I have to say it: I hated teaching in person this semester – mostly. Private voice lessons with me wearing a mask and the student wearing a mask were frustrating and almost completely useless. The students were thrilled to be back in person, and OK, it was nice to be able to accompany in real time. But the technical instruction that the students needed was impossible to convey. I took them through their exercises and guessed at what they were doing with their mouths and tongues. I did try to do some hands on physical adjustments in posture and movement but I also wanted to keep my distance. In general, I was not comfortable being in a small room for an hour with someone deliberately exhaling at me. And the students were all incredibly sick with everything else but COVID: strep throat, bronchitis, laryngitis, colds, mono, stuffed noses, coughing, you name it. They called it the Princeton Plague and it got most of the students at one point or another. OK, I didn’t have to sing at all, but my historic trauma with worrying about getting sick, combined with the past 18 months of being conditioned to be afraid of getting sick had me extremely triggered.
At the other extreme, I was teaching Singing American Musical Theatre as a performance class again and it was wonderful.
Princeton is having an all virtual semester and it seems to be going pretty well overall. Some schools are trying to have in person classes with precautions, some schools are having a hybrid combination. Some schools with in-person students are having outbreaks of COVID and sending everyone home for virtual classes. What a mess. I am still happy to be teaching from home, doing yoga classes from home, and meditating from home with people from all over the world. What a delightful surprise it was to receive an email from a grad student in Brazil about Singing in Style.
The semester is finally over. Princeton had virtual Reunions on Saturday, a virtual Commencement on Sunday and a virtual Class Day on Monday. Now is a good time to capture some thoughts on what it was like to teach and adapt to this new world. When I got home from Forest Refuge on March 17 the world was in a panic and closing down. I was actually quite a bit ahead of the game getting ready to teach online since I had done some research and preparation a week earlier. Classical Singer Music and the NATS organization offered a wealth of advice and information to voice teachers about how to teach virtual voice lessons. I can’t say how thankful I am for their support and encouragement. I already had a decent microphone from reading for Learning Ally and I dug out a pretty nice set of wireless head-phones Michael had gotten for me several Christmases ago. I learned how to invite my students to zoom meetings and adjust my audio settings to optimize sound for singing. I downloaded the full Appcompanist library to my phone. I organized the bookshelves behind the piano and made them look presentable and attractive as a background. I was feeling pretty calm and present from my time in Barre. I was ready to meet my students online.
I had the best time teaching Music 214 this semester. The final concert was Saturday afternoon. Too bad it was a gorgeous day and there were a million other things going on. The audience was light but all the most important people were there and they enjoyed it immensely.
The class was a musical theatre masterclass with eight fantastic student singers. The last time I taught it was 2010. No student pianists wanted to take the class this time, so I had my old friend Tim Brown play, which ended up being better for the student singers and more fun for me.
I was so proud of Solène after she sang Barber’s “Knoxville Summer of 1915” with the Princeton University Orchestra on their March concerts. We had worked on it a lot last fall in preparation for the concerto competition. I loved teaching the piece to such a sensitive and talented singer, sharing all my favorite moments of interpretation and expression. It was actually good vocal practice for Solène as well, focusing on the simple, sweet, childlike quality of the music and text, learning not to overload her voice and do more with less. Continue reading →
At long last the new music building in the Lewis Arts Complex is ready and the university celebrated with a weekend of festivities and special events to inaugurate all the new rehearsal and performing spaces. The theatre and dance departments brought in famous special guests from outside the university community. The music department showcased all our in-house talent, featuring faculty and student performers from the orchestra, glee club, jazz ensembles, as well as Richardson Chamber Players, So Percussion, Plork, new music by the Sound Kitchen faculty and grad student composers and more in performances that took place all over the campus. Continue reading →
Was it really four years ago that we went to Australia for the International Congress of Voice Teachers and an amazing travel adventure? It was time again for the ICVT meeting, this time in Stockholm. I would present my menopause research and Michael would come along for a Scandinavian tour. Continue reading →
This was my last year singing High Holy Days in Wichita. An odd set of circumstances led to this outcome, but as usual, things seem to have worked out for the best. I’m very happy to have no future singing performances to look forward to at this point. In the photo I am standing in the entrance way of Congregation Emanu-El with my Kansas mom, Marcia Solomon, and Rabbi Michael Davis. Continue reading →
I’m writing this much later, but I want to preserve some continuity for what will follow. I think this was my 21st year singing High Holy Days in Wichita. I don’t remember much about the singing, so it was either perfectly fine or perfectly awful, or somewhere in between. I do remember that I went to the Sedgwick County Zoo where I hadn’t visited in many years. Continue reading →
A lot of time has gone by since the Richardson Chamber Players performance of Pierrot on March 1, but I wanted to relate the crazy time leading up to it and my thoughts in the aftermath.
About a year ago I bumped into my wonderful colleague, pianist Jennifer Tao, in the hallway of our underground conservatory in the music building. Jennifer was on the RCP planning committee and asked me if I wanted to request anything for the next season. Continue reading →