Monday, July 18, 2011

Seeing yourself reflected...Monday Musings!

It's been a few days since my last blog, but I was waiting until after my students' recital yesterday to post.

When I look back at my vocal training and education, I wish that I had more opportunities like this growing up, especially in high school.  My voice teachers, for the most part, didn't perform anymore, however, focused mostly on teaching.  There is absolutely 100% nothing wrong with this, except for the fact that I never was able to see the technique that they taught first hand put into practice by their own singing, except in grainy vhs videos.  This was also way before Youtube and the ability to post videos online (it was before the internet...yes, I'm that old, folks..hahah).

It was such a treat for me to sing on a recital that featured a majority of the singers of my teaching studio yesterday afternoon.  There were some on vacation, back at home around the country, resting from the constant nagging and pushing of their voice teacher (haha), and some that had already graduated (a few of my high school students).

With the exception of two or so of these students, most of them had never heard me sing a full aria (some saw me sing recently in a production of The Merry Widow, but the song I sang was more light operetta than big honkin' opera..).  I began the concert with Valentin's aria from the opera Faust.  I'm not sure what came over me, but I can honestly say this was my finest performance of this aria that I have been singing for over ten years.  Coincidence?  No.  I would say it was a beautiful reward from the Universe for the energy I have given and received from my voice students.  Teaching on a daily basis really is like having a several hour-long voice lesson for me!  Time stood still..It was an amazing moment for me.

This moment didn't last long because right after I sang, my students began their individual performances.  When I watched and listened, it was so magical to see the technique that I have been able to pass along to these students reflected right back to me.  The sounds they were able to make were amazingly beautiful.  Some of them were not able to do this on the recital they gave last year.  I am so proud to be a voice teacher, and when I see myself in my students, my soul is so filled with joy that I can help them experience the same love of singing and making music with the individual instrument they have been blessed with as I feel.  An absolutely sublime and surreal moment for me.

One of my students has also became a runner recently and has lost almost thirty pounds in the process.  One of my students is number one on his tennis team.  I have several other students who are athletes or workout on a consistent basis.  Health and wellness are directly proportional to my students' ability to use their whole person as their instrument.  It's the only one they've got (their voice), so in order to care for it, he/she MUST be in good shape to maintain the energy necessary not only to sing operatic arias, but to sing full operatic roles which call for a great deal of stamina (this, of course, applies to my musical theater students, as well).  Now, of course I'm not asking my students to become muscle bound juice heads, but core work, aerobic circuit weight training, cycling, running, swimming, yoga...whatever your choice can raise the level of vocal production.  The core is the absolute root of all singing, and with a weak core, the muscles around the larynx automatically engage while singing which raises the potential of something going wrong vocally either immediately or further down the road in the future, especially when not addressed early on.

I closed the program with singing one of the most beautiful duets written for two male voices in the entire operatic literature from the Pearl Fishers by Bizet (same composer who wrote the opera Carmen).  What a great opportunity for me, but also for my student to really open up and make some amazing sounds with me.

Most of these students have made huge strides in their singing in short periods of time, as late as even a few weeks or days prior to this concert.  Nothing gives me more joy in my work than to see a particular technique finally "click" in a student's mind, and the look on his/her face is absolutely PRICELESS.  All of the blood, sweat, tears, disappointment, frustration, sadness, and all of the other stuff that I've had to deal with in my early career is completely erased when a student experiences the beauty of their true voice for the first time.  Not some contrived "version" of what, perhaps, a previous teacher has said was the way, but the way THEIR voice should sound when produced with health and freedom.  I love to perform, but equally so, I love to teach.   I am so excited to see the musical journeys each of these students will be on in the next few years as some of them move on to college or to graduate school to study voice.  Cheers to art, to music, to health, to fitness, and to the glory of music!

Now then, get outside, on that bike, in that gym, on that yoga mat, in that pool, or in those sneaks and GETCHUSOMMADAT!!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A few quick clean eating recipes I've been throwing around...

I've had some requests for these so, here's a quick run-down.

Clean Curried Zucchini and Carrot soup


1 medium yellow onion
1 pound peeled and shredded zucchini
1 pound peeled and shredded carrots
Optional Yellow pepper (I tried this last night, and I like the sweetness it adds)
32 oz  chicken broth or veggie broth (I use low sodium..I like to use sea salt instead--kind of cancels it out, but, whatever..haha)
1 cup milk (I haven't tried soy, but I'll bet it's great!)
Spices:  Garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, turmeric, curry powder, cayenne pepper (optional)
chopped parsley (optional---I've tried with and without, and I prefer without)
This is SUPER EASY!  I just bought a blender and a food processor, and this makes a TON of soup.

1. Using a food processor, shred onion
transfer to soup pot and sautee onion until soft (you can also just dice the onion and other veggies if you do not have a food processor)--usually about a minute or two
2.  Shred or slice peeled zucchini and carrot and add to onion
3.  Add spices to taste--I usually sautee onion with garlic powder, salt, and pepper
4.  Add turmeric and curry (a few tbsp of each? or to taste..I like it very aromatic)
5.  Mix all together, including diced yellow pepper over heat for about two minutes
6.  Add chicken or vegetable broth and milk, bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes
7.  Let soup rest for a few minutes
8.  Add half contents of soup pot to blender, and blend on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth, put into another soup pot (for storage or heating later) (make sure there is venting for the steam to escape, and be very careful when pouring soup--do it in the sink as to not burn yourself...yipes!)
9.  Add other half of soup to blender, repeat process, then add to previously blended soup

let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate uneaten soup.  I eat it with toasted Ezekiel sprout bread.  The interesting thing I noticed is that after dipping the bread in the soup, the soup doesn't spill off of the bread--so dense and yummy.  I will add cayenne pepper to the soup once served.

I don't have nutritional information, but Weight Watchers says that points are only for the milk--so, if you use skim it's 1 or two points for the ENTIRE batch?? HUH?   Filling is not the word for this soup....I'm still searching for a better adjective, but I'm drawing a blank.

Clean protein bars:
1 cup natural peanut butter (I like crunchy!)
3 tablespoons natural honey
1 cup of oats
1.5 cups protein powder
1/2 cup of water.

combine peanut butter and honey in a microwave safe bowl
microwave for 30-45 seconds until warm
stir peanut butter and honey,
add oats
mix in protein powder and water

I'm guessing on the water...the recipe asked for 5tbsp of water which was wayy too dry to mix the protein powder, so just experiment.

After getting all ingredients mixed, put mixture in 9x9 pan (or in my case 13x9 because I don't have one of those..lolol), and press pretty firmly to flatten to desired thickness (for 12 servings)

Calories are 211 per bar, just as a reference.  Don't worry, these are so dense you won't want to eat more than one at a time!!!

Enjoy, folks!  Now getcher butt outside, put on those sneaks, get on that bike, get in that pool, get moving, and GETCHUSOMMADAT!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eating Clean---Why waking up in the middle of the night just ain't worth it

Okay, folks.  Now that I have become a 6 day a week athlete (core fitness, swimming, biking and running), my body has become a machine.  What you put into the engine reflects directly how said motor operates.

Last night, I woke up at 3am sweating and feeling awful.  I had run a great 10 mile run in the morning, and guess what I ate for two meals yesterday.  Ding, Ding...give that man/woman a prize...JUNK.  There is something in my brain that signals to me that one day a week I need to "junk it up" in order to make up for the calorie deficit that I usually create with all of the activity I do during the week.  Let me put it plainly to you all:  Junk food is crap.  It's kind of like putting stale, 10 year old gas which has been sitting in a red can in your garage then putting it into your car.  Ick.  Calorie dense food such as nuts, etc. are much better choices for making up calorie deficits.  Is is easy for me? No.  I mean, come on, I can make up that calorie deficit in minutes from Chic fil-A or Pizza (or in yesterday's case...both...what the..?).  Do I feel sick hours after eating that crap?  Yes, but they are manufactured to make you feel euphoric while eating and after consuming.

How do restaurants/manufacturers of foodstuffs keep you craving and wanting their food?  Process and additives.  Every time I even think about going to McDonalds, I think about Super Size Me, the movie.  In it, the documenter discovered that McDonalds calls its patrons "users" and those who eat more that a few days a week "heavy users"....Huhhhhh?????  If you haven't seen this movie, it will change your life, your perception of corporate food America, and cause you to think twice before putting that kind of stuff into your body.  The experiment was to see what effects eating McDonalds every meal for 30 days would do to your system.  I won't spoil it for you, but the results were STAGGERING.

I would much rather be a "user" of clean food than "food filled with crack."  A simple rule of thumb:  if you can't pronounce one or any of the ingredients on the label, it's processed.  Oh, and "made with natural ingredients" doesn't mean it's so....SO FRUSTRATING!!! AAARG!  Elizabeth and I have been really trying to live by asking the following questions:  Does it come from the ground?  Did it have a mother?  Easy questions?  Yes, easy to do all of the time?  No.  This is what makes us human.

The question that we all need to ask ourselves as athletes or even human beings  is, "is this crap going to help me get healthy, faster, or fitter?"  Quickly the answer makes itself clear.  Hell. No.  I'm not perfect.  I eat white flour bagels as a pre-race or hard workout glycogen spiker.  I eat Clif Builder protein bars.  I'm just in the habit (wow, there, Freudian slip...habit?  Yes, most processed foods are a part of habit and addiction, perhaps??).  I think that balance is great---cutting out white flour is really the way to go, but eating a high fiber meal before a hard workout just spells gastro challenges that I just despise (bloating, cramps, etc).

I made some amazing raw soup the other day, and I could sense how clean the food I was eating was.  It's 93 octane clean gas for your engine....put it in, and I guarantee that you will notice the difference.  There are recipe books for clean eating, and a quick google search can point you in the right direction.  I've found a lot of recipes that I absolutely love, and I hope to, this week, to create my own clean protein bar recipe using raw honey instead of sugar.  I will post my recipe as soon as it becomes ready to roll, and I'll post the other recipes I consider my favorites in the future.

Let's do this, people!  Yes, it does cost more to eat clean, but isn't it worth the investment in your body, your future?

Now, people, get outside, get yourself on that bike, in those sneaks, or in that pool, and GETCHUSOMMADAT!!! :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Facing disappointment in the face and WINNING!

Disappointment is par for the course in this crazy business that I have decided to pursure as a career.  I'm so thankful for every opportunity to perform no matter how small, but small bumps in the road sometimes cause an artist to question his/her sanity as to why he/she has chosen this profession.  This is one of those weeks for me.

When faced with adversity in our lives we can choose to be miserable or to look at challenges that arise with a sense of the big picture, with grace, and with perspective in life.  The rain that has been falling for the past few days in this area really has helped wash away the disappointment that I'm going through.  When taking a look at the grand scheme of life, small roadblocks like these only make us stronger and more aware of our own gifts/strengths to deal with these kinds of issues.

I am surrounded by an amazingly supportive family, friends, and colleagues that keep my feet on the ground.  My students inspire me on a daily basis as I guide others on their musical journeys.  As many friends have dealt with illness and tragedy lately, I can honestly say that what I'm going through is nothing compared to what they have/are experiencing.  I am healthy, prospering, and growing musically and vocally.  How can this be a bad thing?

The strength I have comes from the energy that others give me. I make it my own and feed off of that amazingly prominent energy.  My five strengths in life are:  positivity, strategy, communication, maximization, and the ability to win others over.  I have to keep moving forward, and if others wish to be a part of my life professionally or personally, that's not really up to me.  I am who I am, and those that accept me for that, I fully invest myself not only in those relationships, but in those projects for which I am hired.  I take my job and profession seriously, but it is not what makes me who I am.  I am fortunate to have weathered this storm (figuratively and literally), and I will emerge a better person and artist as a result.

On the fitness front:  I signed up for my first marathon over the holiday weekend.  Savannah Rock and Roll marathon is held on November 5th.  I am excited, thrilled, a little scared (not going to lie to you folks), and extremely pumped that my fitness journey will be taken to a level that not many people have achieved.  My training for this marathon began Monday, and I will continue to keep you all informed as to my progress with this amazingly awesome task before me.

One of my voice students has joined the running club of which I am a member and has begun his journey to health and fitness to improve his ability to make himself more marketable in this business of singing.  Let's face it, folks, we cannot deny that in any performing art form in recent memory that lookism abounds.  I'm so excited this amazingly talented young man has chosen this path, and that as a result of my example, he has made this a priority in his life.  Nothing brings me more joy as a teacher and mentor.

My workouts with my personal trainer are going amazingly well focusing on running specific strengthening exercises.  The amount of negative energy that I release in these intense circuit training sessions with very little rest in between sets is assisting my fitness by leaps and bounds.  Plateauing will be inevitable, but I'm enjoying this process (especially the increase in stamina and in core strength) so much and feel so much better as a result!

A 10 mile run is scheduled for in the morning....and so the ramping up of mileage slowly per week begins.  Now everyone get outside and GETCHUSOMMADAT!!!