Thursday, July 26, 2018

Final Edits

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.” - Brene Brown

For a summer which I thought was going to be quiet, I’m amazed at how fast it is passing, and how time has filled it.  The last time I had a “quiet” summer was 10 years ago, and my life was very different. The summer has been rich and full in ways that I haven’t expected, including the fulfillment of something that had almost been forgotten … 

First of all, my husband passed his citizenship test two weeks ago, and we are simply awaiting on the date for the Oath Ceremony. He is also awaiting entrance into an online masters’ program at UNM. 

The “good news” which has cropped up in the past two weeks is … after *years* of editing and waiting, and then periods of nothing, a major CD project that started in 2014 (and really started in 2012 - with the start of this BLOG!) is finally wrapping up, and is in production as we speak. My “empty” July was suddenly filled with small sound tweaks, major and minor edits of the CD booklet and artwork, constant emails and phone calls to the sound engineer, producers, my duo partner Ellen, tears of frustration on my part, and pushing through every day to get to the finished product. 

If that’s not Providence, nothing is. 

The photo is from our second recording session for the disc, January 2017! As I was saying to a dear friend today, "Progress is sometimes not linear." 

More details on purchase and release to follow. Please stay tuned here, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and my website! 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Primer, Pigment, and Saturation

I was in the M-A-C store (makeup, not computer, though I am an Apple gal to the “core”) the other day, and even though I had felt that morning I had put on “plenty” of makeup, the minute I walked into the store and saw how the salesgirls were madeup, I felt like I wasn’t wearing anything at all! It made me realize how many times they dip their brush into a pigment, into a color, and continue to apply. I have plenty of make-up at home, but I must continue to learn how to use it creatively! (And not look I walked out of “Jem and the Holograms.”). 

Granted, I think if I had their amount of makeup on, I’d feel like it was … time to apply for a “different” job (if you know what I mean …)

On a recent trip, my wonderful friend and traveling partner L.U. had introduced me to the magic of *primer.* I would have thought that it would make my face feel sticky, but if you buy the right kind, it’s such a luxurious feeling. 

I had forgotten that painters also need to “prime” the canvas before getting to work. It goes along with the idea that art making is not all about the actual brush “in the paint” or “on the canvas.” It’s also the set up, clean up, reflection, white space (in life), drafting, sketching, discarding, editing. And in this case, priming.

I captured this image while on a research project in Europe. There was a man “copying” a famous painting on the walls of the Louvre. Of course he was making his own art in the process.

Seeing any great works of art "in person” (this includes seeing a great live performance of any type - opera, theater, classical or jazz or anything, dance, etc.) is a profound encounter, one must prime ourselves for - like an Orthodox parishoner preparing for communion and worship. 

When “developing” photographs, saturation and hue are two important aspects. Because of my professional needs with Adobe Acrobat and InDesign for regular projects, I have no choice these days but to pay their monthly fee for the subscription. (It’s a business expense, and completely deductible off of a Schedule C). It’s been fun to get some pictures edited and chosen for projects, and also to play with the amount of color. Just a splash? Black-and-White? Self-selected editing of color? 

Or almost no editing at all - in “prime” form?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Parts Unknown

My husband and I have very different television tastes. We meet in the middle on a few things, one of them being all things Anthony Bourdain. (Note - it is almost impossible not to want to eat watching Parts Unknown or any of his other wonderful programs).

His death comes as a surprise and shock to many around the world who loved him, or who he inspired with his fearlessness and embrace of "all" food, not just five-star. Some of the best meals I've had in my life have been in unexpected places or circumstances.

(photo: an unremembered red, time and place unknown)

"Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, howevre small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The "iconic" Dom of Cologne

I took a quick side-trip last year before Franz Schubert Institut to Köln, Germany. 

I had never been, but had wanted to go ever since my beloved graduate school song-and-accompanying teacher first spoke about the “Dom” which Heine mentions in Buch der Lieder, and then in turn, what Schumann appropriates into Dichterliebe

On the mission was of course to explore the Dom (cathedral), one of the largest in the world. Heine writes, 

"Im Rhein, im schönen Strome,
Da spiegelt sich in den Well'n,
Mit seinem großen Dome
Das große, heil'ge Köln.”

(In the Rhine, in the beautiful river, 
which wrap itself in waves, 
with its enormous cathedral, 
the great, holy Cologne.).

The text goes on to compare the object of the “protagonist’s” affection to an icon within the church, of the Virgin Mary.

This photo is of the exterior. 

When I went inside (I remember it raining that day a little), I figured that the Heine-Schumann icon would be incredibly obvious. Alas, it was not! There were several “contenders.” I’m going to ruminate over the photos I took and see if I can surmise which icon it is.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Augusta Read Thomas (read about her here) came to UNM for the Robb Composer’s Symposium in late March. The women of my beloved Chamber Singers gave a “world premiere” of a version of her piece, “Plea for Peace,” which had its world premiere in its original version just in the fall of 2017. 

Our version (which I really adored, as did she) was for unison women and string quartet. There isn’t a text, which she explained when she met with us and discussed the history a bit. It was commissioned to commemorate the Chicago Pile-1, the first artificial nuclear reactor. 

In addition to her amazingly warm spirit and generosity in the rehearsal and working session, I also loved her use of the word “sculpt.” when she was advocating for a more slender opening, for example. She had the women come in one at a time, and one or two with a different vowel. Those were things that I wouldn’t have thought to do.

Photo: With Ms. Thomas, post-performance.

We are grateful for her collaboration and the chance to perform her music!  

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn

One of my favorite things about living where we live is the relatively low cost of living. Our home is beautiful and at this point, Zheng and I are each able to have amply-sized offices. 

I’m a recovered clutter-bug, but now with digital technology and the ability to store things via cloud or scan (or however), it has helped me stay much more organized, and as a result, much less mental clutter or chatter. 

I re-organized my home office back in late February, and I feel like it’s one of the most important reasons that we’re in the thick of a very busy “season” (concerts, projects, life, taxes, etc) but that I’m still feeling some semblance of sanity.

Here is a photo of an in-process “arrangement,” one which will be performed with the New Mexico Philharmonic, my beloved UNM Chamber Singers, and my husband’s combined middle school student orchestras! You can read more about that concert here.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Спасибо, Чаттер!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being reunited with Justin Hopkins, bass-baritone (read more about him here). We had worked together a bit through Opera Philadelphia (now almost ten years ago!). 

Justin is in Albuquerque singing Oroveso in Norma (Bellini) for Opera Southwest. Read more about that production here. (I will conduct the performance on 4/11/2018 and I’m over the moon about it. Yes, Druid pun intended).

The program was all-Rachmaninoff - we opened with four songs, and then Mari Tomizuka (pianist) and Emil Miland (cello) played the glorious Cello Sonata. Which is really a piano sonata (or piano concerto, even!) for two people. 

You can hear a short bit of our performance here. We will do a Q+A and these Russian songs again on Tuesday, April 10th at 3:30 PM at UNM, so for those of you on campus or in town, we hope to see you there! 

(The Title means, Thank you, Chatter! - such an important organization and venue in the American Southwest! Visit the site here).  This project has also really inspired me to do daily Russian work. I'm using DuoLingo, so find me if you use it as well!