4 Things Grad School Taught Me

4 Unexpected Things My First Year of Grad School Taught Me

16th May 2016

4 Things Grad School Taught Me

If this post is published, it means I have finished my first year of my graduate degree in opera performance!

Where does the time go? (Although–since I’m taking things 10 minutes at a time, I’m all-too-aware of just how fast it can go!)

I could write a retrospective post on all the musical or academic things I’ve learned since I arrived in Wichita and began classes, but… I think I’d like to share a few unexpected things I’ve learned.

If you already know these things, congratulations to you! I am but a Helpless Grub™.

Without further ado, I present to you:

4 Things My First Year of Grad School Taught Me

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Change Your Life in Ten Minutes

How I Changed My Life in 10 Minutes

29th April 2016

Change Your Life in Ten Minutes Have you ever wanted to be great at something?

Okay, maybe that’s a stupid question. Of course you have. Whether you’re a singer like me or an aspiring underwater basket-weaver, you probably have something you’ve wanted to get really, really good at doing. Something you love that you want to master.

In case you haven’t caught on by now (or this is your first time visiting my blog, in which case, my most sincere apologies and HOWDY AND WELCOME), I love singing. It’s not only my career but also my deepest passion. I want to become a great singer. I will settle for nothing less than greatness.

The thing that super-duper sucks, though? The process of becoming great at anything (singing included) is, well..  often not so great.

When I was in undergrad, I spent a lot of time in the practice room. I mean a lot of time. An ungodly amount of time. We’re talking four to five hours at a time.

I know what you’re thinking. “But Georgeanne! That’s great! What a blessing it is to sit in a practice room and just work on your craft! Didn’t Malcolm Gladwell say that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at anything? Think of all the time you put in!”.

And yeah, sure. I spent like, a lot of time in a practice room…. staring at the piano. Staring at my music. Singing through my music from beginning to end over and over and over. Avoiding singing because I hated the sounds that were coming out of my mouth. Hating myself. Hating that I couldn’t walk into that room with a new piece and come out two hours later with it learned and technically perfect. I wanted to be great.

I wanted to be great right now.

I started to dread going to practice. Which, if you’re a singer.. is not such a good thing.

This is the part of the blog where I skip ahead a few years and hit you with some magic wisdom. I graduated in 2013. It’s now 2016. Do the math (I’m really bad at math, but I think that’s three years).

I’ve stopped spending entire afternoons in practice rooms drowning in a delightful combination of self-loathing and desperation.  I don’t dread going to practice. I look forward to it.

I’ve started to take things ten minutes at a time. And I guarantee you I’m a better singer than I ever would be if I spent five hours stretches in the practice room.

I’ve learned over the last few years that no matter how overwhelming a task may be, what gets it done is small, small steps. Climbing a mountain is not achieved by reaching the pinnacle–it’s achieved by the how-ever-many-steps you took to get to the top.

When I walk into a practice room or sit down to practice in my apartment (what’s up upstairs neighbors, you’re welcome, I’m not charging), I set a timer for ten minutes. I also set my intention for those ten minutes: “okay, I’m going to work [these measures] of [this song].” “For ten minutes, I will really work on some agility exercises to strengthen my coloratura.”

No matter how tired, discouraged, or frustrated I am–no matter how overwhelming a task may be, I can always give ten minutes of focused, intentional effort. And then maybe I can give ten more minutes. And ten more minutes. And before I know it, an hour has gone by, I’ve sung through all my repertoire or sung some difficult technical exercises.

There’s not enough time in ten minutes to let fear take over. Ten minutes is a decidedly non-scary amount of time. It’s long enough to get something done, yet short enough to make things seem manageable. When that timer goes off, if I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown because I still can’t float that high Bb the way I want to.. I move on to something else.

Do I expect to become great in ten minutes? No. Not a chance! And that’s part of the magic. You can’t go from decent to great in ten minutes. But those ten minute chunks of practice add up. I see the ten minute blocks add up in my practice journal, day after day.

How do I know it’s working? My teachers, coaches, and peers can tell. I can tell when I listen to my recordings. I haven’t become Maria Callas overnight (if and when I figure that out, I am certainly not telling y’all that little secret), but I’m definitely ten minutes closer to greatness.

Those ten minute chunks remind me that I’m taking steps every day to the top of the mountain.

So, dear reader, tell me.

What could you spend ten minutes doing today? What’s something you want to get good at doing? Can you set a timer and work for ten minutes on that thing?

I bet you can. You’ll come away from those ten minutes knowing your life has changed just a little bit.

Start the timer. The clock is ticking.


Once your work session is up, take a well-deserved break with a time-themed playlist!

Fairport Convention – Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
Rolling Stones – Time Is On My Side
Chicago – Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – Ten Minutes Ago
Ke$ha – TiK ToK
Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years – The Next Ten Minutes

midweek reads

Midweek Reads // 2

26th April 2016

midweek reads

Isn’t it strange that when we seem to have… a lot of time on our hands, we can’t find anything to do?

It’s a stormy evening here in Kansas–so stormy, in fact, they closed my school at noon. Whoa! On any given day, I’m not home until at least 6PM, so if you give me five hours of unexpected free time.. I’m not really sure what to do with them? Ironic, considering I’ve got lists upon lists of uncompleted tasks and things to get done.

Sometimes, the only thing to do is take a cue from the universe and chill. So here I am! Chilling.

I’m using a little bit of this free evening to go through the things I’ve “saved to read later” on Facebook and Pocket. What have I been digging on the Internet lately? Here’s my second edition (almost a year later, haha) of Midweek Reads:

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Southern Fried Soprano - Calm Before the Storm

Calm Before the Storm

20th March 2016

Southern Fried Soprano - Calm Before the Storm

 

It’s quiet. Too quiet.

Or, rather, it’s just quiet enough. I am soaking up every last drop of stillness, as I’m not going to get a lot of peace and quiet over the next two weeks.

This coming week is Holy Week, so when I’m not teaching lessons, in class, or in rehearsals for the opera (or, God forbid, practicing), you can probably find me downtown at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, singing in a service.

The week after Easter? It’s TECH WEEK for Les Indes Galantes at Wichita State University. I’ll be in show mode.

So, yeah. Thank goodness I have had the past seven days of Spring Break to relax and gear up for the inevitable storm. Since I’ve been out of the school game for a couple of years, I had forgotten how cool Spring Break actually was.

I’m pretty pleased with how I spent my break, all in all. It was a good mix of Bruno Mars “The Lazy Song” and productivity. I hung out with friends, watched a lot of basketball, petted my dog, slept in without an alarm… but I also started a new practice regimen for the remainder of March (#NoMercyMarch) and cleaned my apartment.

I know there’s not going to be much wiggle room these next two weeks, so I prepped all of my lunches and dinners for the week.. I got my grocery shopping done, my house cleaned, my floors vacuumed, and, perhaps most impressive of all, I did all of my laundry so I’m not a low-key Pig Pen from Peanuts.

Has it been the most exciting and scandalous way to spend my final day of Spring Break? No. Of course not. But, you know, while I maintain that being a singer is super glamorous, what’s even more glamorous is not worrying about having lunch made for the next day. The most glamorous thing?

Having clean underwear.

So, if you don’t mind, I’ll sit back, relax, and enjoy the last few minutes of quiet I can get. How do you prepare for busy times?

Southern Fried Soprano // The Week That Was 6

The Week That Was // 6

21st February 2016

Southern Fried Soprano // The Week That Was 6

I might actually be the worst blogger ever. “Surely I can manage one post a week,” I said. Surely. Turns out that’s harder than I thought. WELL, WHATEVER Y’ALL, HERE I AM NOW. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past week:

// things i did //

  • enjoyed a delicious frozen sangria swirl margarita whilst celebrating my dear friend Nick’s birthday
  • sang 3 church services on Valentine’s Day
  • ate a (surprise!) heart-shaped pizza
  • worked the first round of graduate voice auditions at Wichita State University
  • went to a senior recital and a graduate recital (both of which were very good!)
  • watched my friend Geoffrey play a life-size game of Jenga
  • burst into happy tears in a voice lesson
  • unexpectedly matched a bunch of my cast mates, our conductor, and our rehearsal pianist in rehearsal for the opera

// things i learned & loved //

// things i’m working on musically //

  • Handel’s Dixit Dominus (HWV 232) with the Wichita State University Concert Chorale (PS: I’m one of a gaggle of soloists)
  • I brought “Ain’t it a pretty night?” back out of the recesses of my repertoire binder and sang it for the first time following a 75 pound weight loss. There’s a lot of work to do, y’all!
  • Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes, which I’ll be appearing in at WSU in the role of Zaïre

// things i’m looking forward to next week //

  • getting my Fiordiligi on in my friend and studio mate Alyssa’s senior recital on Wednesday!
  • RECITALS GALORE!
  • working another round of graduate voice auditions on the 27th

What are you up to this coming week?

February Goals

February Goals

31st January 2016

February Goals

Surprise, y’all! It’s 2016, can you believe it?

Part of me is a little surprised I didn’t inundate y’all in January with posts about my goals for this year. I’m constantly making lists, doodling in my planner, ticking off check boxes.. and my planning for the year ahead usually comes in December of the year before!

This past December, though, I was a lot more introspective about the things I want to accomplish in 2016. Last year, I wasn’t in school, and so the world seemed pretty purpose-barren, if you catch my drift. I definitely was doing things, but my instinct was to Create an Endless List of Things to Do™ so that I didn’t feel I was wasting my life away waiting for something to happen.

Now? I’m in grad school! I am very busy! I have things to do! People to see! Classes to attend! Rehearsals! Teaching! …. Snacking! Snacking to do. That’s probably the most important one, right? Definitely not practicing…

Anyway, the point is that I’m trying to simplify things a little for Good Old Georgie™. My to-do list is already pretty long without me adding to it. I’m stressed enough without me making more things to be stressed about.

I want to do things because I want to do things, not because I have to do things so I can blog about doing things.

But! It’s February and I’ve still got a few pet projects and miscellaneous tasks I’d like to get done in addition to all of the stuff I’m Required to Do. So, without further babble:

February Goals

  1. Blog once a week.

    Did y’all know I have a blog? If you didn’t, I don’t blame you–it’s not like I have written in it. There’s a lot of cool things happening in my life and I want to share them. So why am I not? Because I’m.. a dinkus? Lazy? I don’t know. Probably overwhelmed.

    Regardless, I think this goal is totally doable. And since I wrote about it on the Internet, I’ll do it, because in addition to being a dinkus, I also am prideful and don’t want to fail. So.

    It also goes without saying that I’ve missed the community of my fellow bloggers–and especially the folks at Arkansas Women Bloggers.

  2. Make four new recipes.

    I’ve been on a bit of a wonky, inflexible (I don’t want to use the word restricting) diet this January and I am so looking forward to breaking open my cookbooks again and making some good food. With rehearsals and classes and teaching and life, I don’t think I want to commit to making one new thing a week, but I guess with the whole “four” thing it averages out to that. I have a feeling one week I’ll double up or something (probably Valentine’s Day–I’m finally getting a pantry with like, THINGS I CAN USE TO BAKE???).

  3. Read two books.

    I currently have 20 books checked out of the library. I am reading about 5 of them currently. Basically, this one should be easy.

Ta-da! There you have it, folks. There’s a lot of other stuff that’s going to go down this coming month, so get ready. See y’all soon!

Do you have any goals for February? Share them with me!

Wichita

Kan-sassy?

11th August 2015

Wichita

I have been avoiding my blog. Not just low-key avoiding it, either. I’m talking full-out, no-marking “oh are those dishes in the sink? I think I’ll do those instead” avoiding it. And this avoidance has translated into a month-long silence.

The funny thing about drastic change is that unless you talk about it while it’s happening, it seems overwhelming to attempt to explain it all after the fact.

Drastic change in this case being my Great Big Move to the Midwest for grad school. I’ve now spent 11 full days in Wichita, KS, living all by my lonesome (with Lily Munster, of course) in a one-bedroom apartment, learning the ins-and-outs of Adulthood™.

Before classes start next Monday, I’m doing my best to get acclimated to my side of town. Wichita is about twice the size of Little Rock, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot until I realize I have to get on the interstate to get practically anywhere. Wichita is the kind of place with light-up highway signs that tell you transit times to the airport. Bizarre.

Now that I’ve broken my blogging silence, you can expect to hear a lot more from me in the coming days and weeks. Things are about to get really interesting ’round these parts. I’m going to have to tell someone all about it.

Holding Pattern

8th July 2015

It feels lately like I’m doing a lot of waiting. This is probably because I am doing a lot of waiting. The three weeks until I move feel like eons. And while there’s still a lot to do, I can’t help but feel itchy to just… get in the car and go.

At the end of this month, I’ll find myself in a different state, a different house, and a different frame of mind. Come the end of July, I’ll say goodbye to the holding pattern I’ve been in for the last two years.

I hesitate to call it a holding pattern, really. In definition, a “holding pattern” is a static state–it is neither forward nor backward movement. No regression, but no progression.

It makes it sound like I haven’t done anything during the time I’ve been home. I’ve done plenty. Some of these things can be easily identified and listed, like:

1. Winning an Encouragement Award at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions
2. Honing my marketing and social media management skills at Eggshells Kitchen Co. 3. Losing ~60 pounds
4. Auditioning for graduate school successfully (and may I say with style)
5. Discovering my love for gardening
6. Started studying with a new voice teacher, began singing some new repertoire
7. Found an amazing group of women in the Arkansas Women Bloggers
8. Began this blog!

Others are not so easily quantifiable, like:

1. Learning how to navigate adulthood (admittedly with training wheels [thanks, Tixqueen!])
2. Honing my social media management & marketing skills at Eggshells Kitchen Co. 3. Becoming more comfortable with myself as an artist
3. Wanting to connect more with my family history
4. Realizing that happiness is a journey, not a destination (I can’t believe I just typed those words)

So, yeah, you can see why I feel like “holding pattern” isn’t really telling the whole story.

I came home to be with my mother during chemotherapy, not because I was having some sort of quarter-life crisis (although I’ve certainly had at least two quarter-life crises since I’ve been home). I managed to do some pretty cool things and meet some pretty cool people.

Had I gone straight to grad school after leaving my undergrad (and I had the chance, y’all), would I have done any of the things I listed above? I’m not sure.

Y’all know I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. But I do believe in the Rolling Stones when they said–

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

And maybe I needed a holding pattern to be ready for this next stage of life. I know I’m ready now.