Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My birthday muse.

My birthday is this Saturday, July 2nd!   As I look back on the past ten years or so, I remember, mostly, spending the summers at a music festivals singing opera and musical theater---probably five or six different companies in my young career.  I always felt growing up that I got the shaft because my birthday is in the summer....Oh, how that opinion quickly changes when surrounded by artists and colleagues.  If you've never had an apartment or any other space filled with the sound of many opera singers crushing Happy Birthday, you have lacked an amazing experience. High notes, low notes, harmony--all at the decibel level of a 747 jet!!

These relationships that I have built with colleagues in the singing world run deep.  Some have to compartmentalize so that when the summer comes to a close the emptiness that follows doesn't depress them.  I connect immediately and openly, and I really miss the friendships that I have made over the years, especially those who live far away.  If there is any drawback to this summer filled with art it is missing Elizabeth, my family, and my home.  One trades one for the other in pursuit of a career in this ever-changing amoeba we call opera singing.

These past two summers have been spent here at home.  Some in my field would say that not singing during the summer is a failure...Not so!  Although I miss the performing and the connections with colleagues, I'm so happy to be around my family and my extended running/triathlon/fitness family that I have developed over the past two years.  What's so wonderful about connecting with other athletes is that it doesn't matter what walk of life/religion/political affiliation/et al you are---you share a very important bond.   Running/triathlon training and racing really is a lot like performing.  It is very personal because in singing your instrument is you.  In athletic events and training, you are the motor, you are the power, you are the sweat, you are the tears of joy, sorrow, anguish, and empathy.

Just as quickly as my friends in the "business" come to my rescue, my friends in the athletic community do exactly the same but in much closer proximity.  I have noticed so many amazing things happening in my running club, the Suncoast Striders.   In my head, I see so many different faces from so many different areas of the world and the United States.  When someone gets injured, they are quick to encourage.  When the loved one of a member becomes ill, they are quick to console.  When someone experiences tragedy, they support and love.  I have experienced this firsthand on many levels:  injury, sickness, losing friends to cancer, frustration with the business of singing.

In the classical singing community, the same holds true.  If one of us experiences loss/sickness/injury we rally around them and lift them up.  My voice teacher, Susan Eichhorn Young and her lovely husband Thomas were almost killed in a car accident last week.  How quickly life can be taken away in the blink of an eye, in the flash of steel and metal.  We are fragile human beings---it is okay to be this way.  The body is an amazing truth in this world---it can heal itself, but with the love and energy from those with whom the injured person has connected, the healing is expedited.  Coincidence?  No way.  The day to day frustrations that I experienced these past ten days or so pale in comparison to what others have had to go through recently (injury, tragedy, uphill battles against cancer).  Perspective is what keeps me grounded, and connections with people are what fuel me.

Three days before my birthday I am in a state of reflection.  I am in the best shape of my life.  I am singing better than I have ever sung (coincidence?  maybe..).  My performance and life anxiety are under control (well, we all have our days, don't we?  Let's be real here...).   My voice students are making more progress than I could have ever imagined. Is it the positive light and energy that I try so hard every day to surround myself with?  Is it my best friend, wife, and constant Elizabeth?   Is it the support of my classical singing and instrumental friends?  Is it the love of my blood family?  Is it the love from my athletic family?

YES.  And I am so grateful for it all.

Now, get outside, get moving, and GETCHUSOMMADAT!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

There's a first time for everything, I suppose.......

Wow, I'm blogging.  So, what do I do now?  Those of you that know me realize that I am never short of words to say, but this, somehow, seems different.  This is kind of surreal, but I think that as communication is one of my strengths (thank you Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0: that I will now begin the process of unloading all of the stuff that's up in my head here rather than upon my loved ones, especially Elizabeth, my wife of over 15 years.  She's kind of heard it all, so I'm going to unload thoughts, musings, fitness ramblings, strategies, and other nuggets of information that will help me but also may help others as they journey through life's weird twists and turns.

I am a singer, performer, teacher, athlete, husband, and doggie and kittie daddy.  This is what I do for a living and what I do in my life.  

I'm hoping that this blog will give me the outlet that I need to communicate rather than burdening others with what's going on professionally and in my fitness journey.  All this stuff needs to get out of my head or I'll go nuts, so this may be the place.  Let's hope so!

I've been singing and teaching for the past 15 years or so in a private studio based out of my home(a very nice sized studio of singers of all walks of life) and singing regionally and locally (meaning smaller, well-paying gigs) in opera, musical theater, and concert work.  I have a graduate degree in voice/opera from Rice University and an undergraduate degree in voice from Florida Southern College.

I started on this singer as athlete kick only about three years ago when I took up running after a very long hiatus after a calf strain in 2003 and a stress fracture in 2008.  I hadn't ridden a bike since I was a child until last year (2010), and I hadn't swum in a pool since childhood until 2008. Since I began training in all three sports, I have done two Olympic distance triathlons (last November and this past May), I have completed running races in 5k, 10k, and half marathon distances, I will run my first marathon in the next year, and then I will hopefully complete a full ironman triathlon in the next few years.

The place I am now is nowhere near where I was even just three short years ago.  I almost quit singing and teaching because I couldn't handle severe anxiety that had been plaguing me since childhood.  Running, swimming, biking, personal training, and nutrition have saved my career and my mental health.  I could have asked for no greater gift, so if I can give back to the Universe for this gift, I will do it in any way I can--this being an interestingly easy way to do it. 

My goal (now that I've thought about it) for this blog is to share my story of health and fitness as it relates to my singing, teaching, and performing in this absolutely crazy business.  It certainly takes a bit of craziness or just stubbornness to stay on this career path, but somehow I've survived.  Without fitness as a balance, I think I could have bought a first class ticket to the "funny farm" years ago. 

It's probably going to be some sort of place for me to post musings and observations, but I really want to help other singers who struggle with the same sorts of life/performance anxiety that I had to go through and continue to have to deal with on a daily basis.  Who knows what the future will bring for the Teaching Singer/Athlete blog...

Until we meet again, friends, colleagues, supporters, and detractors (haha)!!

Now, go outside and GETCHUSOMMADAT!