Thursday, February 25, 2016

By a Jury of . . .

Everyone has a memory that can still knot your stomach.  Yep, turning over as I write.

But first, background. Degree requirements for music teachers at In-state U ("IU") included a bit of torture, no exceptions.

1. Perform three patriotic songs on the piano. Challenging for woodwind, brass, or string players, but at least they read music. For vocalists – lots of non-readers - it was climbing Everest. My instrument was piano - heh-heh. 

But wait - there was a separate gauntlet for would-be vocal music teachers.

2. Obtain a passing grade in three semesters of private voice study.  

Funny, it seemed doable in the course catalog. And before I knew my "passing grade" would decided by a voice jury.  Still, no one had ever succumbed from this requirement, right?  

So, I dutifully memorized an Italian song, enlisted my roommate, Jan, (a French horn and piano player and soprano – the envy of the campus!) as my accompanist, and we rehearsed and rehearsed.  

My TA mentioned that her teacher, a “Ms. Harshaw,” at IU from NYC a couple days a week, would judge my jury.

(Okay – I Googled Ms. Harshaw just now for actual facts. The much-revered Margaret Harshaw[i] sang 22 seasons (375 performances) at the Metropolitan Opera.  She had 39 roles in 25 different operas, and sang in 40 of the Met’s weekly live broadcasts.. Yes – that Ms. Harshaw was judging my breathy second soprano.)

The big day arrived.  Ms. Harshaw was ready.  Jan played the introduction to my Italian song, I opened my mouth, and . . .


Jan looked up in surprise (okay, alarm!).  Ms. Harshaw graciously asked if we would like to begin again.  I nodded, mutely.

Again, the introduction.  Here I go, I will be singing in a second. Breathe . . .


Ms. Harshaw, a bit concerned now, inquired whether I would like to get a drink of water.  Again, I nodded. Mutely.

Jan and I went to the hall.  I drank.  I cleared my throat and drank again.  I tried to produce some sound – anything! Who is the patron saint of singers? St. Cecelia? St. Blaise? Eventually there was a strained kind of croaking.

Back in we went. Tried again. The intro – very nice - though Jan now had a distressing red tone creeping up her neck to her ears and beyond.

What was that sound?  Was someone singing? It was not a voice that I, Jan, my TA or any other living human being had ever heard before, but the words and the notes were MY ITALIAN SONG and (gasp!) correct! 

Finally, it was over.  Ms. Harshaw thanked us and we exited with haste.  

Later, grades were posted.  The Metropolitan Opera Wagnerian Diva had given me an A. For courage, no doubt. 

Bravo, Ms. Harshaw! Bravo!

As for hindsight, have I mentioned that my dad always wanted me to be an anesthesiologist?

[i] Ms. Harshaw is now deceased. These figures are from her New York Times obituary, which was impressively lengthy, even for a famous opera singer.

Friday, February 19, 2016

My Vast Storehouse of Hindsight

Where to begin . . . and what should you expect?

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” John Wooden.

Apparently, I have been doing plenty!  Marrying Mr. Wonderful. Raising three daughters.  Starting grad school at age 40. Moving ten times (NOT in the witness protection program). And, as my dear departed dad would say, I was “right up front” when God gave out the klutz gene.

A well-adjusted person would just move on with life.  Not me.  Inventing perfect do-overs is in my nature. Thus, I have accumulated a Vast Storehouse of Hindsight.  I cannot promise it is 20/20 (and sometimes I got nothin’), but now and then it might be better than what I did at the time.  So, I will share. 

Note to Self: when you find yourself in muck to your armpits, (a) you are not the first person step in it, and (b) it will not help to stand there and shout "why in the world did I walk into this??"


Time to don your big kid pants and hasten to Plan B (C, D, etc.).

And most of life's awkward situations will, at the very least, give you a funny story to tell.

Ask me.  I know.