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Monday, November 28, 2011

Julia's New Headshots = Check out this Photographer!

In May of 2011 I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful photographer through organizing a solo recital in Reading, PA.  Don Carrick, a Berks County Resident of 15 years and originally a native of Washington D.C., is also an experienced photographer, and explained that he'd been interested in expanding his clientele for Headshot Photography for a long time now as he enjoys working with people in the Performing Arts and he likes to take pictures that accentuate a person's individuality.  Therefore, Don and I worked out a plan where he'd take some great photos for me, and I'd show them off.

So, as all artists know, a  person's work normally speaks for itself, and by this same token, I believe it's easy to see Don's ability by looking at the photos he took of me.

(You should take into account that I am really NOT photogenic at all and Don was patient enough to go through at least 600 photos before I finally started not looking terrible.  So, for those of you who aren't naturally comfortable in front of the camera, that experience alone shows that Don's the kind of photographer who understands how to help you relax and get the best out of your time with him.)

The two photos above are those that we chose out of over 1,000 photos, to be my final and official new Headshots.  What do you all think?

Most importantly, for those of you who would like to contact Don to set up a photo shoot with him you can click this hyperlink to visit his professional website or email him here.  He has UNBELIEVEABLE rates (a.k.a.- for the amount of photos you take and the time Don will spend with you, this man is offering you the opportunity of a lifetime to really get photos that represent you well) and he is also a professional editor and retoucher, so you don't have to take your photos anywhere else after you've worked with Don- he does everything for you in one stop! Remember, Don does all genres of photos, and not JUST headshots, so if you'd need photos for another occasion- he's also someone to call.

So, to sum it all up, hope you liked checking out my new photos, and if you're in South Eastern Pennsylvania----Get in touch with Don Carrick, you won't be sorry!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Audition for a REAL Opera House in Germany!

This past Tuesday I had my first German Opera House audition!  I was asked at the last minute by a colleague who worked there to audition for a role they're looking to cast next season and which I sing, and have sung for this colleague in an audition before.  (Sorry, I can't be any more specific with names because I don't want to jinx it.)  Honestly, I was really lucky to have been asked to audition since normally these sorts of things don't happen unless you have an agent who knows about the vacancy which the theater is looking to fill, and then sends you there, and actually, all of the other singers who were there to audition had agencies.  So, I was quite overjoyed to have been invited, to say the least.

However, sticking to the point- I'd like to relate what the experience was like.

I heard of the audition on a Friday and the audition itself was taking place on Tuesday of the following week, so in four days.  That really didn't give me a whole lot of time to polish up things or change anything technique-wise or performance-wise, so I was glad that I had been practicing ferociously for the past few months.

I was able to drive there with my boyfriend who was kind enough to take a day off of his classes at University to take me there, and we drove the morning of the audition, meaning that we left the apartment at 8am and got there around 11:30am.

I was scheduled to meet the pianist to work with him/her at 11:45am so I was worried that we'd gotten there too late, but fortunately a woman from the KBB (the opera houses' personnel director, you could say) came to meet me in the waiting room/lobby and took me to a room where I could warm up before I met the pianist. 

I warmed up for about 15 minutes and the pianist came in at that point to work with me.  However I wasn't fully warmed up just then, so I asked her if she'd be able to come back in 5 more minutes.  She said it was no problem and that she'd work with some of the other singers in the meantime.  So, I warmed up some more and then finally felt that I was ready to work with her, and had loosened up my stiff limbs from being in the car for so long.  Luckily, I had the ability to drive with my boyfriend; I can only imagine how frazzled I might have been had I taken the train and tried to find my way from the main train station to the theater (which weren't near one another)!

Anyway, the pianist returned and we worked on the pieces I'd prepared for the audition, going over things which are particularly tricky (places where I breathe, take the tempo slower or faster, add fermatas, etc...) and things were really going well.  The pianist seemed to be in a cheery mood and she was really wonderful to boot, so I am quite glad that I got to have her play for my audition.

At any rate, I was the 5th person to auditon, and I was glad that I had the opportunity to relax and focus myself after my rehearsal time with the pianist.  It was also good that I wasn't the first or second because I then observed how the other auditionees did it.  I wasn't aware, actually, that it was allowed during such an audition to ask for a break once you'd sung your first aria.  And, that is what my colleagues did.  In fact, two singers who were from the same agency sang their arias interchangeably and that way the one could take a break while the other was singing and vice versa.  So, I was lucky enough to have seen this practice before I auditioned, otherwise I might have just gone from one tough aria to the next.

Upon entering to audition, the super-friendly stage manager ushered me to the side of the stage through a small hole in the curtains and I was thrust onto the stage in front of the General Intendant, the Music Director, the Dramaturg and the Assistant Dramaturg, sitting in the audience.  The pianist came over to meet me in the middle of the stage and I handed her my music.  She motioned for me to step into a rectangular box outlined on the floor of the stage with gaffer's tape, saying that singers sounded best from that spot.

So, I began the audition and the first piece went smoothly- and my acting went well too, which is normally difficult for that particular aria since it involves a lot of movement.  Then, the audition panel themselves said they'd like to hear a second aria but asked me if I would like to take a small break before singing that, and they'd hear someone else, so I said that would be great.

I walked off the stage and went straight to the restroom while trying to mentally focus on keeping my energy up until I had to be back on stage.  They had elected to hear another singer while I took my break, so I was thankful that I had at least three minutes while they finished their aria before I was back on.  I exited the restroom only to run practically right into the General Intendant who had come out especially to ask me if I wouldn't mind not acting at all during the second aria, and just concentrating on my singing, to which I said that would be no problem.  The Intendant seemed pleased and I was glad that they had told me that before I went ahead and acted in the second aria too (phew! that was a lucky break for sure!). 

I walked around the hallways thinking of how amazing it was to be there auditioning and how much more amazing it would be to be able to sing there in the coming season, and I tried to focus that excitement into a laserbeam of energy that would come across when I sang the second aria.  As I was doing this and walking back toward the door leading onto the stage, the singer who had just finished exited, and the energetic stage manager ushered me onto the stage again for my second aria.

The second aria I sang without doing nearly any acting (okay, I couldn't contain myself enough to sing it totally deadpan- I had to at least do some facial expressions and two-ish hand gestures- cut me a break!) and it went off without a hitch.  At the end I was possibly more excited than when I had begun because I simply fed off the energy of just standing there and singing (for once!).  It's actually a nice change to be able to audition without worrying about the acting so much in the initial stages of things- it takes the spotlight and puts it on your voice.

Anyway, I finished the audition and was glad with my performance, and was also glad to have had such a good experience at such an important moment.

St. Martinstag Festival in Dortmund's Westfalenpark

This past Saturday night (November 12th) I attended an interesting festival that is an historically important Catholic tradition, based on the life's work of St. Martin (Martin of Tours), and one particular event in his life, specifically.

This festival takes place to commemorate St. Martin (a knight in the Middle Ages, and then later on a monk) who met a beggar on his travels who was on the verge of freezing to death on a particularly cold night.  The back story to the beggar is that he had been robbed shortly before he meets up with St. Martin, and that he was previously a middle-class citizen who was on the way home to his family when the night grew colder and he decided he'd never make it with his heavy cart full of his master's goods to sell the next day at market, all the way home on dark roads with the potential danger of getting lost or getting robbed.  Therefore, the man decides to camp outside the city gates of where he came from, and then gets accosted by two bandits who steal his cart, his money and his clothing.  That's when Martin comes along the man and the man begs Martin to help him, whereupon Martin takes his cloak and cuts it into two pieces.  He gives the man half of it to keep him warm and thereby saves the man's life.  Thus, Martin is sainted for this action, and a heap of other good deeds he accomplished in his lifetime.

And, to finish this story with some fun photos, here are a few of me with my 'lantern' (there are traditionally parades of children with their parents and homemade paper lanterns who follow behind someone dressed up as St. Martin on a horse and parade through the town, or in my case, a public park, to reenact the noble deed that Martin did that cold night).

My first German Opera House CHORUS Audition

I recently auditioned for a medium-sized Opera house here in Germany for a position in the chorus (simply because I thought- well, at least then during my search for some professional solo work, I could have some money, and perhaps also an introduction to important people in the Opera house, e.g. the Stage Director, Conductor, etc...).  Contrary to my perceptions about chorus auditions, it seemed like the theater had made many preparations and considered this audition just as important as any solo auditions would be (as they organized everything really effectively and kept strict tabs on whether or not everyone was able to meet with the pianist to rehearse and also had private time to warm-up).  Therefore, I felt confident that I would be chosen (to put it honestly) because I figured, well if you're working on a solo career, then you'd certainly be good enough for the opera chorus (don't hate me Opera chorus members!) just by sheer technical skill and experience.

I arrived at the theater 40 minutes early, warmed up adequately, worked with the pianist who was very nice and very good, and waited around for another 30 minutes.  Then, finally, the auditions began, and although I requested to go first, there was still someone who had requested it before me (drat!) so she was slated to sing first.  However, (hallelujah!) by a stroke of luck, she had never showed up.  So, it turns out that I did get to sing first of all anyway.

I walked onto the stage and the jury members (5 to 6 people who I didn't recognize at all, but who ever does- so far away?) were sitting in the audience ready for me to sing.  I gave the pianist the music and said I'd like to begin with "Der Hoelle Rache" from Mozart's Die Zauberfloete.  They seemed pleased with this selection and indicated for me to begin at my leisure.  I sang a really strong audition- made absolutely no mistakes and sang even better than I had sung before (ha! the irony!) and then once I was finished hoped to be asked for a second piece.  The judges apparently had heard all they needed to hear, they said thank you very much and that was it.  I was done! A successful audition- and a quick one too- the whole audition time took as long as that aria (4 minutes approximately) and then I was out the door and catching my train to the airport (a separate story) and it was all over with.  All the rest of that day I felt really wonderful about my singing and that I had done so well in a circumstance which could lead me to making some steady money. 

It was only two days later when I found out through an email from the Chorus Master that I was not chosen.  I thought to myself, "But, how can that be? I really, honestly did a superb job, and I mean, they should have picked me! At least they'd have had good high notes!" However, it was the following day when a colleague said to me about the situation, "Well, I really don't think that you have a 'chorus voice' and they were probably just looking for someone who blended in more to the sound of the ensemble than you could have" which shed some light on the situation for me.  I mean, what was I thinking auditioning for a chorus position which was only at a medium-sized house? Of course that person was correct in saying that--if anything, if I will ever be eligible for a chorus position, I'd have to certainly do it in a big opera house, so that at least I wouldn't be sticking out in the mix of voices.  Yes, that is absolutely the case.

However, at the time it still felt terrible to not have gotten chosen for something which I deemed as a 'sure success', so.....yeah. Just another reminder to me to not count my chickens before they hatch in this biz!

Note: I haven't mentioned the theater on purpose, just in case they'd say it was illegal or something along those lines.  So, sorry about that but..better safe than sorry in this case.