Ties and Slurs and Jobs

I’m not not talking about clothing accessories and inebriated speech…just yet.

When reading them little black and white dots on top of all them lines, aka music notation, it’s really easy for beginners to confuse ties with slurs.  Both are graceful arcs between notes. The actual shape of the lines can be identical.  The purpose is very different, however.  Ties are about rhythm.  They connect the rhythmic event of one note to the rhythmic event of the same note later on and tie the two together in one rhythmic event. Slurs denote how a series of different notes should be played.  Slurs are drawn over a series of two or more notes that are different than one another but who share the same melodic idea.

Sometimes life and work is like reading music notation.  It looks like it’s black and white and you just have to make music out of it.  However, if you misinterpret the notation you’re going to fall flat….and on your face.

There’s so much that I love about being self-employed and in music.  The thrill of hearing my volunteer church choir lock into their chord.  The joy of hearing my voice students creating gorgeous music to express themselves. The fun of casting a vision for a new concert production and seeing it come to fruition through collaboration with a dedicated team of various talented friends.  I love it all.

Brian Tracy, in his book, Earn what You’re Really Worth says that income security can only be guaranteed when you do something that is A. Important, B. in Demand, and C. where you are Irreplaceable.

I know that music is important.  I know that my music performance/instruction/production is in demand and has been growing consistently over the past five years.  I’d like to think that I’m irreplaceable.

So why then am I looking for full-time work? Well, there’s a few.

  1. Work/Life Balance. Teaching thirty voice students at five different teaching studios has been exciting to have a somewhat regular flow of monies, but it makes for a difficult work/life balance.  The emotional cost to my family has been greater than the financial reward.
  2. Growing family, growing needs.  Yep.  Number 4 here we go!  We’re very excited to meet this little addition in October.  I’ll be more excited if we’re able to move into a different home by the end-of-summer.
  3. Self-Employed and you want a Mortgage?  Despite growing my own business for the past five years and experiencing some really cool successes/expansions with teaching/performing/producing, all I need is a couple of pay stubs at a new job and I’d qualify to buy a home for my family.  #thanxhousingmarketcrash

SO.  I’m looking for work that allows me to capture more of the value of my experience in a full-time W-2 “real” job.  The music won’t stop.  Don’t you worry.

After telling a friend of mine about my job hunt, he said that he was sad at the thought of me in a tie and a cubicle.  I understand that I don’t fit inside that box very well.  I’m hoping to God I get to do something that I’m passionate about where I can work with people, care about a cause and finally get paid to be the creative vision guy.  But most importantly, I welcome the tie if it comes with some economic security for my family.

I’m just going to read it as a slur and make it part of my melodic line.

Nathan (3 of 4)

Finding my Funny Bone

I have known for a long time that I like to make people laugh.  I didn’t think I was very good at it though.  Just ask my wife.  She has the unfortunate task of being my sounding board for jokes that haven’t fully matured.  However, when watching an episode of Seinfeld’s new show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee he mentioned the act of writing jokes.  Now I already knew that comedians have to write a lot.  And that they were constantly editing – honing their craft… but it hadn’t clicked yet.

I had a mini-epiphany: if I started keeping track of some of this stuff that I find funny, I might have some material.  Or at least prevent the cringes and scowls from my lovely bride.

I used to think that either you had it or you didn’t. That strange and beautiful funny bone. Some people feel that way about singing. I’ve learned that no matter how much talent someone’s born with, they can always improve if they work at it. And, you’ll never know how much you’re capable of, unless you try. I’m so excited to try. Putting this together has been So. Much. Fun.

I couldn’t do it alone, however.  I’m not THAT crazy. I’m not going to subject myself to an entire show of stand up, never having done it before.  With a great affinity for the work of Mr. Keillor, on his long-running “A Prairie Home Companion” and with a nod to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” I’ve assembled a variety show of comedy. It will include, but is not limited to the following:

 

  • Stand up by yours truly
  • Musical parodies written by the incredible performer and playwright, Christy Jones
  • A cameo of Goose Nissley playing someone very far removed from the character we know and love from the Goose Radio Broadcast
  • A certain silent special guest
  • Several scripted scenes sure to please
  • A live house band
  • Fake commercials!

 

What: Tuesday Night Live

When: April 5th, 7PM

Where: Redeemer Covenant Church, Brooklyn Park, MN

How: Tickets available here, or at the door. First come, first serve. $Pay-as-you’re-able

Three Tenors (medQ)

My Christmas with Cantus

This is the weird and wonderful story of how my one and only Christmas with Cantus led me to meet tenors David Walton and Aaron Humble who are joining forces with me for my upcoming “A Three Tenors Christmas” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.  

plug:

  • Tuesday, December 22 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets
  • Wednesday, December 23 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets

Fyi, as of this writing, availability has gone from “excellent” to “good”….so don’t wait too long to get a ticket!

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The three tenors rehearse with pianist Herb Johnson.

My life is strange.  I’ve known for some time that anybody who willfully puts himself or herself up on a stage in front of other people is unusual.  Being a man that sings really high in front of people makes me a freak of nature.   I shouldn’t be surprised then, that this story is also strange.  Some call it luck but looking back all I can think is that Someone was orchestrating.

When I was in my last semester of grad school, I met Aaron Humble of Cantus as he was getting a tour of Denver University’s Lamont School of Music before the ensemble’s performance that evening.  I’d heard of Cantus on Minnesota Public Radio but had never been to any of their productions.  I decided I needed to look into this group, and I applied to audition that spring.  They hold annual auditions to attract the top male vocal talent in the nation, regardless of any open positions in the ensemble.  They invited me to come to one of their live auditions. That alone was worth the plane ticket.

Instead of singing for a director, or a panel of judges, you sing for the men of Cantus.  After all of the auditionees had sung their songs, we were invited back into the room and then magic happened. We got to sing WITH Cantus.  As I’d prepared my parts for the music ahead of time I had imagined the sound we’d achieve.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  I flew back to Denver with an even deeper respect for the organization.  I was saddened to hear some time later that there were no open positions in the ensemble, but still very glad to have sung with them, even for a day.

While singing a role in Italy at the tail end of the summer I received a call from Doc Rainbow, director of theatre at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Northwestern – St. Paul, inviting me to come sing the lead role of Father in Children of Eden that fall.  We sold or gave away nearly everything we owned and returned to our native Minnesota, anticipating a one month stay and then a circuit of audition trips out west.  Then, just a few days after arriving in Minnesota, I got a call from Cantus.  One of their tenors had taken a leave of absence and they needed a tenor to replace him for their upcoming “Christmas with Cantus” concerts and was I in town and AVAILABLE!?  I was ecstatic.

Rehearsing with them for six hours a day and learning an entire show in two weeks was a rigorous and rewarding experience.  Getting to perform with them was So. Much. Fun.  My contract included singing on their Christmas with Cantus CD in 2011.  That recording is still a favorite in my household, frequently being chosen by our young daughters as their bedtime music.

In the spring of 2012, Cantus was looking to fill this tenor position with a full-time singer, and I was hopeful that I may be able to join this group for the long term. Though I was bummed that they chose someone else, I totally understood their reasoning. David Walton possesses  a tenor range that I only dream of.  On my first encounter with David, I remembered thinking – just from his speaking voice – “wow, this guy is going to go far.”  Which he has. Find out more about him here.

I’ve been so privileged to have performed with David since then in various productions and was thrilled that he joined me and Aleks Knezevich for the debut performance of our tenor trio last year for Christmas at Wooddale in Eden Prairie Minnesota.

As plans for this year’s Chanhassen concerts developed, we needed to find a new tenor, as Aleks was not available this year.  David suggested Aaron Humble, also a long-time Cantus member who is currently on faculty at Augustana College in Illinois.  He is not only a quick study but brings such confidence and experience with him.  You can find out more about him here.

While I never purposed to create this year’s tenor trio with former members of Cantus, it makes perfect sense that that’s what has happened.  Cantus attracts top male talent to the state and the entire community benefits from it.

I’m thankful for the boldness to take chances.  This Christmas I’m especially thankful for the men of Cantus 2010 who took a chance on me.  I will always be grateful for the institution of Cantus.  It continues to create amazing music with many new voices and creating opportunities that go far beyond the ears that hear them.

(By the way, the 2015 “Christmas with Cantus” series starts tonight!)

Three Tenors (medQ)

photo credit: Bethany Jackson of Twin Cities Headshots

Photo Cred. Andrew Kurcan

Confidence

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.

 

LOCATION
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