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.

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

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

 

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.

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?

The First of Many Singer-Songwriter Nights

Another fabulous evening of Arts at the Aviary last week.

Question of the week:
Which art field – other than your current area of expertise –
do you want to pursue?

Answers:
Pottery, Poetry, Dance, Voice, Video,
Comment below to tell us your answer.

Our first experience was provided by the talented song-writer, and beautiful singer, Ami Andersen. Here’s Ami playing one of the variety of songs she played and sang for us. Continue reading →