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.

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

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

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.jpg
Wright-Glider-LC-DIG-ppprs-00571” by (unknown) – http://lcweb2.loc.gov. 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!

Weddings

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!

Concerts

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.

Newsletter

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.

Baby!

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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

Check out:
Facebook Page
Recordings

 

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.

Newsletter

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.)

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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