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When I announced to my parents I wanted to major in voice at the end of my freshman year of high school, they thought it was a joke. And they laughed about it and told me it was funny. It took a year for it to sink in that I was serious. I don't blame them. I've had many hobbies in the past - ice skating, ballet, art, math olympiad - and none of it lasted long. They had no reason to trust a 15-year-old with the attention span of a squirrel to actually carry through on the "whole singing thing." Back when I told them of my newly-found dream, I had just completed my first year of choir and a total of 4 months of voice training. During that time, I had, somehow, gotten into both sectional- and regional honor choir and spend two glorious weekends rehearsing and performing. I was hooked.
My parents, though lax compared to most other Chinese parents, had their eyes set on something more practical for me: business. I'd always been good at math and science. And, what's more, I genuinely enjoyed it. Though I told people that I was taking AP Chem just to get the GPA bump, the truth was I loved every minute of it. But music became a big part of my life. I looked forward to choir and band more than anything else. I loved belting out show tunes in my room and annoying the neighbors. And, during those rare honor choir weekends, I would pretend that this is what I did for a living and sang like I was being paid for it. For my last two years of high school, I commuted an hour each way to my voice lesson every week, sometimes twice a week. I was in love with singing. I couldn't imagine not doing it for a living.
And then college application time rolled around. My parents were worried that I'd started too late to get into a performance program. Plus, even if I did, what are the chances I'd have a stable career? They picked seven schools for me, all for music education, music business, and general arts degrees. I got to pick three that I actually wanted to go to, but also for music education. I didn't care at the time. As long as I got into a music program, I was happy.
One crazy year later, I was starting as a music education major at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the best schools for music educators in the country. I went to the mandatory music ed meeting during orientation, and promptly changed my BM in Ed to a BA in Music the first week of school. My argument, which I still 100% agree with: the world doesn't need another bad music teacher. See, I've been blessed with so many good music teachers. But I've also seen my fair share of teachers who would rather be doing something else. I didn't want to be one of those teachers who would rather be performing and blame their students for their current position.
My first voice lesson went something like this:
Me: I want to be a voice performance major.
My teacher: What major are you now?
Me: Music ed. But I don't really want to do the whole... teaching thing...
My teacher: Well, I have to hear you sing, but you can audition into it.
Me: Oh great! When can I do that?
Cut to me unable to do any simple vocalizes because of my unhealthy belt habit and my split register. Really though, I had a gigantic hole in my middle voice.
For the next two years, I would ask my teacher every other lesson when I would be ready to audition into voice performance. I'm not exaggerating when I say I have the best voice teacher in the world. She was patient, kind, insightful, and gave me all the courage to keep trying. After two years of hard work, but also multiple break downs and a brief period as a voice and piano double major (wow did that end quickly), I was finally declared ready to go for it. (Of course, that was also the last chance for me to try. We literally waited until the last possible moment.) Three songs and multiple questions later, I was accepted. I cried tears of happiness and began preparing for my now-mandatory junior recital.
The rest of my college career passed in a blur. I almost failed my level three jury, but somehow got through by the skin of my teeth. After that, I went to Florence, Italy to study Italian opera. I took lessons in the city twice a week. I sang my senior recital without forgetting a word. I got to be a part of the group that sang at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. I graduated a semester earlier than expected. And I got cast in my first show since high school.
I look back at that 15-year-old girl who has barely started and I see how far I've come. I am thankful for every one of my educators, and especially my current voice teacher for believing in me and giving me a chance. I am thankful for my parents who took some convincing and a few years to come around, but are now fully supportive of my dream.
I had just become truly comfortable at school, and now I'm out of it. I'll go to a bigger pond, where I'm the smallest fish once again. It's a scary though. New York City is a big place. But hopefully, seven years down the road, I'll look back at me now - 22, just out of college, full of fear and anticipation - and I'll think to myself: I've come so far.
It has been a while since I made any new content, so I thought it's about time I made a video explaining why I was gone for so long. I hope you enjoy this video!
Recital Video recorded and edited by Robbie Frank of Reflections Film LLC.
Readings and Carols picture from Westminster Choir College Facebook Page.
Avenue Q Poster from Rhino Theatre in Pompton Lake, New Jersey.
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I watched all 8 of the Harry Potter movies before I even cracked open the first book. My Potterhead friends hated that. They told me, “But the books are so much better! If you don't read the books you won't get what's going on!” My reasoning to them was this: if I read the books, I would always be comparing the films with the books, and I wanted to enjoy the films for what they are before inevitably ruining them with the genius, detailed storytelling the book offers.
My boyfriend, who has a degree in Film Studies and who frequently works on the sets of TV shows and movies, told me that film is a completely different artform than literature and should be treated as such. When I complained to him that it's the little clever moments of dialogue or rhythm in the storytelling that I craved in the movie adaptations, he made a great point that those moments are specific to the reader and it would be impossible to realize all of that in a 2 hour movie (or 7 seasons of a TV show… ahem, Game Of Thrones). It seems to me that movies tell the story of what is happening while books tell us how it happened. Showing Harry’s hallucinogenic dream of Dobby’s heads as Christmas baubles or Sirius singing “God rest ye merry hippogriff”, I'll admit, though reluctantly, does not help move the story along. After all, this is why 2-hour-long movies are wildly more popular in our world which is constantly searching for instant gratification than one-week-long books. And it's true; if you can find out what happens in an entire story in 2 hours, why find out in a week?
For a lot of people, just watching the story happen is enough. You get the jist of the story accompanied, more often than not, by spectacular explosions and steamy kisses between two very attractive people. It's easy, it's quick, and you can move on with your life right after the closing credits (which you should always sit through, post about that coming soon). But if the movie is made well enough, it should act as a book trailer to those who have yet to experience the book in all of its unabridged glory. It should leave you wanting more. And this is often where I find myself: wanting to flesh out the skeleton that is the movie.
Now, for those of you out there (and I know you exist), who argue that the book should always be consumed first so that you can build your images of the characters first without the corruption of popular actors and director’s decisions, I am going to offer another way of thinking. I am a strong believer that knowing something happens doesn't mean you know how it happens. Because of this, the movie adaptations cannot hurt the books. I am also a believer that movie characters and book characters are different people with different motives and needs; think of them as being in parallel universes with mostly similarities and a few key differences. Therefore, it is easy for me to separate the movie portrayal of them and the ones from the book which I've built up in my imagination.
Finally, I would like to offer up some Kathee logic. It is almost always better to go from less to more, be it food, friends, or puppies. Therefore, theoretically, it should be better going from film, which has less information, to literature, which has much more. Just think! By watching the movie first, you'll get to enjoy it as it was intended to be enjoyed without having to constantly compare it to your colorful, vast, personal imagination. And afterwards, when you do decide to pick up the book, you'll be visiting an old friend, and getting to know them better.
For many of us, planners and calendars run the world. From pencil-ing in doctor's appointments to keeping track of our meals, planners are terrific things. They exist on all different platforms, too! And some of them you can even sync them up with all of your devices. But as much as we all love planners, I am here to give you my unpopular opinion on it. Here it is: we like planners so much not because we are getting more organized, but because we want to feel more organized.
Now, I'm not talking about the people who actually get At-A-Glance business planners or ones who use their calendars faithfully and actually complete the tasks as written. I'm talking about the people like myself: the ones who are in love with Kate Spade and Lilly Pulitzer calendars, constantly seeks out new formats, and have never completely filled out a single planner in their lives. We are also the same people who have too many clothes but forget to fold laundry for weeks at a time, who leave our houses in the morning but have to come back three times because we keep forgetting things, who spends so much time looking for our sunglasses before a walk that the dogs fall asleep in their harnesses.
Those of you reading right now are probably having one of two reactions: 1) This is so me right now, and 2) There are people who live like this? Yes, it's true. We don't choose to live like this. This is why we are addicted to planners. This is why we purchase the cutest ones we can find so we can try to trick ourselves into thinking that we may someday change our disorganized ways. It's not that we don't write things down. In fact, we write down the same event or task in our five planners and our Google calendars so we can feel like we are doing something productive with our lives when the reality is so far from that. We are the people who have reasoned out with ourselves that writing things down is as important, if not more important, than doing the actual thing we wrote.
So, if you are one of these people, here's the bad news: no matter how many colorful planners you have, and how filled up each day looks on paper, their sole purpose is to make you feel like you have your life together. No planner will turn your life around. But the good news? If you want to change your life and become more organized, it's all on you. You don't have to rely on anything else to achieve your goals. But until you are ready to make a commitment quite yet, (like me), there are plenty of planners waiting for you at Paper Source.
Michelangelo often sculpted himself. The one that stands in the Duomo of Siena is a very early work of his. How can you tell? In his later self sculptures, he always put a dent in his own nose because he broke it at some point in his life. This one is obviously early because he hadn't broken his nose yet!
Being one of the best sculptors in the world at the time, Michelangelo was always getting dragged places to carve sculptures and make beautiful art for important people. During his career, he was always trying to go home to Florence, but the Pope kept dragging him back to Rome and telling him to "finish what you started." Poor guy! He was always getting shipped places and he always owed someone money.