Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas and My Grandmother

First of all, happy holidays to my friends and family!  I hope everyone has a Christmas and New  Years full of blessings.  Here's to a great 2014.  I haven't blogged in a while, because I haven't really had anything urgent to blog about.  It's been a busy couple of months.  After tomorrow and Christmas morning things slow down a bit.  Everyone needs a break once in a while, right?  Just time to get quiet and reflect on what the holidays are really about.  It's important to be grateful to have family and friends versus being in the commercial frenzy with the shopping and consumerism.  A lot of people have no family to go to for the holidays, which is why being grateful for family and friends is really important.  We've recently had a death in the family so I can attest for that need to be grateful for friends and family.  What's my point?  The holidays to me are about the gift of music, being with your family, having time to yourself, driving safely, not being a lunatic, and just enjoying the holidays  for what they are supposed to be.  Every day we are given another day is a holiday in my opinion.  The fun in Christmas is the carols the decorations and spending quality time with people.   The holidays should  bring out the good in people.  Fighting over items in stores does not bring out the good in people.  I'm cool with getting presents for people.  I am not a fan of the fighting over items and frantic behavior that goes along with the holidays,  I'm grateful that I get to make music and bring people joy for the holidays tomorrow night and Wednesday morning.  Then I get to go to my family and spend time with them on Wed.  I am just glad I have a place to go, with a family that I am close with.  I've worked on myself so I can be a good family member, and I think the work has paid off in that I know we will have a good time on Christmas because I can show up and be present.
   I would like to write one more paragraph to take a moment to remember my paternal grandmother who died last Monday at the age of 96.  What an impressive feat to live to such an advanced age.  She would never view herself as old, and that worked to her advantage.  I saw her a few months a go and she was still walking and everything.  She was amazing for her age.  Things happen and everyone dies and that's what happened here.  There is no escape from death.  She did a good job raising my dad, and as a result of her having my dad, I get to be alive along with my sisters.  She came to a recital I did last year at 95 which really impressed me.  It was a nice gesture on her part.  I will miss her, and I have to admit it is a strange feeling to not have any grandparents left, but such is life.  She lived an impressively long life.  She stayed in such impressive shape in old age, I thought she would live even longer, but death is a part of life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Plea to Stop Bullying

I'm writing another blog about bullying.  Not for extra credit, but to support those who are being bullied and who have been bullied in the past.   My best friend and I were just texting about a fifteen year old boy who committed suicide by crashing his parents car into another car.  The passengers in the other car were also killed.  That is obviously not fair to the two men who were killed, but the boy was probably not thinking rationally at the time.  Bullying has to stop.  I mean this in a kind and loving way.  If I come from a place of hatred, that just makes things worse.  That's an important life motto in general.  Also, to those kids and adults who used to bully, and have made amends for it, I applaud you with three hands instead of two.
  Not only does bullying scar people, but suicides are becoming more and more common.  Ever since the internet, bullying has taken new levels.  Boys and girls both do it, so both sexes are equally being held accountable by me right now.  I've heard of two suicides from bullying this month already.  I'm sure there are more that haven't made the news.  People need to step up when other kids are being bullied.  Tell a good teacher what's going on.  Unfortunately, sometimes the teachers are the bullies themselves.  How the hell did they get hired?  Bullying really needs to be watched carefully because the kids being bullied often hide their inner torment which makes bullying a tough issue to deal with.  It's essential to be supportive of kids or adults being bullied, and it only takes one person to make a difference.
  Those who are being bullied who might read this, you have my support.  Turn to someone for help.  Someone other than just your family such as a friend or a teacher.  Take an after school activity and forget what other people might think. Forget being embarrassed or made fun of.  Easier said than done, I know.  I was made fun of for being a musician, and it almost made me quit.  I tried playing more sports and thought that would help, but it made it worse because I'm a shitty athlete.  What's my point?  Stick with what you love, and turn for help if you're getting bullied.  As for parents, don't let your kids bully, and don't influence them to bully other kids.  Support them and love them.  Kids, be sure you tell your parents what's happening.  Hiding it makes it harder for your parents to step in and help you.  Bullying is a hard problem to solve, but each person can make a difference.  I stuck up for someone who was being bullied, and it had a big impact.  I don't say that to brag.  It's just the right thing to do.  The poor guy didn't do anything except sit in class and do his work.  Those who think it's funny to torment other people, please stop and make amends.  Let's not have any more suicides.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ten Top Verdi Baritones

Ten Top Verdi Baritones
Ettore Bastianini
Titta Ruffo
Leonard Warren
Cesare Bardelli
Piero Cappuccilli
Robert Merrill
Cornell MacNeil
Apollo Granforte
Pavel Lisitian
Carlo Tagliabue

  I'm a Verdiaholic.  I refuse to get help for that.  One of the most fascinating voice types in the field of opera is a Verdi baritone.  It's a baritone on steroids that can sing in the upper fifth of his range for long periods of time with tremendous strength.  Here are ten Verdi baritones I really like, not ranked in any particular order.  Every singer has something different  to bring to the table, so it's hard to rank them.

Ettore Bastianini
Ettore Bastianini debuted as a bass singing the role of Colline in La Boheme.  However, he was meant to be a Verdi baritone instead of a bass.  He took a year off to make the transition to baritone and became a sensation.  Bastianini had sensational clarity in his timbre and a gorgeous and penetrating cut in his sound.  Unfortunately he was taken from us by throat cancer when he was just 44.  He did not disclose his illness and was booed as a result.  Surgery would have saved his life, but ended his career, so he refused it.  If you hear him in the following YouTube, you will hear immediately that he was not deserving of being booed.  Here he is in one of his best roles, Don Carlo di Vargas in "La Forza del Destino."

Titta Ruffo
Titta Ruffo was Ruffa Titto's stage name.  Ruffo was considered the Caruso of baritones in addition to being dubbed a vocal miracle.  When you hear Ruffo you will understand why he is considered a vocal miracle. His voice was a revelation.  His top notes were just incredible, with great strength and drive, and therefore a textbook example of the power of a Verdi baritone.  Many recordings he made have survived.  A great one is Rigoletto's monologue "Pari Siamo."Wayne Connor played this recording at Peabody, and I remember the high G at the end blowing everyone in that room away.

Leonard Warren
Leonard Warren was a met regular for over 20 years until his tragic death in 1960.  Warren's voice had a soft velvety timbre, with a mind boggling upper range.  Warren studied with the great Giuseppe De Luca in New York, but sounded more like Riccardo Stracciari to my ears.  Warren's timbre might have been soft, but he had incredible resonance as is evident on live recordings.  He was very famous for Verdi roles.  He was particularly famous for Rigoletto and Conte di Luna.  Those two roles stand out the most for me.  Tragically Warren collapsed and died on stage at the age of 48 in the middle of a performance of "La Forza del Destino." There are mixed reports to what exactly happened, but I do know that Warren went way before his time.  Here he is singing Conte di Luna's aria from "Il Trovatore."

Cesare Bardelli
Cesare Bardelli is not as well known as the other Verdi baritones I have written about thus far, but he belongs on this list without a doubt.  His recordings are taken from live performances,  because he didn't record in studios to my knowledge.   Bardelli's voice was powerful and robust with a strong powerful upper range.  Bardelli sang well into his 60s and then retired and taught voice.  Here is a live recording of the duet between Enzo and Barnaba, with Franco Corelli singing Enzo.

Piero Cappuccilli
Piero Cappuccilli was one of the smartest baritones whoever lived because of his incredible breath support and musicianship.  I'm not trying to favor him by saying that.  I am pointing out that his breath support was unique.  Cappuccilli started out singing smaller roles such as Masetto and Antonio in "Don Giovanni" and "Le Nozze di Figaro", both roles he recorded under Carlo Maria Giuliani.  However, as time went along Verdi roles became Cappuccilli's bread and butter.  Cappuccilli's voice was not a voice with a lot of weight, but it certainly was very effective in Verdi roles such as Simon Boccanegra, Rodrigo, Renato, and Conte di Luna.  He had a long career, and taught and gave master classes.  A car accident in 1992 forced him to retire from singing, and injuries sustained from the accident caused Cappuccilli's death in 2005.  Here's a duet from "Simon Boccanegra" with Cappuccilli and Nicolai Ghiaurov.

Robert Merrill
Robert Merrill was one of several American Verdi baritones of the mid to late 20th century.  Merrill's voice had a lot of weight and tremendous power and beauty in the middle and upper middle range.  The high notes were there and certainly more than respectable.  However the middle and upper middle range were like a pipe organ.  Merrill specialized in Verdi, and sang Giorgio Germont in La Traviata over one hundred and thirty times.  Merrill brought a lot of tenderness to this role, because he was a father himself.  Merrill's home was mostly at the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang a lot of Verdi roles.  Here he is singing "Eri Tu" from "Un Ballo in Maschera."

Cornell Macneil
Cornell Macneil had a very unique baritone voice with a very dark timbre.  What is unique is that a listener could easily mistake it for a bass until they hear his high notes.  He had a good high A above middle C.  Macneil was incredible in his prime, and he recorded Jack Rance in "La Fanciulla del West" and Miller in "Luisa Miller" to great effect.  He often interpolated high notes up the octave as he does here in the act 3 aria in "Ernani."  He would throw in high A flats which surprises me given the heavy weight of his timbre.

Apollo Granforte
If there is any voice on records that sounds like Titta Ruffo, it is Apollo Granforte's voice because of the tremendous forward resonance and powerful upper range.  Granforte trained as a tenor, but was unsuccessful, so he became a baritone.  High notes never gave him trouble. Fortunately, several complete opera recordings with Apollo Granforte are available including "Tosca", "Il Trovatore" and "Otello."  Here is Iago's Credo from "Otello."

Pavel Lisitsian
If you want fantastic lyricism and sense of line, then listen to Pavel Lisitsian's voice. Lisitsian sang at the Bolshoi from 1940-1966, when he retired.  He did appear at the Metropolitan Opera once in a tour of Verdi's Aida, but he mainly stayed in Russia.  Therefore, most of the recordings you hear him on are in Russian, despite the fact that he is singing Italian operas.  In this recording of the Prologue from "Pagliacci" the listener almost forgets that it was recorded in Russian because it was so good.  The high A flat at the end is on an oo vowel in this Russian version.  This is a hard vowel to sing a high A flat on, but Lisitsian made it sound easy.

Carlo Tagliabue
Versatility as far as repertoire and acting are important for a singer's artistic abilities.  Tagliabue was a great singer and actor who was quite versatile.  He had a long career which mainly centered around La Scala.  However, he did sing at the Metropolitan Opera for two years during his career.  He not only sang Verdi, but he also sang Wolfram in Wagner's "Tannhauser" in Italian under Karl Boehme.  A lot of Italian singers of the early and mid twentieth century ventured into Wagner, and Tagliabue was very gifted at it.  He also sang Michele in "Il Tabaro" by Puccini, and there is video footage of his exceptional acting ability from that opera.  After his retirement in 1958, Tagliabue focused on mentoring and teaching young singers.  Here is Tagliabue and the great tenor Galiano Masini singing a duet from the famous 1941 recording of "La Forza del Destino."  If you don't have that recording, it's awesome, so go out and buy it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ten Great Operatic Basses

Top Ten Bass Singers
    Samuel Ramey
Ferruccio Furlanetto
Pol Plancon
Ezio Pinza
Evgeny Nesterenko
Nicolai Ghiaurov
Nazzereno de Angelis 
Bonaldo Giaiotti
Cesare Siepi
Kurt Moll

I have been fascinated with the bass voice for about twenty years.  I remember my dad playing a recording of "Rigoletto" back then and I was trying to tell the difference between the baritone and the bass.  This list is not ranked in order.  It is based on ten singers I love listening to and who have contributed in significant ways to the field of opera.

Samuel Ramey- The most recorded bass singer in history.  Ramey had a powerful and dark timbre with tremendous bite in the sound when he was in his prime.  He sang all over the world, had a very impressive vocal range, and awesome agility when singing roles by Rossini.  In addition, since he had such an exceptional upper range, Ramey specialized in the early Verdi high bass roles.  He is possibly the greatest Attilla who ever lived combining impressive singing and strong stage presence.  I had the pleasure of hearing Ramey in 2000 as Verdi's King Phillip, and it was very powerful.  Here is Ramey at the height of his powers singing Attilla.

Ferruccio Furlanetto, is still active and going very strong at the age of 64.  I was blown away when I heard him live in "Don Carlo" this past March because I wasn't expecting him to be as good as he was.  Furlanetto basically sings everything, and crosses over from comic roles to serious roles very naturally.  For example he was one of the great Leporellos in "Don Giovanni", and sang the role for several decades.  Currently he is a great Don Quichotte in Massenet's "Don Quichotte", which is a very serious role.  When he is interviewed he is a humble man, and very smart with the meaning of the music he sings.  I am sure he has some good years left. Check out the aria from L'Italiana in Algeri on YouTube from January of this year.  He doesn't sound 63 at all in this recording.

Pol Plancon was one of the first recorded basses in the history of recording.  Luckily he lived when the gramophone was invented, so his art could survive.  Pol Plancon sang all over the world, and was a true lyric bass who used his instrument very wisely.  He was a frequent performer at the Metropolitan Opera, and was most widely known for his portrayal of Mephistopheles in Gounod's "Faust."  My favorite recording of Pol Plancon is his rendition of the Drum Major's Aria by Ambroise Thomas.  His coloratura is magnificent.

Ezio Pinza was perhaps the most famous bass who ever lived.  He had a beautiful and clear timbre with a tremendous forward resonance.  He was a Met regular for several decades, and many of his recordings are available on records and CDs.  He was most famous for roles such as Figaro, and Don Giovanni.  He also excelled in Verdi operas, and French operas such as Faust and "The Tales of Hoffmann."  Pinza's tremendous popularity, charisma and good looks made him a sensation on Broadway as well.  He is Emile Debecque on the original cast recording of "South Pacific."  Pinza was a basso cantabile, but he had a very nice low range down to low d.  Listen to his recording of "Le Cor" by Flegier.  His low D at the end is very strong, and that note isn't an easy one.

Evgeny Nesterenko is still alive, and was still singing as of 2008.   Nesterenko is currently most active as a teacher and competition judge in Russia.  Nesterenko sang repertoire in Russian, French and Italian, and is one of the greatest portrayers of Boris Godunov in history.  Nesterenko was without a doubt a heavy bass in his prime, but could also sing with great nuance and agility.  He was insanely popular in Russia.  Just watch his recital on YouTube.  The audience goes crazy over everything he performs.  He premiered several Shostakovich works such as the 14th and the Sonnets of Micelangelo.  He is on recordings of Nabucco, Faust and Il Trovatore. He is spectacular in all of them,  but his portrayal of Boris really stands out for me.  He sings the role as if he is a Shakespearean actor with tremendous nuance.  Here is Nesterenko singing Boris's death scene.

Nicolai Ghiaurov was one of the most versatile basses of the later half of the 20th century.  Ghiaurov had a stellar legato and was all about the musical phrase.  His voice could be very lyrical, and also very powerful.  His portrayal of King Phillip is one of the greatest of all time.  He recorded it several times and sang it all over the world, including multiple times at the Met.  Ghiaurov was also stunning as Gremin in "Eugene Onegin."  His great sense of the musical line works brilliantly in Gremin's Aria.  In addition he was one of the great portrayers of Mozart's Don Giovanni when he was young.  Like Pinza, Ghaiurov was very popular for a bass.  Audiences all over the world loved him.  Here is Gremin's aria.

Nazzareno de Angelis had a trumpet like bass voice, but could also sing very softly and lyrically.  The timbre was a high bass because of his fantastic top notes, but the size of his voice was unmistakable.  His portrayal of Boito's Mefistofele is brilliant.  Fortunately he recorded the entire role, and despite him being past his prime, it is still just fantastic.  The top notes in particular are just monstrous.  What's most unique about it is just simply everything.  de Angelis mainly excelled in early Verdi, and other bel canto repertoire. But he also sang Wotan in Wagner's Ring.  Here is de Angelis singing some of his signature role, Mefistofele.

Bonaldo Giaiotti is not as famous as he should be in my opinion.  However, he is up there with the all time greatest basses because of his powerful and clear timbre.  His top voice was very strong when he was in his prime.  His recording of the role of Walter in "Luisa Miller" is unstoppable.  His Italian diction is a model for singers to listen to.  Listening to his diction not only is helpful with Italian diction, but a good model for healthy singing.  Giaiotti sang well into his 70s.  His prime was the late 1960s through the 1980s, but he was still singing well into old age.  Giaiotti's bread and butter was the Italian belcanto repertoire from Rossini to early Verdi.  However, he did venture into mature Verdi, some verismo, and French opera, such as "Le Cid" by Massenet.  Here is Giaiotti singing "Un Ignoto" from "I Masnadieri" by Verdi.

Cesare Siepi was an excellent Don Giovanni, and was probably most known for that role.  He had a very dark and impressive timbre with a very wide range from low c to high f sharp.  He sang Italian bel canto rep, mature Verdi, French opera, verismo opera, art song, and Broadway show tunes.  Siepi sang well into his 60s and was famous as a recitalist of art song through the end of his career.  Here is Siepi singing some Don Giovanni.

 Kurt Moll was a very smart German bass who I would call a lyric basso profondo, or lyric deep bass.  Moll was one of the most famous portrayers of Sarastro in "The Magic Flute" and Osmin in "Abduction from the Seraglio." Moll excelled in Osmin's famous aria with the sustained low d without any problem.  His recording of that role from 1971 on Deutsch Gramaphone is as good as it gets.  Although German is his native language, Moll's diction in that recording is clear as a bell, and vocally he couldn't be better.  Moll continued to sing Osmin until he was 65.  Moll also ventured into Italian rep and his bright forward sound worked very well in that repertoire.  He even recorded Monterone in "Rigoletto" which is either a dramatic baritone or a bass baritone.  Here is Moll singing some Osmin.  Moll'slow notes were booming in person.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Manifestations of Fear

This blog is about fear, because fear is the number one driving force behind all negative emotions.  Fear shows up in anger, procrastination,, jealousy, lust, greed, envy, and many more negative emotions.  If you take the seven deadly sins for example, which are lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, wrath, and envy, fear shows up in all of them.  What I am intending to demonstrate in this blog post is how fear can drive us in all sorts of ways.  It can rule our lives, but if we face fears the positive feeling is awesome.
  Fear=false evidence appearing real, fuck everything and run, or false expectations appearing real.  That last one can kick me in the rear sometimes.  Fear based expectations often appear right but are wrong.    Fear can also = face everything and recover, or face everything and rejoice, and I am going to add face everything and reality, or feeling exited and ready.
  There are many ways in which fear rules our thoughts and emotions.  Lets use jealousy as an example.  Why do people get jealous in relationships.  I don't claim to be a relationship expert, but I can conclude that jealousy is caused by fear of losing what we already have.  Othello is so afraid of losing Desdemona, that he kills her.  Of course he also listens to Jago who is probably the most evil villain in literature, or at least ranks up pretty high.  He doesn't get by with a little help from his friends if you know what I mean.  I will use a few examples from operas now to demonstrate the connection of fear and jealousy.  Tosca is afraid of losing Cavaradossi throughout the whole freaking opera.  He even calls her "mia gelosa."  Jealousy is pretty powerful isn't it?  Not to mention flat out dangerous and damaging.  Fear is where jealousy gets its power and goes way over the top.
    There are so many ways in which fear rules live.  I'm not going to talk about all seven deadly sins.  I was basically talking about envy in the last paragraph, but not exactly.  Envy is wanting to possess something I don't already have. Lets go back to relationships.  If I am envious, I wish to have something that another person has, like another mans wife.  If I say, well she shouldn't be with him, but she should be with me, I'm being quite envious for sure.  Now, if I ask this person to a romantic dinner and a hot tub, I am totally crossing the line, and if the other guy is jealous, then we have jealousy.  Of course the jealousy would be the result if she goes through with the romantic dinner and hot tub idea, the other guy would be afraid of losing her. 
   Sloth is another way in which fear really can kick our behinds.  I pair sloth together with procrastination.  In my experience procrastination stems off of fear.  If I am afraid to make positive changes or afraid to do auditions or whatever, I might put them off.  That's procrastination.  Sloth can play a role because something like cleaning my apartment is a positive change, and if I procrastinate it's slothful.  By sloth I am not talking about the slow moving animal that actress Kristin Bell starts crying over, although since they are slow, there is a connection to the double meaning of the word sloth.  However, all jokes aside, procrastination is totally based on fear from my experience, and can really drain us in a major way.
   There are many ways in which anger manifests, and fear plays a factor im all of it.  One of them is in the form of getting defensive.  If someone asks me something personal, by which the answer might make me vulnerable, fear shows up in the form of anger, and I can get defensive.  People respond like that with certain subjects, I'm not the only one.  Underneath the anger response is fear of failure, fear of rejection or whatever.  Fear of being vulnerable, boy that's a big trigger for anger sometimes isn't it?  Fear can show its ugly head when I'm driving in traffic.  The good news is that we can outgrow all this fear, and it is important to do so.
   I want to end this post on a positive note.  I like the acronym feeling excited and ready.  Now it depends on what we are talking about when I say that.  If I have a concert, there's going to fear of the unknown, that shows up in the form of anxiety.  Okay, so what am I going do with that?  The choices are positive, feel excited and ready, face everything and rejoice, or the negative f everything and run.  What choice results in a better concert?  Maybe there are people who can go into a concert 100% nerve free, but I am not that lucky.  Pavarotti said if you say you're not nervous you're lying.  That's a powerful statement from Pav there isn't it?  So, how do I go to the positive place?  Prepare well for the concert, and bring in positive energy.  
   The opposite of fear is faith, which is trust.  Turning fear into trust is the ultimate cure for fear .  There has to be a trust in something to face a fear, or I'll never face it.  By trust, I mean just a feeling that whatever the situation is needs to be faced.  If I have a fear that really needs to be faced, I will know because when I don't face it then the desire to f everything and run increases 100 fold, so therefore, I know I need to face that situation.  Let me ask this question.  How awesome does it feel when you face a lingering fear?  It feels like I'm on top of the world, but facing fears is a lifetime process.  Go easy on yourself about it, and if there is a fear you have on a really important issue, really put in the effort to face it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Great Historical Singers (Mark Reizen)

Mark Reizen (1895-1992) was a Jewish-Ukranian bass who was one of the most intelligent singers I've ever heard on record.  His voice was, in my opinion a basso-cantante, with an easy upper extension, and a faster vibrato than a basso profondo.   The most important thing is that Reizen was smart.  He kept singing almost up until his death.  My goal in this post is not to present a biography, but to talk about why I think he's important in history.
   What impresses me most about Reizen is his incredible longevity, and musicianship.  He never pushes his voice in any recording I've heard of him, he excelled in opera and song, and he makes every word mean something.  I like to call music a canvas of colors.  Reizen had a wide variety of vocal colors to express the meaning of the text, including an excellent mezza voce.  He had incredible breath support, and expression.  Also, he sang Prince Gremin at age 90 on stage at the Bolshoi, in costume.  I've heard other singers on YouTube who were famous singing in their homes or studios, but on stage in costume is a different ball game.  To my knowledge this feat has not been done by any other singer.  Reizen sang recitals into his 70s and 80s, and the breath support is just incredible, and there is no wobble.  Check him out on YouTube.
     Does Reizen have the pipes of other great Slavic basses such as Ghiaurov, and Nesterenko?  In my opinion, no he doesn't, but there is so much artistry in Reizen's singing that it makes up for it.  Reizen makes Aleko's Cavatina a real jealous lament, I recommend his recording of that aria.  He really delivers the words with a nuance for each word, like a Shakespearean actor delivers a monologue.  He did that with everything I have heard him sing.  There was a unique and deep commitment in his musicality which is impossible to duplicate.  Every singer has their individual art, and Reizen's was pretty amazing.  Listen to this recording of Reizen singing Konchak's aria for an example of his great art.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New Blog Post

Life is great as long as I allow it to be that way.  The spirit of the universe or whatever you want to call it wants everybody to have a good life I assume.  Although, a lot of bad things happen to good people, so maybe I'm not making any sense.  I do know that if I am angry, bitter, negative, and stubborn, my life can seem like it sucks really fast.  I say, can seems like it sucks, because its my perception that determines how my life is.  I think even when bad things are happening to people, tragedies, illnesses, etc..., there is a finish line in sight.  If I want to have a full and rich life, I have to ask myself, am I being kind to myself and others, am I trusting the universe, treating women with dignity and respect, loving what I do?  Am I experiencing life in general, or am I pissed about the past, angry, bitter, negative, eating poorly and what not?  It's all about choosing how I perceive my life.    How I perceive my life results in how I live it, and that's determined by negative or positive behaviors, resulting from my thinking.

    Here's a really clear example of negative versus positive behaviors.  If someone I know has a girlfriend, and I'm pissed that she's not my girlfriend, or if I am happy for the couple, or best yet not even cut into their business in my concioussness.  The first behavior I mentioned, which is jealousy, not only hurts me, but it hurts them too.  Whereas, thinking positive thoughts about them, and staying out of their business helps them and myself.  These are choices.  Now, this has nothing to do with whether I think they belong together.  That's not my concern.  It's for them to figure out themselves.  Guess what, I have no control over whether a couple is together or not, even if I think the woman should be with me.  
   I am talking about all this because when I partake in negative behaviors and thinking, my life stinks.  Negativity causes many problems.  It causes health problems, relationship problems, poor decisions, plus it wastes the short time we have in life.  Why does my chronic Lyme disease act up sometimes?  It's because I'm pissed off or in a self pity state.  I am doing good things today like writing this blog post, and I feel pretty solid and refreshed.  My thoughts are pretty centered too.  I'm talking about negativity which isn't necessary, like being jealous, pissed off, projecting negative results, playing out future and past scenarios, trying to get even.  Where's the present with all that shit?  Well it's now, but I'm not living in it.  The present is fine.  Learn from the past, that's the whole point of this blog, but why regret it?  It's too late, time machines are in Back to the Future, and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, not in real life.   I'll end by saying, that if I am in a negative mind set full of rage and what not, I feel like shit, and vice versa.  The end.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Complaints and Grievances about Driving

     I drive too much, although I am fully aware that driving is a huge privilege. There's just one problem. The other drivers!  How the fuck do some of them get licenses?  Part of the reason I am asking this is because a car is a vehicle, not a weapon.  You can't win on route sucks, I mean route 1.  Either someone is going super slow admiring the Hess station on the left or wants to have a hybrid of their car and my car.  After all, the scenery must look like the fucking Rocky Mountains, right?  Then there's route mental hospital, I mean 18.  I am driving on there earlier waiting in the obscene traffic jam, and people have the audacity to cut in line.  I'm in the right lane, and people drive on the shoulder and cut in front of people.  It gets them one car ahead of that person. Ah, hah, hah! 
     I'm venting because the other drivers get to me.  Also, I am being comical.  I'm also just perplexed at why people use cars as weapons or ways of bullying.  Cars are machines that weigh several tons.  If someone cuts me off on the right when the lane is merging, does it ever occur to them that one of us or both of us could be killed?  The amount of time they save is less time then a person going to the bathroom.  The alerts on the signs should say, "watch out for the other drivers." This includes me sometimes.  I don't claim to be a gift to driving.  I just want people to be safe.  Other drivers had the patience of rapid animals sometimes.  I hear enough fucking honking outside of my building for a composer to write a new symphony.  Some would jump at that idea in half a minute, so maybe I shouldn't publish this posting.  
     Last but not least there are the trucks.  I'm surprised I'm not still driving behind one since they go from 0-60 in 50 years.  They slow traffic down all the time, and some of them drive like maniacs.  This ain't fucking NASCAR, okay?  Last thing I need is some truck tailing my ass.  This is humor, I am not trying to offend truck drivers.  Most truck drivers are doing their jobs very responsibly I'm sure.  However, some do drive like maniacs and think they are racing a car.  
    In writing something like this my intention is to get a point across, and do it with humor.  This is comedy, and there are elements of truth in it.  Although, I won't lie to you, some drivers piss me off!  For example if its a 50 zone, why go 35??  Drives me crazy.  Excuse the pun, couldn't help it.  Reverse tickets should be part of the deal.  If a driver is driving at a speed a person can bike at, it defeats the purpose of a car.  Pull their asses over and tell them to ride their bikes or hit some sort of pedal.  This blog post is finished.  I'm outta here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

If You Are Being Bullied, Reach Out

In this blog entry I want to talk about bullying again.  First of all, if you are reading this and tend to bully people, please stop.  It really scars people for a long time.  I am talking about cruel teasing and harassment, versus the simple I'm jez, playin wit chu stuff that goes on which is harmless.  I am not writing this to complain or ask for any sympathy.  I am hoping that what I have to say might benefit those who are getting bullied at school or work.  Those are the main two areas where people get bullied.  Oh yes, there's parents too, who bully their kids.  Wonderful, terrific.  
  Bullies are insecure.  I have bullied a couple times in my life regretfully, and I felt insecure or was afraid of getting bullied myself every single time took part in bullying.  However, I could stop when the victim started to get upset or cry.  I could not go through with it.  I made a friend cry at a camp a number of year a go, and I felt terrible.  I was trying to impress some girls.  It doesn't work that way.  Often bullies do not stop at that line.  The line, where it is enough and the victim, who is a human being by the way is really getting very upset.  When that line is crossed, get help immediately.  If the school doesn't care, get counseling. Also, hang out with friends you have things in common with.  If not in school, find an activity you like.  
   Suicide is becoming a more and more common theme with bullying.  Remember that suicide is an all or nothing choice.  Once you make that choice, you're done.  Reach out instead.  The president himself was making that suggestion.  Of course there are cases where bullying victims have been beaten and died from their wounds.  If beatings are happening, change schools, call the police.  Just simply get help.  Fuck the consequences.  Getting help is your best chance.  Now, there are instances where parents tell the school, and they don't do anything.  Why are they working at a school, then?  A school is a place for learning, and not bullying.  This especially includes the teachers.  Coaches actually call student losers.  Then if the parents over hear it they get nice again.  Listen, abusive coaches and teachers, you are not fooling anyone.  
  So, to quickly review.  Bullies, cut the crap.  Get help, and figure out why you are bullying.  For those bullies who apologize, I applaud you.  Victims of bullying, please get help before you hurt yourself, or kill yourself.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Talk up to people, not down

     I have been drawing a blank on what to blog about lately.  So, I am siting in the dark watching my tuxedo cat sleep on my dresser.  She has grown to love that spot.  So much so, that I actually had to clean some of it off for a change.  This cat is certainly a music fan.  She finds it very peaceful.  I was playing songs by Charles Ives earlier, and her ears perked up.  I know that's a good thing because if she doesn't like something she runs away.  A lot of famous composers had cats such as Vaughan Williams and Stravinsky.  My cat is cool, and I can always count on her for the early morning wake up calls I don't want. This is so far a post about nothing.  I guess the purpose is to put my thoughts toward something other than myself.
    I would like to address one thing in this post, and it's my opinion, so take it or leave it.  If I think I can control someone or run their life, I am setting myself up for a disappointment.  People's lives are their lives for a reason.  Now, say I am a parent and my kid is just screwing around and slacking off.  I can point that out and say, hey, you are capable of a lot more, go out and go for your dreams. However, I cannot control the situation.  It seems like a lot of people think they can run people's lives.  They know what you should do.  Sometimes people tell me I should do this and that, and the advice makes no sense, and I didn't ask for the advice.  I realize that the other person may be coming from a loving place, but there is a way of doing it that can be effective.  If I am telling someone they should do whatever like a know it all, that's just arrogant, not helpful or encouraging.  I guess condescending is the word.  I'll be damned if I think I know what other people should do.
   I am a bit annoyed because I get a lot of unsolicited advice, and have been lately.  It makes me feel like I'm not good enough, or I am not being accepted for who I am.  Here's the deal.  There is no need to be arrogant or condescending, or tell people what they need to do.  What a bunch of garbage.  I put people like that out of my life.  They're not building me up, they are shooting me down.  Do not shoot people down or talk down to them.  No one is less than any one else.  People have their own destiny, so who am I to mess around with it.  Do not give advice, especially if it is not relevant.  Suggestions are cool.  I am talking about demands and know it all crap.  Believe in yourself and go after your dreams.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finally A New Blog Post

Where did the month of April go?  Wow, that sure went fast.  Spring is in the air, and it's my favorite time of the year.  The weather right now is about perfect.  I have some good things going on lately such as the wonderful concert of "Song of Norway" I was in tonight, and a recital May 17th at Christ Church in New Brunswick.  It's at 7 pm, and admission is free.  After the recital, I am going to learn some Russian repertoire, and what not.  I always like to learn new music, but sometimes jump into it too quickly.  My blog posts have been a bit sporadic lately, so I am writing this to get back into it.
   I think it's cool that Jason Collins came out and risked his NBA career to do so.  There's a lot of discrimination about those kinds of things.  People started criticizing him for it, saying it was a sin.  They can have their opinions, but their opinions suck. My question to them is, why are they judging Collins?  I think Collins showed a lot of strength and courage for doing what he did.  The analysts who criticized Collins can go shove it.
  Also, what is with all this violence?  Shootings are constantly on the news.  Why is that?  It seems that it is contagious, doesn't it?  It's a damn shame.  Kind acts should be contagious, not violent ones.  Kind acts go a long way.  All you have to do is compliment someone's sweater and it goes a long way.   
  I am also tired of bullying.  A 12 year old boy went into a coma because he was bullied.  He ending up dying.  It's unbelievable.  What the hell for?  So this is for all you bullies out there.  Cut the crap and realize how much you are hurting people.  I have witnessed bullying several times in the last few weeks.  Words have a really powerful impact.  I would say that verbal bullying is even worse than physical in a way.  Words stick for longer.
   Anyway, I wrote this post from my heart.  I didn't really think about it.  It seems that violent and unkind acts continue to happen, when it should be the opposite.  No one should be bullied first and foremost, and most of all, no one should kill themselves over bullying.  Bullying victims are effected for the rest of their life over some stupidity.  Just because someone is not good at sports does not make them less than.  It seems like bullying is getting worse, and not better.  A lot of the teaches in schools do it themselves.  I'm sure many of them step in, but a lot of teachers don't.  And, where did the term nerd come from?  I've regretfully used it myself. I don't want to sound like a hypocrite, or make this post sound negative.  I actually mean the opposite.  I think people are good.  Bullying just stems from insecurity.  I've bullied fewer times than I can count on one finger.  I was feeling afraid and insecure every single one of those times.  I feel really bad for people who bully and have no remorse.  Well, anyhow, I guess this is a blog post about nothing like Seinfeld, which ended up mainly focusing on bullying.  Bullying is a difficult problem to solve for sure.  Doing kind acts is the only solution I can think of, since our actions and thoughts have a powerful impact.

Monday, March 18, 2013


     I've been trying to come up with something to blog about, and I am blanking.  I want to bitch and moan about the weather.  It was in the 50s last week, now it's perfect out if you're a furry gnu.  However, bitching about the weather doesn't help anyone else very much, so no need to bitch about this confused weather.  March madness has to do with weather too.
   I want to talk about humility in this posting.  I set standards for myself which are too high, and I also judge myself way too harshly.  I'm a lousy judge when it comes to myself.  I tend to do that a lot when I am singing.  It's not humble to do that unless it is constructive.  Humility to me means that I accept who I am and what I am, treat myself and others with dignity and respect, and do whatever job I do professionally and graciously.  I like the definition of humility which states that  humility is the act of being humble.  That helps a lot doesn't it?  It's the act of being teachable in my opinion.  I need to listen to people and not go on the defensive.  It's hard for me sometimes to do that, but its humble if I am open and receptive. 
  I'll use singing as an example.  Although humility applies to everything, my craft is one area where I really need to remain teachable.  Guess what, it makes the coach of my teachers and coaches a lot easier.  I was told constructively, and I repeat constructively that my e vowel was a bit in the throat.  How do I get it out of the throat?  I listen for guidance on how to solve the problem, and work on it.  That's the humble approach.  The not humble approach is getting pissed off and frustrated and judging myself for the problem.   I did that in a recent lesson.  That wastes time, and the problem remains, and possibly gets worse.   Humility in a situation like that is accepting there is a problem, and listening to suggestions on how to solve it.  I would underline the word accepting.  Problem is not even the right word for this situation.  Thing to work on, or improve on sounds more positive in this case.  
     If I am not being humble, the ego is the winner.  However, lets keep in mind that the ego is two fold.   With the ego comes stubbornness, arrogance, sloth, anger, self pity.  I'm not talking about self confidence at all here, because self confidence is actually humble.  I'll go back to the singing example for a moment.  If I think that I sing well already, but need to keep working to get better and better, that is a humble attitude.  It means, okay, what can I do to work on my e vowel.  Versus, oh my e vowel is still in the throat at my age?  I'm bad, I can't even sing the e vowel properly.  That is the ego, not humility at all.  Humility is not thinking you suck at things, it is accepting things and working on them in a constructive manner.  
  Humility is a state of being, and not a matter of talking about it.  It's a matter of listening and being teachable.  It's a deflation of ego in a constructive way which helps a person grow.  If someone deflates an ego, they do so with constructive criticism, sometimes with a strong delivery when needed, but always with love and helpfulness in mind. As I am writing this, I'm thinking who am I to say how criticism should be delivered?  I am making a distinction between someone who is helpful versus toxic.  Now, if someone is intending to be helpful, it is my job as the person being right sized to listen and learn.  I like this topic, and learning humility is a life time process for me, so I will end this blog at this point.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Taking Risks

I have not written a blog since January, because it has been a long and busy winter.  Winter is always a a bit rough for me mentally and physically.  However, some good things happened such as playing a small role with Opera Philadelphia, in which I got to yell "merde" on stage.  Also, I got to be a part of New York Virtuoso Singers twenty fifth anniversary project in which twenty five total choral works premiered on stage and in the recording studio.  I got to see two operas at the Met.  A "Parsifal" with stunning singing and playing, and a "Don Carlo" which didn't do it for me.  
     The most famous tenor in opera right now, Jonas Kaufmann was unreal as Parsifal.   It is incredible to watch him be so committed to each role he sings.  Kaufmann sings Wagner without yelling, and also has a large variety of colors vocally and physically.  So, what makes this guy so great?
   First of all, he is incredibly gifted.  The powers from above gave him an incredible risk.  Second, and most importantly, he has the courage to take risks.  Risk taking is important, and both success and failure are inevitable in risk taking.  Sometimes when someone as great as Kaufmann takes a risk it doesn't work out.  I've witnessed that personally in the theatre, but I still admired the fact that he took the risk. 
   Better to take risks then not to take risks.  Easier said then done, right?  This idea of taking risks goes for a number of things.  Comfort zone doesn't work, I'm sorry to say.  It is temporary comfort, then it becomes unsatisfying really quickly.  At least this is the case for me.  So, I am going to put myself out there and take more risks.  Some of them are going to work,  some of them are going to fail.  This is the way it goes no matter who you are or how famous you are.
   Anyway, I have really missed writing blogs, because I had kind of lost my touch for a 
while.   Remember to keep breathing, and do not chase negative thoughts, because they are not real.  When I say that, I am talking about thoughts that shoot down the higher self.  Self degrading thoughts, that keep me from growing.  Have a good night everyone.