Photo Cred. Andrew Kurcan


I hear it again and again, students of mine want to “build confidence” with their singing voice.  The following was taken from a message to a student who’d recently sent me a self-assessment of her level of preparedness for a role.

“One note about “confidence” while singing…If confidence is the measure of how good we feel about how we’re doing, as singers we can come about this in a variety of ways.  The most readily available is to listen to ourselves in the moment and assess how pleasing the sound is to our ears.  The only problem with this model of developing confidence is that we will invariably sound LESS good to our audience if all we’re focused on is making our sound SOUND good to us.  Instead, focus on releasing the sound as much as you can.  Think about the way that you would shout your words from the roof tops or across rice park.  Throw your voice out of you the way that you’ve used your voice before…  Anytime we call out to someone or cry for help, it uses ample space, direction, purpose, resonance,  articulation, etc.  AND we don’t stop to think about how it sounds.  Focus on the feeling of releasing/throwing/giving your voice instead of improving your audible sound.”

I believe that we’ve been built this way on purpose.  A good voice is something that is functioning its best when it is being shared in a selfless way.

Packing for a Journey?

Luggage.  A room full of suitcases, bags, parcels as diverse in size, shape and color as you can imagine.  I was grateful for the glass wall between us and the probably musty jumble of containers.  It was the luggage of those traveling into the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  How would I pack if I was being forced to leave my home for an unknown destination?  I was in Oświęcim, Poland on a tour of Auschwitz I in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.  

Our tour included passing several other rooms filled with items taken from the possessions of the detainees upon arrival, and some items removed from their bodies, such as human hair.  We stood for a while at the firing wall, some pausing to say a prayer.  We walked into the gas chambers…but we walked out of them too.  This was not the case for the hundreds of thousands of people exterminated there.  

This experience I had was similar to that Dr. Sean Vogt had.  He’s the director of the Apollo Male Chorus with whom I have been singing for a year and a half.  Inspired by a similar visit he’d made to Auschwitz in 2013, Dr. Vogt has built a program to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the its liberation.  This “Liberation of Auschwitz” program will be Tuesday, January 27th at 7:00PM.  The music will include Arnold Schoenberg’s rarely performed “Survivor from Warsaw” whose complex texture and disjunct melodies (utilizing 12-tone technique) seem a fitting portrayal of the suffering of so many.

As a contrast to the Schoenberg the evening begins and ends with the world premier of James Bassi‘s newly commissioned joyful and resolute Five Prayers scored for men’s chorus, baritone soloist, orchestra and dancer.  

This concert may be a hard journey.  Emotionally and aurally it has some challenging material.  However, it will have an impact on this community and hopefully stick in peoples minds, just like that room full of luggage…lest we forget.

Please make an effort to come to this show.  Tickets can be purchased directly through the Ted Mann Box Office.


Ted Mann Concert Hall
University of Minnesota
2128 4th Street South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tickets: $38-$88 (there is a discount available for groups of 10 or more)

Available at the Tedd Man box office site here.

Questions: 612-624-2345

NorrSound Tenors

The annual “Christmas at Wooddale” concerts at Wooddale Church this year will include the first performance of the NorrSound Tenors, a trio of tenor power.  I would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the other tenors in the group.

I met Aleks Knezevich the day that I auditioned for H.M.S. Pinafore at Guthrie Theater.  I had seen him around but had never met him.  Once we both began working on the show, we connected quickly.  I was amazed at his hard work as a “swing” where he was trying to learn every male ensemble part to substitute for them in the event that someone was unable to perform.  I did not envy his job, but admired his tenacity. Aleks Headshot 2

His hard work paid off when he was given the lead male role of Ralph Rackstraw when that cast member decided he didn’t want to perform at the Guthrie anymore.  Besides being a hard worker and amazing performer, Aleks is terrifyingly smart.  He has completed one year of med school, but took off this year to perform the lead in a national tour of Jekyl and Hyde.  Though we’ve needed to use some creative rehearsal strategies, considering his tour, I’m thrilled to have him on board.

David Walton is the high tenor that Cantus had been looking for when they filled the spot that I left when I started at the Guthrie.  For the three years that he sang with Cantus, audiences greatly appreciated the soaring and effortless ring on the tops of the chords that Mr. Walton added to the group.  It was fun to finally perform in a production together this past September in the world premier of Jocelyn Hagen and Penny Freeh’s Test Pilot. He is currently pursuing an opera career and performing next summer with Opera Theatre St. Louis. Local audiences recently saw him as Postiglione in Minnesota Opera’s production of La Fanciulla del West.

David won the Twin Cities district in The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions this past weekend, and will sing in the Regional Finals on Jan. 31st.  Also, David’s been asked to be a Resident Artist next year with the Minnesota Opera!

I have created three arrangements for the trio this year and I’m excited to share them with you.  There is an acapella  medley of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” and “What Child is This,” as well as “Gesu Bambino” with piano.  The final selection is “O Holy Night” with orchestra.  Please come out to one of these performances.  We’d love to see you there!

Friday, Dec. 12th, 8:00 PM

Saturday, Dec. 13th, 8:00 PM

Sunday, Dec. 14th, 2:00 PM

-Nathan Bird


Two Things Wright

I’ve been enjoying learning a little bit more about the birth of flight as I prepare for Test Pilot in a few weeks.

Penny Freeh with guys Test Pilot

Rehearsing airplane choreography with Penny Freeh

While most of what I’ve been learning has to do with what to sing or how to move, there are two things about the Wright brothers that really stick out to me.

As they were trying to figure out this whole flight thing, they were working in their bicycle shop.  They had been trying to figure out how to maneuver the plane once they were to get into the air. The solution that they ended up using was arrived at by simply playing around with the box from a tire inner tube.  (The process is called “wing warping.”)  Not only did they arrive at the solution by just noticing the world around them, but they were solving problem C before they had even passed problem A.

They were open to finding a solution before they even needed it.  They were dreaming. And they were planning on their dream coming true.

The second thing that really inspired me this week is about an equation – the all important equation for lift.  They were finding all of these dead ends in their attempts to solve it until they realized that part of the equation – which had been “proven” to be the case – was actually false.

So the two things…

1. Plan ahead.  Don’t get caught up in the problems of today such that there is no energy to dream about solutions for tomorrow.

2. Question. Question the status quo.  Don’t let the “rules” by the experts keep you on the ground.


Wright-Glider-LC-DIG-ppprs-00571” by (unknown) – Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Summer Starts

We’ve been a bit silent here on the blog for a while.  As the season changes, and our schedules along with it, here is an update about what to expect in the near future from Nathan and the Birds.

Summer Lessons

Clip art musicians

After Nathan’s second spring student recital this coming Tuesday, he will have officially wrapped up another year of voice lessons through Waconia High School, Prior Lake High School, and his own private studios at home and at Colonial Church of Edina.

Beginning this week he will be primarily teaching at our home studio in Northeast Minneapolis, while maintaining the Edina and Prior Lake studios as well.  This allows for a much broader and more flexible schedule.  Click on this link or open this pdf (Call for voice students Summer 2014 (general memo)for information about purchasing summer lessons.  We are using sort of a punch-card system this year.  Check it out. Pass it on. Sign up!


Nathan and I are looking forward to performing together in two weddings late in June.  Wedding gigs have always been one of our favorite things – in fact it was doing this sort of thing together that kept us so connected when we first became friends 12 years ago (yikes!).

Know of anyone looking for voice or piano music for a late summer or fall wedding?  We’re game!


Details aren’t being made public quite yet, but based on the success of last year’s A Summer Night Romance concerts, it’s fair to say that there are plans brewing.  Nathan has been working with a growing team of professionals to help develop his processes as a concert producer. Expect great things to be happening as the year unfolds.

On Sunday, June 8, there will be a fun jazz concert with the Apollo Male Chorus and the George Maurer Group. Nathan has been working as one of their section leaders and will be singing with them on this event. See link above for tickets, and let us know if you’ll be there!

As always, check out the events page for info about upcoming productions involving Nathan.


Our monthly newsletters have been on hiatus as well, but we are reviving them soon, like within a couple days soon. If you’re not sure if you’re on the list, sign up here. If you don’t get around to doing that until after we’ve sent it out, you’ll be able to find it on the archive page, and I’ll be sure to get you on the list for the next one.  This next May/June edition will share more about how we have each been engaged professionally in the recent past, as well as more about summer plans.



The girls (and Nathan) are pretty excited about bringing another boy into the family.

And if that newsletter doesn’t end up getting to you in the next few days like I ‘promised,’ it’s probably because we decided to take a vacation at the hospital.  Our baby boy is due to arrive around June 9 (which also happens to be our wedding anniversary), but this mama would be really ok with any time now.

Thanks for following and supporting us on this journey – both professionally and personally!

Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather.

~Naomi, for both of us

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Remember Those Summer Nights? A Glimpse from Above the World

Where did the time go?! Considering that our last post here was just prior to the final A Summer Night Romance concert, there is a bit to fill in!

SNR basic picture

A Summer Night Romance

This concert series was so much fun! Each venue was unique and beautiful and served as a great backdrop for the nostalgic jazz concerts. The trio of instrumentalists (two trios, in fact, for the different days) were stellar!

Here is Timotha Lanae owning the stage of the Club Theatre at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Timotha Lanae owning the stage of the Club Theatre at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

And Eryn Tvete lighting up the porch of the Smith Douglas More House (Dunn Bros) in Eden Prairie:

Eryn Tvete lighting up the porch of the Smith Douglas More House (Dunn Bros) in Eden Prairie

And Nathan Bird and Christy Jones singing “Cheek to Cheek” on the Terrace of the Stillwater Public Library:

Nathan Bird and Christy Jones singing "Cheek to Cheek" on the Terrace of the Stillwater Public Library

To see lots more pictures from each of the concerts check out the albums in our Facebook page and click on the “photos” link. And if you haven’t, be sure to “like” the page while you’re there so that you can get the little updates and blurbs that we send out through that channel.


Speaking of updates, we now have four monthly newsletters that we have sent via email. They include summaries of recent happenings, Nathan’s upcoming performance schedule, and a performance calendar for friends of ours.  To sign up to receive it in your inbox, fill out the form here. To view archive copies, go here.  (If you thought you signed up, but haven’t received anything, check your junk mail or promotional folder, as it may have been filtered out; then be sure to select for our emails to go to your main inbox.)

Above the World so HighFBeventHeaderATWSH13

We are less than a month away from our next big concert production!

Above the World So High
a virtual journey around the world via the lullaby and other children and family songs
Sunday, November 10, 6:00 pm
Redeemer Covenant Church
7801 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Park, MN

This will be a fun family friendly event. You can find more info here at our Kickstarter campaign.

That’s right, we are full swing into raising funds for this concert via the Kickstarter platform, a great means for group sourcing creative projects. Even a small amount helps toward reaching our goal of $1800.  No one gets charged unless we do in fact get that minimum amount.  Any funds beyond that amount will go toward us and our team of talented writers and performers. 

Seven days to go! We can do it! Some pledge amounts will reward you with tickets, some with a song recorded just for you.  There is also the option of donating $30 toward helping a family to attend who wouldn’t be able to afford the tickets.

As a backer for the project, you will receive email updates about the creative process along the way, sort of an inside look at how this all comes together. Please consider partnering with us! And spread the word!

Have a blessed week!

Nathan and Naomi Bird