onsdag den 23. september 2015

What does it take to reach for the stars?

What does it take to reach for the stars, or to fulfill ones potential?
This is a true tale about how my “ugly duckling” voice became a swan, and what the transformation really demanded from me.

I have always been working hard in order to become the best possible version of me – as a singer and as a person. To raise to the level of being a respected artist requires quite a bit of strength, courage and determination, I must say. So many auditions and competitions. So many times rejection and “No, you are not what we are looking for”. And I’m not even where I want to be yet.
I expected this, of course. My pianist father told me when I was 16 years old and considered a career as a singer: “Its 10% talent and 90 % hard work to become a musician”. 
That was when I thought “Great: Then I have a chance, after all!” - Because actually, I never considered myself an obvious natural talent. No, my voice was way too locked and tense back then. But I knew that I possessed the willpower to work hard for what I so eagerly wanted and secretly dreamed of. My biggest concern was if my psyche would be able to stand all the rejection?

There are 3 rules in showbizz:
-Keep going
-Keep going
-and keep going!
That’s what my actress/director stepmom tells me… And I suppose she is right. It is for sure right that those who give up are not the ones who get the jobs!

The fact that I have inherited plenty of musicality from my dad is more clear to me now than it was at age 16. Luckily for me, my dad never doubted it, though. He has always been my greatest support in this respect. In my times of doubt and frustration, he has always been there, supporting. 
Basicly, Dad told me: “Follow your heart. - That’s what I always did”. And he’s been living as a professional musician since the age of 21.

So I followed his advice.
I knew that if I didn’t at least try to follow my dream, I would be very sad and perhaps bitter at the age of 35!

On the other hand, if I had a go at it and did my best, but still not succeeding, it would be easier for me to let the dream go forever and concentrate on something else.
So I got into the academy of music, and that was a big milestone, a blueprint. But this was only the beginning. Many, many musicians graduate, but few can make a living from it in the end. My former teacher Lars Waage said: “1 out of every 12 graduated opera singers can make a living from singing on stage”. He also said he thought I’d be one of those who could, with my talent and determination. At least that was a comfort in the face of those bad odds.

But hey? Somebody has to be the “one out of the 12”, right? So why not me? Please let it be me! This is how one has to think. Believe in yourself.

The tenseness of my voice made it shrill in the high register. Only a perfect technique could help me unlock it. Many teachers have said unkind things about the lack of “velvet” or “golden roundness”, my “funky sound” or simply told me my voice wasn’t “pretty enough for opera”.
I knew it was true to some degree, but I also knew the only way to really judge my voice, would be when the tension was gone and a good technique could show my true potential. That's why I searched everywhere for the right teacher. I found her in Berlin: Abbie Furmansky. Later Ken Querns' Bel Canto Vocal Studio, London.

Knowing how much I’ve struggled during the years, try to imagine how good it now feels for me to be among the 11 singers to be in the final of Fulham Verdi Prize in London this month!
This, along with my first full scale opera production at the National Opera in Århus, is proof that my father was right. That I was right, too, in believing in myself. 

Right now I am really looking so much forward to going to London to sing. It’s living my dream.
Just to be among the selected singers feels like winning, to me. In the jury will also be Mr. Syrus from Covent Garden Royal Opera, and getting a chance to sing for him is not only a big chance, it’s a scoop! I hope my nerves will not freak me out, haha ;-)
I’ll try to focus on how happy I am, being there in that spot in London.

Here is one of the recordings of my voice that got me selected for the Fulham final:

Verdi: Nanetta's aria. Photos by Karolina Zapolska 
Take care out there, and pursue your goals with lots of energy and determination!

mandag den 14. september 2015

Musicians and the “bubble of joy”

I know many musicians, artists and other creative people. Most of them feel that this is true:

Inside their art there is a sanctuary. It’s a place where everything is good. Sheer joy lives there. It’s the best place to be. It’s a kind of sphere or bubble, that can wrap a person entirely. No harm can enter. It’s a safe and interesting and amazing place to be in.
Billedresultat for bubble of joy

When being in that bubble with other people (musicians in a band or singers in a choir for instance) there’s also the feeling of being connected and not being alone. This feels particularly good since it can be pretty lonely to be a human being, not least being an artist.

When is this bubble best? When is it most important to have? 
When there’s pain in the real world, when things are crazy or people are hurting us. How good to have this bubble to retreat into!!

For some people listening to their favorite music or watching a movie is enough, but a musician wants more: Performing the music yourself demands a greater level of concentration as well as a physical output. This helps shutting out everything else and reinforces the bubble. The state of mind, I feel, resembles meditation in a way. When combined with the muscle activity of, say, singing – it might be close to yoga or tai-chi.
This is so powerful and healthy: Like a self-healing through art.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today without music. This possibility to slip away, and at the same time have a channel to direct my feelings out of me, has enabled me to deal with tough and heavy emotions through my life. To write text, to compose and to SING for hours every day has helped me get rid of heavy burdens of “old shit”. For this I am very thankful.

Schubert composed a wonderful song to a poem by Schober that describes the same gratitude towards the power of music, as I feel. 

Schubert: An die Musik

At this point in my life, being in my “bubble of joy” is not my only reason to sing and perform music: 
When I go on stage I want to bring this feeling to other human beings. I want to share with them my bubble of joy. 

Hopefully the music will make the world a better place for them, too.

søndag den 6. september 2015

Post Happiness Melancholy – and the art of letting go

Working on a dream project is always temporary. The “project” might be a relationship, a work project, an opera etc. When it ends, it leaves a gap of empty space in you. The people/person you got really close to as a colleague, friend or lover are now FORMER friends etc.  - Shit, that feels empty.

When that happens its good to ask yourself these questions:
1)      Did you enjoy the moment and the happiness of what you were doing all along?
2)      Did you withdraw inside a little (or a lot) in order to save yourself from the sudden        transition to emptiness that would eventually follow?
3)      Which of the above is the best option?

Perhaps it’s a good thing to know that all good things have an end, because then we appreciate them more… That is, if we don’t get so overwhelmed with panic and fear of losing that we can’t actually enjoy what’s there! 
This is where the fine art of “Letting Go” comes into play. There is by the way a very good handbook on that written by Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now.

When all comes down, everything is temporary: We all die someday, every person you know is yours “on loan”, even the Earth will not exist in the universe forever – but hopefully we shall not be here to witness the earth crumble!

So what is there to do, other than to make the most of the time we get and the things we experience? I do my very best to live to the maximum every day, embracing and accepting whatever situation I’m in right now, sharing the joy or sadness with those around. During a crisis and great heartache I realized this:

I’d rather have a heart that hurts than a heart that is numb and not feeling anything at all.
This way, at least, I know that I’m alive.

"Maria Magdalena" Art photo by Rolando Diaz

Happiness isn’t the absence of pain. Sometimes joy and pain are strangely entwined, and sometimes this actually makes the feeling of joy much stronger! No human life comes totally without suffering to some degree, emotional or physical. The feeling of pain or sadness from a loss is somehow also good, because it proves that it meant something: Whatever just ended had an impact on you.

So, when the end of a “project” is up, it’s time to embrace the emptiness/sadness/hurt and accept it… THEN go looking for the next work project/ love/ friendship!

I feel, therefore I know that I’m alive. – and that’s pretty awesome, right?

Here's a little music by Verdi with a great deal of pain in it. 
Strange how that can relieve a troubled heart ;-)