The Kindness of Strangers

Our opera company has always depended on the kindness of a small band of northern Virginia residents who open up their homes to our singers every summer. They’re called our “housing hosts.” I blog about them today not just to thank them (which I am determined to do, profusely, every time I get a chance), but to throw a plea into cyberspace to increase their ranks.

If you live anywhere near Wolf Trap (and casual comments and blog stats show that quite a few of you do), I hope you’ll be a set of eyes and ears for us. Our first singers arrive in five (!) weeks, and we still need summer homes for several of them! A private bedroom and bathroom in a pet-free environment (allergies…) is all that’s required. Interested? Send us an email. We’ll answer any and all questions, and we can put interested parties directly in touch with folks who currently host our artists.

This Weekend’s Reading

….included William Westney’s The Perfect Wrong Note. It’s only in hardback, but Amazon has it for $16. A holistic approach to playing and practicing, laid out in a calm, no-nonsense approach. So much of this takes me back (in a good way) to my first and brief career as a music therapist.

Westney seamlessly juxtaposes chaos theory with Buddhist mindfulness. He scolds those of us who are determined to be “good students” at any cost. He extolls the wisdom of “reculer pour mieux sauter” (having to back up in order to jump farther). He delineates the significant difference between honest mistakes and careless mistakes.

There’s a step-by-step guide for healthy practicing that almost makes me want to run to the piano and try those Chopin etudes just one more time. And there’s a a great list of the non-musical “fruits of the harvest” of music participation.

If you teach (especially if you’re feeling frustrated and maxed out), and/or if you consider yourself a life-long learner, sit down with this book for a few hours. Westney quotes a passage from adventurous musical amateur John Holt (“Never Too Late”) that should be posted on the wall of every vocal studio:

The teacher I need must acccept that he or she is my partner and helper and not my boss, that in this journey of musical exploration and adventure, I am the captain. Expert guides and pilots I can use, no doubt about it. But it is my expedition: I gain the most if it succeeds and lose the most if it fails, and I must remain in charge.

Ciao, Mandisa

I was chagrined but not surprised that “Idol” audiences booted off the larger-than-life-lady with the great pipes. But it gives us even more reason to take issue with Simon Cowell’s recent pronouncement: “We have now trained the American audience to be good music critics.” Critics of a sort, I guess, for Mandisa hardly fits the Idol prototype. But music critics?

Death and…

I live in a household of procrastinators, but I rarely join their ranks. Taxes are the exception. They’re not nearly as difficult as they were back when I was self-employed, but I still drag my feet. Getting mired down in the finer points of Qualified Tuition Program disbursements and Form 5329…

One Comment


Just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog and how helpful it’s been as I muddle through the beginnings of what I hope will be a singing career. I really like seeing how it works, at least a little, behind the scenes and seeing how much work you all put into a successful season. I really hope you keep writing- I know that its probably a lot of work for you, but it gives me so much insight, and frankly I find it quite entertaining. Thanks so much.


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