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

That Sound We Want – The pressure of studio perfection on live performance

Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Institute of Art - the venue for recording Massif Trio's premier CD

Here is an interesting thing.  Most music consumers love perfect quality recordings.  Consumers and the industry together have developed a preferred “sound” that the public expects to hear when they listen to their i-tunes, CD’s, etc.  This “sound” is specific to every musical genre, however many genres have the goal of perfection in mind; no mistakes, no flubs, any hiccup and there’s another take.  Producers record massive amounts of material and edit it down to perfection.  Having worked with producers whose art is this process, I am impressed and thankful that they can make me sound so flawless.  But what’s the problem of striving for perfection via 100 takes?

First,

This perfection cannot be duplicated live.  The public goes to said live concert and hopes to be wowed by the perfection that they are accustomed to on the recording.  The result – pressure on the artist to meet the impossible standards of their own produced work.  How many singers tax their voice to the point of un-health in live performances?

Second,

The performance becomes a show.  Add attractive multi-sensory entertainment.  Anything from a cool set to pyrotechnics is enough to distract people from noticing that they sound different live.  A show is still art.  It’s just a different art than the music that preceded it.

Last,

I hope that someone’s art is truly an expression of their soul.  Would you enjoy a painting that was made by a robot?  Why do we enjoy a recording pieced together by a computer and a producer?  A friend recently commented that he can’t stand the recorded music of a certain Christian Contemporary Artist, but loved this individual’s live show.  Can any of you relate to this in other genres?

Is this pressure on performers good for the industry?  Would you rather hear good music or be entertained by a fun show?  What would it take for you to be ok with only live recordings of everyone in your collection? Do you prefer the perfect sound of highly engineered perfection, or freshly squeezed human authenticity?

Colorado Concert – by Mail!

What a week this has been! Since this is the first time we have done this sort of thing – doing our own concert series – we are learning quite a bit about ourselves and about the process.  Last week’s programs in Minnesota went well.  It has been so good to have the chance to figure out what to change and tweek and rearrange for each next concert.  It has also been extremely challenging figuring out how to balance work and family when it is so intertwined throughout this process.  Thank you thank you to the many people who have been helping with childcare to afford us rehearsal time!

December 14 at Cross of Glory in Hopkins

Fortunately, Nathan graciously decided against firing his accompanist despite her being out of commission due to recovering from compound stress of travelling + 3 year old + 9 month old. Things are looking up and Ms. Accompanist is looking forward to tonight’s concert…or so I’m told 🙂 Continue reading →

What you Might Hear at “Peace With Us” December Concerts

Our December 2011 concerts are right around the corner – about six hours away for our first one, at a private event in Golden Valley. Tomorow morning is our first public concert, at 10:30 at Cross of Glory Baptist Church in Hopkins, MN; and next week we perform, along with some organists, in our beautiful former home-state of Colorado.

One thing that we’re doing a little different this time around is that we are not printing programs with the song order.  If you are interested in getting the information about the music performed at these concerts, please refer to our Peace With Us page.

Remember, there is no charge for these concerts, but we will have CDs available for purchase.  And – please, please – be sure to sign our guestbook!

Hope to see you soon!

N&N

 

Concert – in Minn!

hard at work rehearsing at Cross of Glory

Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 10:30 AM
Cross of Glory Baptist Church
4600 Shady Oak Rd, Hopkins, MN

It’s actually more of a pre-Colorado-concert-dress-rehearsal.  We will be running through our program that we will be performing on Dec 20 and 21 in Colorado.

Christmas music.  Nathan singing. Naomi playing. Some fun twists on favorite classics. And…back by popular demand…baskets for donations 🙂  What’s not to love?

If you want to be involved as a greeter, photographer, program-passer-outer, sign-up/CD table attendant, babysitter, or substitute vocalist- let us know!

Just kidding about the vocalist.