up-and-coming music professionals.  Preliminary round auditions are limited to the fisrt who apply and all others are put on a waiting list. There are two divisions, the Young Artist Division and the High School Division.

The competition is only in it's second year and applications already came in at over 100 this year.  It consisted of a preliminary round that was judged by members of the opera company including artistic director Dana Schnitzer and conductor Adam Boyles at the Boston University College of Fine Arts. Standard audition attire was appropriate for the first round. The final round was in the company's performance space in Weston, MA with a stage, upright piano and in the evening so formal wear was expected.  The site was difficult to get to if you did not have a car, so the company kindly made car pool and pick up arrangements for the singers.  The concert was open to the public with general admission tickets but the audience was quite thin.  Singers sang on a stage with a fabulous pianist, the same pianist from the preliminary round but the piano it's self was in poor shape and difficult to hear from the stage.  Ten finalists were chosen to compete for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and an Encouragement Award.   The judges deliberation took about 15 minutes and I'm happy to announce that I took 3rd place! One thing that is great about this competition is that they give you feedback from every judge.  I was emailed all of my comments from both rounds the week after the finals took place.

Metro West Opera Competition Award Winners 2012


Connecticut Opera Guild Young Artist Scholarship Competition
Who: Connecticut Opera Guild
Where: West Hartford, CT
Established: 1959
Age Range: 20-35
Number of Rounds: 1
Attire: Formal wear
Prizes: 1st $10,000 / 2nd $5,000 / 3rd $2,000 / $14,000 in additional scholarships

The application it's self serves as a preliminary round. Applicants are instructed to send a cd with the application.  The Guild is run by individuals who have spent their lives enjoying and funding the opera.

This competition was once championed solely by New England singers but word of the incredible amounts of prize money given out by the Guild attracts singers from NYC, Philadelphia and even as far away as Houston. Needless to say, the competition has become extremely steep in recent years and the Connecticut Opera Guild Scholarship Competition has become the most prestigious competition in New England. This year, out of 150 applications they picked 25 to sing as finalists. For the final round, singers are invited to sing for the Guild in West Hartford. It was at Saint Joseph College in the Hoffman Auditorium, a large, beautiful concert hall.  There were three judges and a decent sized audience of guild members.  Since the competition was to take place mid day, I assumed that the attire would not be formal.  I was wrong. Extremely wrong. I was one of only two women not in a floor length evening gown and most men were in tuxedos.  By holding my head up high and accepting there was nothing I could do about it I was able to pull it off but I was still a bit shaken by it at first.  I should have looked into what the appropriate attire was before hand or brought additional dresses just in case. Anyway, of the 25 finalists, 16 received prizes and I was lucky enough to be one of them! It was a baby prize but this was a big kid competition. I was thrilled to have been presented with an award at a competition of Connecticut Opera Guild's level.  Below, I'm the one in yellow.

Connecticut Opera Guild Award Winners 2012


A Final Word
I would be remiss if I were to neglect to say that I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the members of both organizations that held these competitions. At COG, despite the fierce competition, the atmosphere of this event was welcoming and kind.  The people who run the Guild and the competition were warm, friendly, kind and extremely generous.  They provided us with a dressing room, warm-up rooms and a green room filled with chips, brownies and other goodies.  Upon arrival, singers are presented with packets that included a program for the afternoon, an instruction sheet filled with logistics, a handwritten note of congratulations for making it to the finals and $100 honorarium.  How's that for a warm welcome? While the judges deliberated (they deliberated for at least 40 min) the guild members served cookies, lemon squares and punch! During this time I met several of the other singers and made new friends.  Rather than feeling every minute like on hour waiting for the judges decision, the waiting period felt more like a cocktail party! I also met and spoke with several guild members while waiting and found them to be such lovely and kind individuals. They donate tons of money for the scholarships and most of them don't even choose to have the scholarship in their own name; they name the scholarship after a loved one that has passed.  It's touching and I will have another blog post about the scholarships coming soon.  Likewise, the organizers of the MetroWest Competition made sure that all finalist were taken care of and individually checked with every singer to confirm that they had transportation there and at the end of the night arranged transportation for each singer back to the city.  Also, they had a bouquet of roses waiting for each finalist that didn't receive an award!  I learned that although preparing for a competition may be daunting, competitions are run for the benefit of the singers by people who love the art form and have a sincere interest in seeing singers do well.

I hope this post helps anyone looking to enter into either competition next year.

Cheers,
Amy

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Opera Parties!

Opening Night Gala 
The Snow Maiden opened tonight! It went extremely well and afterwards there was a fabulous gala held in one of the beautiful private suites at Harvard.  There was live music, spreads of fancy finger foods, wine, and tons of people.  Opening night was completely sold out!  When observing the audience members at the gala, I was struck by how many young, fashionable people were there.  Below are some pictures I took of people at the gala.


Party at the Opera
This got me thinking about a group I've been meaning to join called the BLO Bunch.  Boston Lyric Opera set up the BLO Bunch for students and young professionals who enjoy opera as a way to connect with other young opera lovers.  Group members get discounted ticket rates for certain nights and the performances are often followed or preceded by cocktails and appetizers at a local establishment for all BLO Bunch members to attend.   I wondered if many of the people in our audience at The Snow Maiden were in the BLO Bunch or if they would join if they knew about it.  Many opera companies across the country are forming similar groups for young people to who enjoy opera.  It's a great way to see opera, have a night on the town and meet new people!  Below is a list of opera groups for young people from all over!


The List
Austin: Austin Lyric Opera's Opera Club
Boston: Boston Lyric Opera's  BLO Bunch
Chicago: Lyric Opera of Chicago's  LYP (Lyric Young Professionals)
Cincinnati: Cincinnati Opera's  Center Stage
Denver: Central City Opera's ArtsX
Detroit: Michigan Opera Theater's Access Opera
Kansas City: Lyric Opera of Kansas City's  The Bohemians 
Los Angeles: LA Opera's ARIA
Montreal: Opera de Montreal's  Young Associates
New York City: The Met's Young Associates Program
Houston: Houston Grand Opera's O.N. (Opening Nights for Young Professionals)
San Francisco: SF Opera's BRAVO! Club
Seattle: Seattle Opera's BRAVO! Club
Toronto: Canadian Opera Company's Opera Under 30
Washington D.C: Washington National Opera's Generation O









Cheers,
Amy

Monday, March 19, 2012

Makeup Madness!

More Hats?
Yup, in my last post I addressed all the different roles we as singers have to fill for ourselves but I forgot several! Among the forgotten was "Makeup Artist".  I'm doing a role at the moment with a non-profit opera company Lowell House Opera.  The company is doing the first ever fully staged Russian production of The Snow Maiden in the United States.  I am playing the role of Spring Beauty, the goddess of spring and mother of Snow Maiden. Here's the catch: since the company is non-profit, they are working on a shoestring budget, so naturally they don't have the ability to splurge for hair and makeup people to do everybody up each night. I needed to figure out make up on my own and here are the steps I used to do it.

STEPS FOR FIGURING OUT YOUR OWN STAGE MAKEUP
Step 1: The Vision
Ask the director what their vision of this character is.  I spoke to the director about her vision of my character's look and the key words she used in her description were "etherial", "regal" and "dewy." Based on this vision (and our own) think of ways you can do your makeup in a way that would evoke these key words.  For "etherial" I thought unusual colors would be the way to go, decided on gold, green and purple as my main make up colors, but they were also the colors of my costume so nothing clashed. Dewy made me think of shimmer and glitter, so I got a body shimmer and gold glitter.  Regal, to me, meant both powerful and subdued so I decided that my color scheme couldn't be too put on too heavily or dramatically.

Step 2 - The Inspiration
Find pictures of celebrities, characters and models that you think represent the look you are going for.  For my role I google searched pictures of women playing Titania from Shakespear's A Midsummer Nights Dream as well as models in gold/green eyeshadow and gold glitter.  Below are the photos that resonated with me.

Step 3 - The Purchase
Personally, I don't like stage make up.  I don't mean stage make up as in applying it for the stage, I mean makeup meant for the stage - it makes me break out and it's hard to wash off.  I use my regular make up and apply it more heavily. For those of you who don't mind stage makeup, you might want to just purchase a kit.  I recommend Ben Nye.  It's quality but not too expensive. You can buy them at costume shops or online here. Anyway, assess your makeup collection and figure out what needs to be purchased. Of those purchases, see what you need to splurge on and what you can save on.  I bought cheap eyeshadow and lipstick from Walgreens, but to get just the right kind of glitter product, I opted for Sephora.  I found a gold glitter eyeliner that I would use on my eyes, temples and hair line.

Step 4 - The Application
I assume most singers know how to put on make up but if you don't there are tons of great books on regular make up and stage makeup or go to youtube and look up tutorials on make up application.  I was never able to put on false eyelashes until I watched a how-to tutorial on youtube!  Ladies, never forget to were false eyelashes on stage, they make a HUGE difference and are easy to find at drugstores.  I also recommend covering up any tattoos you may have and Dermablend is great for that.  I don't know first hand because I don't have any tattoo's, but this video convinced me.

Here's my finished product!

If you want to share your self-created opera looks, send them to me at amy@amyoraftik.com and I'll post them!

Cheers,
Amy

Monday, March 12, 2012

Too Many Hats!

Anything but an Artist
As singers who are just starting out, we have to wear so many different hats. We have to wear the hat of manager, publicist, career strategist and many more.  Essentially, we have to run all elements of a business, when all we really want to do is make art.  It can be frustrating and take away from time we'd rather spend working on music but it's a necessary evil.  The following are tools that I use to help myself "run my business" and I hope you find some of them helpful!


Hat #1: Manager
We've gotta make our own opportunities and land auditions on our own.  Even once you do have a manager, you often still have to actively find your own auditions to supplement what your agent gets you. Most of us already know about Yaptracker and if you don't, go join it NOW! Its the top audition database in the U.S. What many people don't know is that there are often smaller audition databases that are specific to a certain region of the country. Here in New England, we have Boston Singers Resource. Often, local organizations will post auditions and goings-on with these smaller websites in order to keep down the number of applicants and to insure that they only hire local talent.  Also, don't forget to work your network! I got my role in Little Women this past January because I knew someone who knew the artistic director.  They needed another mezzo, I came recommended, she looked at my website, looked at my press kit, listened to my recordings and hired me over the phone.  I never even auditioned.


Hat #2: Career Strategist
I do this mostly with the aid of books. If you follow my blog regularly, you'll have seen that I highly recommend Angela Myles Beeching's book Beyond Talent and follow career strategist and former IMG Artist Director Edna Landau on her blog, Ask Edna.  Another great book to help you plan out your career is a book I just recently bought and love: Carol Kirkpatrick's Aria Ready.  These resources are all about creating a plan for yourself and finding ways to meet your goals. If you need more than a book, a blog or a newsletter, each of these women are available for consulting.  I have met with Angela Myles Beeching twice for immensely helpful one-on-one sessions and am having my press kit reviewed by Edna Landau as a prize for a contest I just won. Carol Kirkpatrick makes herself available for consultation over skype and has a monthly newsletter that I subscribe to!  If you are interested in any of their one-on-one services, click here for Angela, click here for Edna and click here for Carol.

Hat #3: Publicist
A publicist manages how you project yourself in the world, for singers lucky enough to have one that is. On a management company's website, they would display a bio for you that would be professionally written by a publicist, with beautiful, professional pictures of yourself both on and off stage, also carefully picked, reviewed and edited by your publicist.  This carefully managed page would be your face to the world.  Without a manager or publicist, we need to be in control of how we show ourselves to the world.  Personally, I think having a website is important for a singer. Others disagree with me, but I think once you are at a point where you are auditioning for opera companies, it is wildly advantageous to have a place where potential employers can get a sense of who you are. One of my coaches told me that some small houses and symphonies she has worked with don't want a big cattle call audition for their smaller stuff, so they google local singers and listen to recordings on their websites. From the recordings, they invite singers to private auditions.  She has been present during the process. Even though I had a connection, I don't think I would have been hired by Opera Fayetteville if my recordings and press kit hadn't been readily available on the internet. To make you're own website I recommend Dynamod, Weebly or Network Solutions.  Personally, I delegated the responsibility of my website design and maintenance to a website designer, My Diva Designs, who I'll talk more about in a bit.


Hat #4 Delegator 
My favorite hat, the one that decides who to have do stuff for you! I used to make and print out my own business cards, return address labels and shipping labels, but now I do that through vistaprint. With vistaprint you can design and customize anything business related! They do my business cards and all my mailing labels. It's cheap, looks great, and it's less stuff for me to print out every time I want to send an application somewhere!  Also, I delegate my website designs and updates to My Diva Designs - and I love it! My web designer, Ruth Hartt, created a fabulous, customized website for me AND does work on my press kit materials. She has edited headshots for me, edited my biography, redesigned my twitter and blog to match the look and feel of my website and created a flickr page for me.  She offers services ranging from resume creation to video editing.  She's been a huge asset and has saved me tons of time and sweat. Check out her portfolio here and her services here.


Hat #5: Motivator
Still not psyched about running the business end of things? Here are some ladies straight out of the business world that I follow for motivation, inspiration and savvy.  Each woman has weekly newsletters that I subscribe to and twitter accounts that I follow. To find them all on twitter, click here and go to my list titled "The Inspirational."
Danielle LaPorte: A blogger and public speaker, Danielle is all about being yourself in business.  Her advice is sassy, passionate and all about getting exactly what you want while being who you are.  She has a weekly newsletter that I get, free downloads on her website and has a new book out that I have pre ordered called "The Fire Starter Sessions." To check it out or pre order the book, click here!
Julie Daley: Creator of the blog "Unabashedly Female," Julie is a career coach for women.  She's all about connecting to your inner feminine energy and using it for creative and intuitive leadership.  She teaches her clients and readers to embrace their womanhood and conduct their business from a place of womanly wholeness and centeredness. Her blog is awesome, she's available for one-on-one coaching and she has a digital book that you can check out here.
Hiro Boga: I never thought that career ambition could be approached with zen until I read Hiro Boga's blog.  She's has guided meditations on being your own business advisor! It's awesome. The only way to describe her is to quote her, "When you consciously create your life and business, you become a source of love, truth, freedom, radiance, prosperity and blessing in the world." She has two books out and a bunch of free resources on her website!  


Hope this was helpful!


Cheers,
Amy

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Opera On The Red Carpet

Oscars Night
Inspired by my own excitement over what people will be wearing to the Oscars tonight, I wanted to see what opera singers have been wearing for their red carpet moments in recent years!

Anna Netrebko @ Met Gala

Anna Netrebko @ Cinema for Peace Film Festival

Renee Fleming @ The Polar Prizes

Renee Fleming @ Gala Fundraiser for NYPL

Renee Fleming @ Met Gala

Joyce DiDonato @ Grammy Awards

Joyce DiDonato @ EMI Awards

Angela Ghergiou @ Classical Awards

Angela Ghergiou @ Classical Awards

Renee Fleming @ Fundraiser for The Actors Fund

Cheers,
Amy

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Career Contest

Edna Landau 
Former Director of IMG Artists.  Prestigious Agent.  World Class Career Consultant.  Since retiring from IMG where she launched artists such as Lang Lang and Hilary Hahn, Edna Landau is now running a career consulting firm for musicians and she has a blog on Musical America that is essentially a "Dear Abby" for artists seeking career advice!

The Contest
Recently, her blog held a contest for it's one year anniversary.  All advertising for it was done on Musical America's blog and twitter (another reason to join twitter.) Contestants were to submit their best question in the month of January to be entered to win one of three prizes.  I figured it was a longshot but I tried anyway. The question I sent was this: 


Dear Edna,
I am an opera singer who recently graduated from school. In my first year out, I had a variety of opportunities. I sang at a well-respected young artist program, sang in the chorus of a B level opera house and have been singing lead roles at very small/low budget opera companies. At every turn, I’ve had to decline one opportunity in order to pursue another. For example, to sing chorus I had to turn down outreach work with the young artist program and to do a lead role at a small house, I had to turn down a chorus opportunity that would have paid more. I know that what matters most is talent, but I’m just not sure what the best choices are to build a resume and a career. It’s exciting and fulfilling to have roles but the venues are anything but impressive; whereas the young artist programs and chorus positions I get are with opera companies that are impressive and pay more, even though I don’t get to be a featured singer. My question is this: When casting directors and agents consider engaging an artist, do they care more about what the artist has performed or where they performed it? 

Her answer was thorough, thoughtful and has given me a lot to think about in terms of planning my career trajectory, which is of course easier said than done .  Click here to read her answer.


The Prize
Surprisingly, I won second prize!  The prize is a press kit review by Edna Landau herself and it was all because I heard about it through twitter.  So the moral is, nothing is ever to big or too small to pass up and NEVER under estimate the power of social media.  A service that would have cost hundreds of dollars is being done for me for free - not to mention the other winners and their prizes!

Connect with Edna
To check out Edna's website, click here.  To check out Edna's blog, click here.  Also, if you've thought about joining twitter but it seems like a hassle and you don't know where to start, click here to read my post for singers joining twitter.


Cheers,
Amy