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.

Breath Works: Group Lesson

Hello singers,

Nathan has another group voice lesson at the end of the week. This is a new thing he has begun to explore because of his own experiences as a soloist, choir member, and voice teacher. Not all contexts of singing call for the same type of sound to be produced, but the basic technical elements and self-awareness skills will aide any singer in his or her particular singing activity.

Breath Works

photo credit: shawnzrossi
photo credit: shawnzrossi

This week’s 60 minute session will explore the nuances and misconceptions about breathing. As the basis for any sort of vocalizing, breathing should not be cumbersome work but rather a graceful and empowering cycle. Through exercises, group discussion, and lots of fun vocalizing, Nathan will help to unravel and clarify some common rehearsal jargon regarding breath actions, and will challenge the singers to breathe consistently and appropriately in any context.

The lesson is especially suited for those who have had some private voice lessons, but that is not a requirement. Likewise, since Nathan is passionate about vocal ensembles and helping people have great experiences in them, he has tailored the content for people who are members of church choirs or school ensembles. However, even if you only like to sing in the shower or the car; or if your vocal ensemble of choice currently is simply Sunday mornings at church with the rest of the congregation, you can gain something from this session. Join with others of all ages in this unique setting to explore the “breath-taking” journey of singing.

Friday morning, June 28, 10 AM
In the Music Center at Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way, Edina, MN 55436
Registration – There is no set fee for the event, but there will be a box for contributions if you are able. Please R.S.V.P by Thursday evening.
Call Nathan at (952) 212-4017 or email naomi.m.bird@gmail.com or contact via this site.

Taste of Heaven

Look familiar? It’s the inspiration for their flag. There are acres of sunflowers in the countryside as far as the eye can see.

Thank you so much to the friends and family who were praying for my family and I during my time in Ukraine.  I could sense your support very much.  I thankfully remained in pretty good health for the duration of the trip.  It is so good to be back with my loving wife and beautiful girls.   It’s sad to see how Patience has grown and changed in just two weeks.

An Evening in Kyiv (Kiev) from my Hotel Window

The main question concerning Evangelion’s 8th trip to Ukraine this year was whether their experiment would work.  The experiment was to fill out our numbers with Ukrainian singers who rehearsed on their own.  We wondered if the sound would blend, if they’d know the music, or if the language barrier would be prohibitive.  At our first joint rehearsal we were all amazed and praising God for the beauty we were able to create with these brothers and sisters on the other side of the planet.  Besides making some amazing music together, we developed relationships that would never have been possible with an earlier model of touring.

Mr. Sergii Bilokin and his lovely wife Nadiia

Having this closer connection to the Ukrainian people gave us a better sense of our impact as well.   However, as in any missions trip, I feel like I received more than I gave.

Tenor extraordinaire Tim Faatz and some Ukrainians we met in Poltava.

In any future work I do overseas with an ensemble, I hope to use this model of cross-cultural collaboration.  It was a taste of heaven: humbling, sweet and glorious.

Ukraine 2012

I’m thrilled to be heading to Ukraine July 5th-July 18th this summer.  I’ll be singing with   Evangelion Chorale and connecting with musicians and composers in Ukraine.  This trip is very different from previous tours in that there are Ukrainians rehearsing simultaneously who will be singing with us and translating for us.  After committing to the trip, I’ve found out that some of the Ukrainian singers with us are friends of mine that I met in 2006!!!  This will be an incredible tour.  For those of you who weren’t able to attend our spring concert, one reason why I’m especially excited about this trip is the prospect of connecting with fans or family of Ivan Mychik, the amazing choral and vocal composer who gave me a copy of his music in 2006, some of which we performed on “Beauty Awake,” our spring concert.  I am very sad to have learned recently that he passed away, but I hope to learn about the legacy he left.

The Organ Hall in L’viv where I met Ivan Mychik and received a copy of his incredible music. Tim Sawyer reminded me that this hall was reserved by promise of two pounds of peanut butter. Things are just a little different in Ukraine. 🙂

The music we’re performing is fantastic.  From Monteverdi to a spiritual arrangement done recently by Dr. Jon Veenker, there’s a wide range.  Many of the singers in Evangelion are members of other high caliber choral ensembles as well.  We have members from MN Chorale, the National Lutheran Choir.  Evangelion, directed by Dr. Dennis Port, has been to Ukraine 7 times before and has developed a positive reputation and following there.  Bringing hope and good news to Ukraine through sacred choral works: a beautiful tradition to be a part of.
Please be praying for Naomi and my two sweeties.  P and A (1 and 3) are beautiful and smart, but  they can be a huge challenge like any kids their age.  Besides getting ready for this tour, I’m in the thick of concert planning for the rest of the year as well.  Any well-wishes, babysitting offers, and mommy support would be a God-send.
Also, any financial support would be greatly appreciated.  Go to our support page for specifics for this trip.
Here’s a sample of our itinerary in Ukraine.
  • Sunday, July 8, a.m. church service at Cherkassy Baptist Church
  • Sunday, July 8, p.m. evening concert at Cherkassy Baptist Church
  • Monday, July 9, evening concert in Poltava,
  • Tuesday, July 10, free day in Poltava and Kyiv
  • Wednesday, July 11, evening concert in Zhitomyr
  • Thursday, July 12, evening concert in Luts’k
  • Friday, July 13, evening concert in L’viv
  • Saturday, July 14, evening concert at organ hall in Rivne
  • Sunday, July 15, evening concert at Central Baptist, Kyiv
  • Monday, July 16, evening concert with KSOC orchestra at Tschaikovsky Conservatory auditorium, Kyiv

Minnesota – Choral “mecca”

I have known for some time that the Twin Cities is a strong incubator of arts and culture.  I was impressed by a documentary I watched last week entitled “Never Stop Singing” by TPT.  Originally aired summer of 2009 it was recently rebroadcast on February 11th of this year.  It celebrates the rich choral tradition of the state of MN.  Thomas D. Rossin, conductor of chamber choir and orchestra, Exultate, describes MN as the “mecca” of choral singing.  I believe it.  I’m proud of our state.  Here’s a few links to the transcripts of the interviews that were used for this documentary.  These are just a handful of the many composers, conductors, and performers in choral music who live or work in this state.  

Philip Brunelle

René Clausen

Erick Lichte

Weston Noble


Joan Oliver Goldsmith


Robert Robinson


Kathy Saltzman Romey

Dale Warland

Anton Armstrong

The largest reason why MN is the greatest state for choral singing is thanks to a man that wasn’t even a singer.  F. Melius Christainsen.

This man came to work for a little college in Northfield, MN called St. Olaf in 1892.   Even though his main instrument was violin, his love of choral music and passion for excellence left a legacy that is still alive today.  St. Olaf is internationally known and has been leading the way in this nation for decades.  The following was taken from St. Olaf’s website.

A description of Dr. Christiansen while conducting a rehearsal has been given by a visiting music critic as follows:

“A strikingly calm, cool exterior might easily mislead the careless observer into a belief that the celebrated Minnesota Kapellmeister is a musician of the purely scientific, intellectual variety.
“But a view of his face while he conducts a rehearsal, a glimpse of his eyes as he discusses some great composer, the tone of his voice as he expounds the great principles underlying his work, these tell the story of an ever-burning spiritual flame which now and again reaches white heat.”

Are you in MN and wanting to join a choir?  There’s only 75 to choose from here.  Never Stop Singing .org houses much of the information that was used for the documentary.  It sums the MN choral reality like this:

“According to Chorus America, more than 450,000 Minnesotans sing in at least one chorus. These ensembles cover the full spectrum of choral involvement: from youth choirs to high school, college, and community choirs; from intimate ensembles to symphonic choruses; and from early-music devotees to specialists in contemporary, barbershop or Gospel music. While we couldn’t begin to cover all of these different choruses, the stories and the messages are universal. What all choral ensembles seem to share is an amazing ability to motivate, inspire and bring people together through the shared experience of singing.”

Does this make you want to sing?

10 Years of Choir

It was 2001 and I was a home schooled highschooler of sixteen at Normandale Community College, thanks to Minnesota’s PSEO opportunities.   While I had been studying voice and piano for a little while, the choir at NCC was my first experience of choral singing.  The sheer mass of sound shattered my perceptions of what was possible with music.  This little college choir made me excited to do more.  In the 10 years since then, I’ve have had many unforgettably wonderful experiences performing with vocal ensembles and choirs.  This post is a small tribute to some of these amazing groups.

The Northwestern College Choirs I had the privilege of singing with cemented the place for choir in my heart.

The ear-training work in NWC Chamber Singers, under the direction of the lovely Dr. Mary Kay Geston prepared me for the rigor of singing with Cantus last year.   Geston’s programming was difficult for my young choral mind, but so enriching.   The contrast between renaissance music one semester followed by vocal jazz in the next was like jumping into a time machine.

NWC’s Varsity Men’s Chorus and College Choir under the baton of Tim Sawyer brought me out of a shell and gave me a community of music and faith that was a lovely thing.   I was privileged to be a part of the life-changing 2006 Eastern European Tour to Germany, Poland, and most notably, Ukraine.

I would be remiss if this post didn’t mention anything about the extension ministries teams at Northwestern College that were such a wonderful community.  As an awkward freshman, I performed and toured alongside some wonderfully talented musicians that took me under their wing and helped me understand my place in college.

Dr. Catherine Sailer, director of the Lamont Chorale at Denver University’s Lamont School of Music, created inspiring and beautiful music with a voracity and clarity that is not often seen.  Not only does she head up the choral department at one of the most elite music schools west of the Mississippi, but she is also a caring mother of two boys.  She is an inspiration for those in this world that are musicians with families.

Cantus.  Oh Cantus.  While it’s more of a vocal ensemble than a choir per se, I still need to mention it.  Few words can describe the joy of performing with such talented men.  Not only was I able to rehearse with them during my temporary position last year, I got to perform two concert programs around the metro area and record a Christmas CD.  They are a non-profit, full-time, self-led male vocal ensemble.  Their performance is crafted in detail.  Their programs are full of meaning.  Their sound is addictive.

The choir that I’m in now is Evangelion.  They exist to bring sacred choral works to Ukraine, especially in secular venues.  I’m thrilled to be working with Dr. Dennis Port, director of Bethel University’s choral program.  I’ll be heading to Ukraine for the third time this summer.  More about this trip later…

Sing with someone.  Join a choir.  Attend a choir concert.  It may change your life.