To celebrate, I just uploaded my rendition of his song Traüme (“Dreams,” Op. 91, no. V) along with a slideshow of original photographs of Cape Point, South Africa. I hope you enjoy it.
And please stay tuned for more posts about Southern Africa… coming soon!
Music education is all about training the imagination! And because I’m passionate about singing well, my own imagination is constantly getting stretched, tweaked and cultivated.
In the classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, a little girl named Susan Walker (played by Natalie Wood) has never exercised her imagination. So Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn) coaches her patiently in the art of pretending.
Voice lessons are actually based on the same principle, that a kindly mentor can shape his student’s earliest experiments in creativity. And by the time she goes onstage to sing a role, a young opera singer needs to be very good at pretending!
Of course, this always includes a lot of discipline and hard work. We tend to assume that creativity is the opposite of discipline, but that could not be further from the truth. Only a skilled musician has the power to be fully expressive, because she knows so many different ways to sing the same phrase. She can choose from a wide variety of musical tools. Stephen Covey got it right when he said that “only the disciplined are truly free.”
But freedom is hard to control, and maybe that’s why people use so many ocean metaphors when they talk about creativity. Inspiration is often described as a cresting wave. Well, if creativity is a wave, then artists are imagination surfers! And everyone knows that surfers have to practice.
When I was training for my first triathlon, I attended a swim clinic hosted by the LA Tri Club. It’s for newbies who want to try ocean swimming, and it’s called Ocean 101.
I learned a lot about singing while I was treading water in Santa Monica Bay at 6 o’clock in the morning. “You can’t control the ocean,” the teacher told us sternly. “But you can control your thoughts.” He was telling us that ocean swimming is a mental game that requires both concentration and playfulness. Even a body surfer uses the energy of the wave to arrive at his destination. He has fun but he plays by the ocean’s rules.
In the same way, a musician might not be able to control a surge of creative energy, but she can train herself to surf it with increasing expertise. And that’s why the imagination needs to be taken seriously. After all, it’s a wild and watery thing — it needs to be treated with respect!
Without rigorous training, however, the imagination can shrink and atrophy. But of course it never goes away completely, and it responds very well to the slightest bit of attention. That’s why it’s so important to practice (and to teach!) creativity.
“My imagination needs feeding and exercise,” writes Rev. Elizabeth Nordquist in her blog post, Imagining a Story of Spirit. “Imagination in prayer is a gift of God.” But how can we approach any holy mystery without a powerful, well-trained imagination?
So go ahead and dream. Be an imagination surfer. Follow your creative instinct and imagine your way into something new. It just requires a little bit of mental yoga.
In the words of Dr. Seuss: “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
Full post at icadenza.com
Need a last minute Christmas present?
How about making a donation to the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival on behalf of a friend?
Your friend will receive a holiday email saying, “A donation has been made in your name to the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival, helping young African musicians to make their dreams come true.”
You even get to choose how we spend the money! Here are a few gift options:
Opera Workshop for Young Professionals – the singers of No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House have extraordinary talent, but they need help getting to the next level. Our team of artists will be offering workshops and master classes, sharing everything we know about vocal technique, stagecraft and opera repertoire. And then we’ll perform opera together all over the capital of Botswana! Please help us fund this program and rent the best stages in Gaborone.
Documentary – these young African opera singers are doing something incredible, but no one knows about it. We want to broadcast their music across the world. Will you help us tell their story in film? Any amount helps!
Music Therapy for AIDS Orphans – we will be offering a 5-day music workshop for kids in Gaborone, Botswana, in collaboration with Churches United Against HIV & AIDS. Most of these kids have lost their parents to AIDS. Will you help us give these precious children a week of musical fun? We’re teaching the program for free but we need money for space rental, supplies and musical instruments.
Plane Tickets – the musicians already have tickets, but we need YOUR help to get our film crew to Africa! Could you contribute $100? Or donate frequent flyer miles? This is my Christmas wish. 🙂
Lodging – once we’re there, we’ll need a place to stay. $40/day buys us each a bed at the lodge!
Namibia Concert – we have been invited to give a special concert in Windhoek, Namibia but we need some money for travel if we want to make it happen.
So how does it work? Just use this Network for Good Badge (be sure to write “No 1 Ladies Opera Festival” in the designation field.) OR donate through the festival website . Then email me at email@example.com with your friend’s name and email address.
FREE CHRISTMAS GIFT with any donation of at least $25: If you donate at least $25, and email me before 8 PM (PST) on December 26 2012, I will make an original recording of myself singing your favorite Christmas carol in mP3 form and send it to you!!! Just send the song title to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you prefer to pay with a personal check, it can be made out to Claremont Graduate University. Please mention No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival in the memo line, and mail to: David Carpenter, Senior Director of Development, Claremont Graduate University, 165 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA 91711
Help some talented artists on the other side of the world… make this Christmas an African Christmas!
This project is generously sponsored by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and endorsed by Claremont Graduate School, the Global Women’s Research Institute, the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House, Maitisong Festival, David Slater Music, Cadenza Artists, and San Pedro Opera.