Living With Allergies
Feeling sick is never fun. I do all I can to stay healthy and keep illness away so that I can keep singing and performing at my best. However, I still kept getting what I thought was a horrible cold around the same time every year. My sinuses would clog up, my throat would get very sore, and I could barely get out of bed, let alone sing or go to class. After a few years of this, I decided to get allergy tested. It turns out I'm horribly allergic to ragweed, but I'm also very allergic to many year-round allergens too (such as dogs, cats, and dust mites). I had a runny nose, drainage, and sneezing most days out of the year, but I thought that was just normal. Once I started making changes to help with my allergies, I began to feel so much better and my singing greatly improved. Since allergy season is almost upon us, I wanted to share some of the ways I combat my allergies, and some general tips for allergy sufferers.
Getting allergy tested
I'm so sorry that I waited so long to get allergy tested! I'd always known I had some type of seasonal allergy, but I wasn't sure what I was specifically allergic to. Being aware of my specific sensitivities, I am able to proactively defend against them. Once you get allergy tested, you are able to get treatment via shots. Due to moving around constantly, I haven't been able to start this treatment and have had to come up with other ways to treat my allergies.
Sign up for allergen allerts
Once you know what seasonal allergens you are allergic to, you can sign up for alerts to tell you when those allergens will be most prevalent in your area. My favorite tool for this is Pollen.com. They offer an app as well as alert emails. It's a great way to be prepared before you even walk out the door.
One of the great ways to treat stuffed-up sinuses, and to prevent sinus problems, is to use a saline spray or rinse. I use a saline spray every day at least once a day, and it has really helped keep my sinuses clear. I like to use the pressurized spray for every day, and I use a nasal rinse (like a neti pot) when my symptoms flair up. Saline is a great non-medicated way to keep allergy symptoms in check.
Allergy mediations can be tricky, especially for singers. My allergist gave me some recommendations for over-the-counter medications, but in the end I had to use trial-and-error to find out what works for me. I would recommend buying smaller boxes of different allergy mediations to start out with, and trying them out for a couple of weeks each. Keep track of whether a particular medications seems to dry you out to much, makes you groggy, and noticeably lessens your symptoms. You may need to take these medications year-round, or you may just need them when certain allergens are present.
Allergy-proof your home
I have several indoor allergies in addition to my seasonal allergies. One of my biggest sensitivities is to dust mites, which are unfortunately pretty much impossible to eliminate. The best way for me to combat this is to clean my apartment regularly, especially by dusting and vacuuming (this can help if you have a pet or dust allergy as well). I also purchased a mattress and pillow covers specifically designed to help with allergies. Washing my sheets at least once a week helps too. One of my favorite investments was a HEPA filter air purifier, which I use in my bedroom overnight. It drastically cuts down on allergens in the air, allowing me to wake up with significantly less severe symptoms. The products you need may vary depending on what you are allergic to, but there are so many products available to keep you healthy and symptom-free.
Hopefully these tips help you to be healthy and allergy symptom-free!!
Note: the products I mentioned above are what I personally use and are not sponsored in any way
The world of Harry Potter is a truly magical one. The first movie came out when I was in elementary school, and I've been hooked ever since. I often find myself re-reading the books or re-watching the films, and every time I fall in love with them all over again. Many of the characters say such insightful and inspiring things, and many of these apply to my own life as a singer. Here are six of my favorite Harry Potter quotes that pertain to a singer's life and career.
* Caution: Spoilers Ahead *
Dumbledore says this to Harry in his office after Harry's battle with the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. Harry is worried about his similarities to Tom Riddle, fearing that the same evil resides inside both of them.
It is easy to compare our abilities and talents to others. When it comes to singing, it is easy to compare our vocal abilities, acting skills, and appearance to those of other singers. This constant comparison can become very frustrating and disheartening, as many aspects of these talents are outside of our control. However, we can make many conscious choices that will make us better performers. Being prepared, being kind and generous with our colleagues, being on time- there are many things that are within our control that don't require any talent or ability, and that can make all the difference in our careers.
Dumbledore says this to the students of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, during the end-of-term feast. Classical singers have the wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from performers and musicians from all over the world, as well as portray characters from a variety of backgrounds. So long as we keep open minds and hearts, and remember our goal of sharing beautiful music and stories with our audiences, our differences won't matter.
Hagrid's half-giant status makes him an outcast in wizard society, as giants are seen as brutal and sub-human. However, Hagrid refuses to let the prejudice of others change who he is. Singers can get constant criticism from themselves and others about how they look and sound, and this negativity can take its toll. Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is the best armor against negative self-talk and judgments from others.
Words are the singer's gift. We are the only instrument that uses text as well as sound. Words are powerful, and have their own kind of magic. We should celebrate that!
At the battle of the Department of Mysteries, Ron is injured by powerful magic involving memories. Madam Pomfrey tends to Ron, and tells him that thoughts can lead to very dangerous injuries. It can be easy to be critical of yourself, especially when you spend so much time chasing perfection in singing and performing. It is important to realize that these thoughts are powerful, and can be dangerous if left unchecked.
Ginny is talking to Harry about what she's learned growing up with Fred and George. The twins are fearless, sometimes to the point of being foolish, but they don't back down from a challenge. Singing can be an exhausting, frustrating, and confusing career path. However, if we just have enough nerve, we can continue to do this crazy thing that we love doing.
I hope that these quotes give you some new inspiration in your work and creative endeavors, and bring a little magic to your life! What are some of your favorite Harry Potter quotes that I haven't included here? Leave a comment down below, or on any of my social media platforms!
Practice Room Survival Kit
For singers, spending lots of time practicing is essential. They are the places where we warm up, prepare roles and repertoire, and altogether do the work that's necessary to be the best musicians we can be. I don't have my own private studio to practice in, but rather use the practice rooms at my university. Unfortunately, shared practice rooms can sometimes mean sharing other people's germs and messes. It also means that you cannot decorate or arrange the space in the way you would necessarily like to. However, I've come up with a few ways to make the shared practice room experience a little more enjoyable.
Whether or not you believe in all the benefits of aromatherapy, I think we can all agree that it's nice to be in a place that smells good. I bought a very small portable aromatherapy diffuser at one point hoping to use it in my apartment. While it wasn't powerful enough for my living space, I realized that it was the perfect size for a practice room. I keep it and a bottle of orange essential oil (to promote energy and happiness) in my bag to use while practicing, and it makes such a difference!
I'm a bit of a germaphobe, and the thought of touching piano keys that hundreds of other students have touched grosses me out. Illness seems to always spread like wildfire through the school of music, and communal pianos may be partially to blame. To combat this, I always keep individually wrapped antibacterial wipes in my bag to wipe down pianos before I use them. I also keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me. It's especially useful when I need to touch your face for various warmups or exercises.
I created a practice journal last semester, and now I have no idea how I survived without one for so long! Before every practice session, I write down my specific goals. During my practice, I keep record of how long I practiced, how my voice feels in comparison to the previous day, what I worked on, where my trouble spots were, and if I achieved all the goals I'd set for myself that day. I also created a little chart to keep track of how many hours I've practiced total. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to see how much I've practiced over time, and keeping a record of my practice helps me stay on track with my goals. It's helped me to have much more intentional and productive practice time.
Along with my practice journal, I also keep a notebook with translations and IPA written out for my pieces, as well as any relevant notes about my repertoire. I like having separate translations and IPA in addition to having it written into my score so that I can speak the text without being influenced by the notes or rhythms. I like to get the language and meaning into my brain before working on the music. It's also helpful to keep notes about the composer, librettist/poet, performance history, etc. in one place for easy reference.
I hope that some of these ideas are useful additions to your practice routine. Which of these are most helpful to you, and what kinds of things do you use to have productive, effective practice sessions? Leave a comment down below!
DIY Opening Night Gifts
Opening night is always an amazing time. The excitement sets in, and you feel the accomplishment of all that the cast and crew have worked toward. It is a wonderful time to appreciate those involved in the production, and opening night gifts are a great way to do this. These gifts don't have to be expensive, just something thoughtful to show your appreciation. Here are a few ideas for opening night gifts that you can make yourself without breaking the bank.
1. DIY Flowers
Everyone loves flowers, and giving ones that will never wilt is especially fun! These tissue paper flowers are very easy to make, they just take a little bit of time. You can incorporate colors from the show as an added touch as well. Give everyone a single flower, or make bouquets out of multiple flowers. Here's how to make them (and see the step-by-step pictures are above):
2. Spa Set
Everyone can use a little relaxation after a show is done. Help out the cast and crew by putting together a mini-spa set! You can include lotion, face masks, Epsom salts, and aromatherapy items to help everyone get a little R&R!
3. Score Study Kit
This is a great gift for all of your fellow singers! Include highlighters, pencils, multicolored pens, sticky tabs, paper clips, index cards, erasers, and anything else that would be helpful when learning and memorizing a role.
4. Singers' Favorites Kit
Another great gift for singers is one that includes all of our favorite, must-have items. Include Throat Coat tea, throat lozenges, hand sanitizer (to keep all those pesky germs at bay), and mints (to pop before a romantic scene). Put it all in a cute water bottle or mug for a thoughtful and useful gift!
Hopefully some of these ideas help you to find the perfect opening night gifts. What are some of your favorites, or what other gifts have you given? Leave a comment down below! Wishing you many fantastic opening nights to come- toi toi toi!
'Tis the season...
December is a wonderful time. Beautiful snow, getting ready for the holidays, wrapping up schoolwork and finals, and spending time with family and friends are just a few of the things I look forward to every year. However, this seems to be the time of year when colds run rampant. After many years of dealing with winter illness, as well as a decent amount of research, I've come up with a few tricks to stay healthy during the winter months.
First, a few disclaimers:
There are a few things that can help you avoid a cold altogether. Saline sprays and nasal flushing (such as with a Neti-Pot) have been shown to reduce the chances of upper respiratory infections. I use a pressurized nasal spray every morning and evening for this reason. Washing your hands is also key, as well as not touching your face or mouth after touching other objects. College campuses can be breeding grounds for germs, and I am especially warry of the pianos in practice rooms. Because of this, I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on hand during my practice sessions. As always, getting enough sleep and water is essential to your overall health.
Sometimes, you just can't avoid getting a cold. Here are a few tips to help you recover as quickly as possible.
1. Take only what medications you need
Some medications are labeled as "cold and flu". These medications contain many different medications all in one. However, be careful with these. As a singer, it is best to take as little medication as possible and only take medications that treat your specific symptoms. Medications can be extremely drying, so taking too many won't help you feel better. I make a list of my specific symptoms before going to the store to buy medications. That way, I will be sure to only buy what I need rather than be tempted to buy a "treat-all" pill.
2. Treating pain
Many singers, myself included, have wondered which pain relievers we can take safely while singing. The problem with certain pain relieves is that they can leave you susceptible to vocal chord bleeding and hemorrhages due to the ways they interact with the clotting mechanism. Through the research I have done, aspirin and ibuprofen (brand name: Motrin) are not recommended to singers. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) does not interfere with the clotting mechanism and is therefore recommended to singers as a pain relief method. One word of caution: pain when singing is an indication that something is wrong. The best course of action if you feel pain when you sing is to stop singing. Otherwise, you could do serious damage to you vocal folds. Taking a pain reliever so that you can get through a day of singing may not be the best idea. If you absolutely must sing, then you must. However, if you can cancel gigs, sit out in class, or reschedule events, it is better to do that and allow yourself to heal rather than use a pain reliever to continue singing.
3. Non-medicinal remedies
We all get many recommendations from other singers about how to deal with colds naturally. Some remedies are more effective than others. Here is some of the most common advice I've received and its effectiveness.
I hope that these tips are useful to you. Wishing you all a wonderful, healthy holiday season!
One of the most important parts of being a successful student is staying organized. Between classes, lessons, gigs, rehearsals, and jobs, it can be hard to keep track of all of our commitments. One of the ways I’ve kept on top of my schedule is by using a planner. I’ve tried many different kinds, but I always found them lacking in some way. That is why, for this semester, I’ve decided to create my own planner.
I love the freedom making my own planner gave me. I could make it look exactly how I wanted it to and organize it in whatever way I wanted. The pictures above show what I ended up with. I used the Leuchtturm1917 with blank, unlined pages. I also bought fun stickers and embellishments to give the planner more style. Each month begins with a monthly calendar, a space to keep track of monthly goals and the progress I make toward them, weekly chores, my monthly spending and earning, ideas and plans for my website, and quotes for the month. I like having these pages because it will allow me to set goals and intentions at the beginning of each month. At the beginning of each week, I created "My Week" page to have an overview of what is coming up in the next seven days. What I really like, however, is that I was able to create a planning page for each day.
There are plenty of ways to make your own planner. This is only one option. I wanted to create all the pages my planner needed in advance so that I could map out anything within the next six months that I need to put on my schedule. However, many people like the bullet journal style of planning better than this. There are also places online to create and print your own books, and one of those services could definitely be utilized to make a personal planner. No matter what works best for you, I highly suggest creating your own planner if traditional store-bought ones don't quite fit your needs.
This summer will be a rather quiet one for me. I will be going to the LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework in July, but other than that I will be at home and working full-time at a local restaurant. However, even though I'm not doing summer programs or taking classes, that doesn't mean that I can't have a full and productive summer. I have several goals for the summer that I want to accomplish before I begin graduate school in the fall.
Goal 1: Learn a Role
This summer, I am going to spend a good deal of my time prepping and learning a role that I may have the chance to perform next school year. If I get the role, great! I'll have already done all the preparation and won't be scrambling to memorize the opera. If I don't get cast, I'll still have another role under my belt. I've so far been writing translations and IPA into my score. I hope to soon start learning the role in the practice room.
Goal 2: Learn French
I don't expect to become fluent in French this summer, but I hope to cover a good deal of ground in the language. I took French 1 my first semester of Freshman year in undergrad, and I will have to take French 2 in my graduate studies. I don't have much memory of what I learned in French 1, so I am hoping to cover that material again this summer. There are many great resources for learning a language for free at home which I have been and will continue to utilize.
Goal 3: Health and Wellness
I've been trying to live a healthier lifestyle this year (haven't we all?) with varied success. My diet is better and I try my best to take care of my emotional/mental wellness by journaling and meditating. However, there are many things that I would like to learn more about. I'd like to become more active and find a workout routine that is truly right for me. I would like to learn more about meditation and different meditation practices. I would love to know more about things like reflexology, essential oils, and color therapy. Luckily, my local library at home has lots of resources to help me learn about these sorts of things, and the internet is, of course, a wonderful way to learn about anything.
Goal 4: Study for Entrance Exams
When I go to school in the fall, I will have to take exams on music history, music theory, and aural skills. The university will provide study guides for these exams. I've been gathering my resources as I've been unpacking from school, so once these study guides are released, I can get started looking through old notes and textbooks.
Goal 5: Make a Bullet Journal/Planner
Planners are my very favorite way to stay organized. However, many planners that I've used in the past don't have the tools I want in order to stay as organized as I want to be. I searched and searched for something that I could use that would be perfect for my needs and lifestyle. Finally I decided that, if the perfect planner wasn't for sale, I would just make my own. I've been working on putting together a bullet journal for the first semester of next school year. Some people create their bullet journal as they go, but I want to have all the dates and calendars in there from the beginning so that I can use it to schedule out the whole semester.
So it will be a busy summer after all. I hope to post more as I work toward these goals and hopefully come up with some useful tips and ideas if any of you have similar goals. Stay tuned!
I recently ordered the #confidence box from the Happiness In a Box line from the company The Happiness Planner. As a performer, I know the importance of feeling confident. It allows you to be open and honest on stage and to give your all in a performance. However, I know many performers, myself included, who struggle with their confidence levels. I had been waiting around hoping that something, be it the next role I was cast in or the next great performance I had, would help me to be more confident. However, if there is one thing hours upon hours in the practice room has taught me, it's that you have to work for what you want. You can't expect that what you want will just happen upon you. All skills in life take practice, whether that skill be singing coloratura passages, speaking a foreign language, or being confident. I figured it was time to practice confidence.
The box comes with a journal with guided prompts, a blank journal, a pen with an inspirational message on it, individual quote cards with a wooden stand, inspirational stickers, and a few larger sheets of paper that have confidence exercises to fill out. The system encourages you to make specific goals and to try to achieve them each day, and the inspirational messages motivate you along your journey. I have been using the system for three days now, and I already feel a more positive outlook on myself and my abilities. I see confidence as something to work on a little bit each day, and have ways of tracking my progress. If confidence is something you struggle with, I would encourage you to give the #confidence box a try.
As the creator of The Happiness Planner, Mo Seetubim, says, "At the end of the day, even though our goals and dreams might seem huge and impossible, we need to realize that to move a mountain, we begin by carrying away small stones. Confidence- the kind that does not yell loudly but is quietly powerful- is something we can build."
The Happiness Planner offers this box along with two others so far, and their original Happiness Planner. You can also sign up to receive inspirational emails on a daily or weekly basis, and can check out their blog. Click here to visit their website and here to take a look at the #confidence box.
Bach is Back!
It's time for Baldwin Wallace's 85th annual Bach Festival! This Friday and Saturday will be filled with lectures, masterclasses, and performances celebrating J.S. Bach and his influence on the composers that followed in his footsteps. The centerpiece of the festival is always a major choral work. In all previous years, this piece has been a piece by Bach. This year, however, we will be performing Brahm's Requiem, and there will be a lecture discussing Bach's influence on Brahms. This is an exciting step for the festival to begin looking at Bach's wider influence instead of his works alone. The festival schedule, tickets, and other information can be found here: https://www.bw.edu/schools/conservatory-music/bach-festival/
Another Opening, Another Show
Tomorrow is opening night of Baldwin Wallace Opera's production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites! It has been an incredible experience being one of the Carmelite sisters in this show. This has been one of those fantastic productions where all of the cast is fully committed to telling this tragic story, and helping the audience understand and appreciate its themes. This is a story of faith empowering a group of strong women. This is a story of hate leading to senseless violence and pain. This is a story of freedom and the essence of what freedom is. It is my hope that everyone who comes to this show takes a piece of these ideas with them, and that the show inspires them to be a little more loving, and a little more understanding toward others. This show has been described as timely for today's audiences, but I believe that the ideas portrayed in the text and music are ones that have always been timely. There is always hate and fear in this world, and there are many who will suffer because of it. But there are always those who look the evil of this world in the face and decide to stand against it.
I hope that those who come to see the show this weekend will get a piece of all that we have learned and experienced while being a part of it. Showtimes are Thursday, February 24th-Saturday, February 25th at 7:30pm and Sunday, February 26th at 2:00pm. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.bw.edu/events/2017/02-23-Dialogues-of-the-Carmelites