Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Believe it or not, I still blog.

In September I moved to New York.  It has been one crazy Fall season for me, so buckle up and enjoy the ride because this my (poor) excuse as to why I have failed in my blogging ways for the past few months. In one crazy-ass nutshell, here is a recap of the past few months: 

Had a great summer of some singing and relaxation spent a lot of it in Atlanta saving some money to move to New York I moved to New York in September and I sublet a place in the Bronx I actually hate don't like at all the Bronx so I'm not going to talk much about it I found an apartment with my new New York roomies James and Lindsey (the awesome Baumgardners) we live in Sunnyside which is in Queens our neighborhood is as wonderful as it sounds SUNNYSIDE we found a rent control apartment (Stingy Traveler, yo!) we have a lot of space and got everything moved in and now it feels like home which is a great thing since I travel so much it is important that I have a place to call home I don't really remember much about October because it was filled with job searching apartment searching and all-around panic attacks because hey I live in New York now and it's time to be a grown-up non-student professional singer November I went to Atlanta for the weekend midway through the month for a gala concert with The Atlanta Opera came back to New York for a New York minute I had exactly two days to take a bus to Boston and rent a van to take most of my stuff out of storage to bring back to our (boss) apartment mainly I have this glass table that my brother gave me that my aunt and uncle gave him that I wanted to get in our place because I thought that would really make the whole place come together Thanksgiving was here before I knew it had to fly back to Atlanta for the week of Thanksgiving for two rehearsals for another Atlanta Opera concert plus the holiday with the family the week was great and we all ran a 5K called The Gobble Jog at Marietta Square my time was  25 minutes which I was proud of since I ran it without training at all flew back to New York for yet another New York minute I was in New York for less than 48 hours and flew to Dallas for the beautiful wedding of my good friends Eric Czechowski and Valerie Jackopin (now Valerie Czechowski) in the matter of those 48 hours my flights connected in so many cities it's hard to count but I'll try I woke up nice and early to get to the airport in New York for a flight leaving at 6 am which means I was up at 3:30 AM to get to the airport on time I got to see legit New York hookers working the streets at that time of the day it was a first for me and I hope a last I'm pretty sure one was a tranny who got in the car with this creepy fat white dude with a long beard I digress got to the airport and flew to Chicago spent a whopping 15 minutes in Chicago before I got rerouted on a flight to St. Louis spent a hot 20 minutes in St. Louis where I bought a sandwich and looked at all the beautiful St. Louis Cardinals gear because they are the WORLD CHAMPIONS and my favorite team of all time I digress again hopped on a plane and made it to Dallas spent less than 48 hours in Dallas and it's time to fly again these were free flights so I expected all of these transfers I flew from Dallas to Oklahoma City where this lady got on the plane she saw that I was reading a book (the autobiography of Pete Sampras, if you must know) and this hick lady from Oklahoma who sat next to me asked if I was a professor simply because I was reading a BOOK is this lady for real I don't do small talk on the plane and I don't ever tell strangers what I do because the immediate response for most people who know nothing about opera and meet an opera singer is that they ask if I have ever seen Phantom of the Opera (not an opera) to which I always smile and say yes so she thought I was a professor because I was reading I didn't know that reading was only something professors and writers do (she also asked if I was a writer simply because I was reading a BOOK) and I still can't believe how dumb she was Digression flew from Oklahoma City to Baltimore where I stayed on the plane and we took a whopping 35 minute flight to New York so now I'm back in New York wake up at 5 am to work the early shift at the Health Club (I work at a Health Club in New York and I love it so much) Monday rolls around and I have 3 auditions lined up and the Health Club (my job, keep up) asked if I could work another early shift so I woke up at 3:30 to get to the club at 5 when it opens I have a nice Zen morning at the Health Club (I love how pretentious it sounds to work at a Health Club, always upper case, of course) then I hit the auditions hard core and KILLED them (which means I sang really well) got a callback so Tuesday now has two auditions Wednesday comes and I have 2 auditions, a callback, a lunch date, and an interview these auditions were some of my best yet (audition blog coming soon because I had a revelation) and am now packing (and blogging) because tomorrow morning I have one more audition and I have to get back to the airport to fly to Atlanta (yes again) for a Holiday concert next week then I will come back to New York for another week with two more important auditions and then Christmas will be here and then I'll fly to Dallas again for New Year's Eve with my Dallas friends so ends this crazy year that has been 2011.  

I'm seriously looking forward to 2012.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another chapter closes

Well, I am about to take my last trip to my storage unit to put the last of my (now few) things into storage for the next year or so.  It should be a year of good changes so I am excited, although it is sad to close this chapter of my life: Boston.

I moved to Boston almost two years ago to study at the Opera Institute at Boston University.  It's been a solid two years here.  I've grown as an artist and professional, but more importantly, I've grown as a person.  I've met some pretty incredible people, most of whom I have no worries that I will see them again soon.  There have been good times and bad (effing snow), but as always, the good sincerely out-weighs the bad.

I have to say that I have been most fortunate to live with an amazing house of roommates this year.  Jake and Ana and I lived together the past two years, and Patty joined up this year.  What wonderful people they are...we knew that this was only going to be a two year set-up when we all decided, for various reasons, to move to Boston, and boy was that the best decision I have ever made.  We have had a damn good time as roommates.

For me, in particular, it was nice to come home to a group of friends who support me, yet at the same time, I didn't have to talk shop with any of them.  In fact. we spent more time playing Mario Party or watching the Celtics than talking business, which for me was a most welcome reprieve.  I loved being able to come home and leave the opera world at my doorstep...if I wanted :)

Last weekend, I wrapped up a truly rewarding musical weekend singing Schumann's hauntingly beautiful Dichterliebe at The Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum in Lake George, NY.  This place is like some magical hidden is a renovated boathouse that has been turned into a tribute museum to the great 19th/20th century Polish opera singer, Marcella Sembrich.  And, more importantly, they have managed to create an intimate performance environment perfectly suited for a piece like the Dichterliebe.

It is a cycle of 16 German songs dedicated to the lost love of a young poet.  In his journey, he goes through every emotion imaginable...from longing to despair to outrage to hope.  Along with this concert, I was privileged to join a talented cast in the play "Old Wicked Songs" which takes us through the journey of a young, arrogant, stubborn pianist as he takes voice lessons in Austria from an equally stubborn, yet complex old man, who he believes to be a former nazi...I won't give the story away, but it takes us on a journey of emotional twists and turns with selected songs from the Dichterliebe interwoven between scenes and dialogue.  What a great project to be a part of (and a terrific play if you ever get a chance to see it).

So now, simply by time constraints, it's time to pack up my computer and take one last trip to storage.  I leave early in the morning for Atlanta, spend the month there with some excited family events coming up in the next few weeks, and then it's time to start the next chapter of The Stingy Traveler:


Yep, I'm moving there sometime in September/October.  Living in that town should (I hope) lend this blog to some pretty whopping good posts to come.

Until next time!

Ciao Boston :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Midnight in Paris

It's Friday night, and I am in Boston.

 The past month has been a whirlwind, including trips to sing in Dallas, New York, Birmingham, Chicago, with stops in Atlanta and St. Louis.  And now I'm back in Boston for the weekend, only to head out to New York on Sunday and back to Atlanta on Tuesday.

I seriously love my life.

I must admit that I am currently in one of the most nostalgic states I've experienced in a very long time.  This is handy at the moment, seeing as my current series of blogs is supposed to be focused on recording stories from trips of the past.

I just saw the new Woody Allen Movie Midnight in Paris, and I feel as though I've been swept away to a time when I, myself, lived in Paris.  If you've ever been to that city, lived in that city, or even read about that city, I highly recommend this movie.  It is one of the most charming, surprisingly romantic movies I have seen in a very long time, and in only an hour and a half, it made me fall in love with Paris all over again....

It's been almost 6 years now since I lived in Paris, and seeing all of the sights of that beautiful city took me back to a time that only seems like a dream of my own with every year that passes in which I don't revisit that town.  And with every year that goes by, it seems harder and harder to remember that, yes, I was actually there, and, yes, I do speak French.  It's sad, really, to think that my time there is becoming more and more of a fading memory...such a dream.  I guess that means I should go back :)

So as a tribute to my time in Paris, I recently went back and read my journal, and I would like to include in this post an entry from 6 years ago:

OCTOBER 9, 2005

What a fantastic weekend in Paris. The weather was simply perfect: clear skies with a slight chill. This is the last weekend in October that I will be in Paris, so we totally lived it up Parisian-style and had the best time. Friday night, Messay, Regina, and I went to this contemporary dance thing...I didn't particularly enjoy the first piece, but altogether it was an enjoyable evening. On Saturday, the beautiful weather hit. After a couple of weeks of cloudy, rainy, cold weather, this was MUCH appreciated. Messay, Brittany, and I basically walked around town for the afternoon. We stopped at the Centre Pompidou, went to the flea market, sat at the Stravinsky fountain at the Modern Art Museum, and people-watched at Hotel de Ville. We just couldn't keep ourselves from the outside was grand.

Saturday night, Regina, Messay, Brittany, Chris, Mase (in town for the weekend to see Chris), and I went to the Opera Bastille to see Hindemith's "Cardillac" What a great show. That opera was pretty mind-blowing. Set in Paris in the 1920s, it has some pretty astounding sets, and the chorus was dynamite. Not to mention the absolutely astounding lead characters. Those Europeans can sing! It was great. After the opera, went to Montmartre (where the Moulin Rouge is, by the way) for a wine festival at Sacre Coeur. Again, tons of fun enjoying Parisian life.

Today, another awesome day, Messay and I went to Parc du Monceau and just chilled outside in the beautiful was awesome. We then moved to Cite de la Musique to meet Regina and Brittany. We ended up just sitting in the grass all afternoon talking. Oh the Parisian life is for me.

On another note, let me now emphasize my total "I-can't-wait-ness" for the next couple of weeks. Next weekend, we are going for another study group, this time to the South of France. We will be staying in Nice, Marseille, and the Cote d'Azur...sweeeet. 5 day trip = getting out of class!! After we get back, we have 3 days of class, and then Jackson, Laura, and I are off to Prague for the weekend....YES!!!!!!!! I have wanted to go there forever, and I'm finally getting the chance. I just can't wait. The day we get back from Prague, Jackson and I have about 5 hours to pack for Turkey! This is going to be the most amazing Fall Break the world....the end. 

Ha, and that was just a weekend in Paris!  I'm in such a Parisian mood that I decided to take my blog to the next level and add a couple of my favorite pictures:

Eiffel Tower on a sunny day :)

This one is me at my SMU pride 

Me, the Francophile in Normandy

I could seriously add dozens more pictures, but these are just a few that caught my eye.  I'll have to save a nostalgic post from my trip to Turkey for another included, of course.  Now that will be a blog you won't want to miss.  

So to sum it up, I love Paris.  

I miss Paris. 

Go see Midnight in Paris.  

And if you are interested in seeing more pictures, here is an old website that should take you away to a beautiful country I once lived in for just a little while. 

Until next time!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hibernation is OVER.

Yes, I'm still here, and my blog still exists.  I must admit that I have thought about posting for the past month now and have simply been either too busy or too lazy to do it.

But not today.

Quick travel update for my ardent followers: been flying a lot lately.  Two weeks ago I was in New York (again) for a competition, I spent last weekend in Dallas singing for a competition, and I leave tomorrow for Atlanta so that I can drive to Birmingham on Friday for, you guessed it, a competition.  What a fun life I lead!  So that's just a brief update, but frankly not the reason I am posting today.

I decided (a month ago) to start a series of some of my all-time favorite travel stories that I believe are simply too funny not to be on written record.  So to begin this series, I have to go right to one of my favorite memories of travel ever:

PARIS, 2005.  

I must admit before I begin that many of these all-time-greatest-hits involve some of the most wonderful people in my life: my family.  We are extremely close, and consequently, we find ourselves traveling together quite often.  I am mostly to blame for this since I am such a frequent traveler, we have often met up at various places to vacation together because I am already there.

So here goes:

In 2005, I studied abroad for almost 5 months in Paris, France.  love. Love. LOVE.  It was, hands down, one of the greatest periods (to date) in my life, and I have so many memories that it is hard to pick only a few to share in this blog.  

Actually not really.  Yes, it was the best experience ever, but there are a couple of stories in particular that will stand out in my mind forever, and this is one of them. 

It was the Fall semester, and my family decided to take the week of Thanksgiving to come visit me in Paris.  Now, let me just clarify exactly who is involved in the broad term "family."  When I speak of my family traveling together, it typically involves Mom, Dad, Sister (Lauren), Brother (Eric), Grandma, Uncle Steve (Mom's brother), and Aunt Sandy and Uncle Paul (Mom's sister and brother-in-law)...did I get everyone?  Yep, that's 8 people.  Typical for us, but not for anyone else I know :)

So they all planned to come during the same week: Thanksgiving.  Do you know what holiday doesn't exist in the European semester?  You got it.  Thanksgiving.  But it was a great time for them to come, despite the fact that I still had class all week.  

My first story for the record begins on the very first day my family arrived in Paris.  To avoid jet lag, it was vital to keep them occupied and awake so they could try to adapt to the time change as quickly as possible.

"So fam, what do you want to do on your first day in Paris?"

Eiffel Tower, duh.  

Great, no problem there.  I loved going there any chance I got, so it was perfectly fine by me to take them to one of the greatest monuments France has to offer.  We dropped off luggage at their hotel, tidied up a bit, and headed out on the Metro (Paris' subway system) to go see the Eiffel Tower.

It was awesome, as usual.  It's one thing to see this famous monument in pictures, but it's a whole new ball game when witnessed in person.  We had a great time walking around seeing just a bit for the first day and anxiously deciding what to do the rest of the week.  And it was time to go back to the hotel.

We headed back to the Metro to take a train back to the hotel when I realized what time it was: rush hour.  Boo.  It happens everywhere, folks, and in Paris, those train cars can get mighty full mighty fast.  So in herding the family onto the train amidst the many hustling Parisians dying to get home, I noticed that we were missing someone...


I looked outside on the platform only to see my little old grandmother walking around looking for something, totally oblivious to the fact that she was moments away from missing the train and getting lost in a country where she didn't speak a bit of the language.

In a moment of panic, I jumped off the train as the doors were closing, leaving the rest of my family in the moving train with looks of terror on them as they started moving away from one there spoke fluent French, or for that matter, knew where they were going.  So I looked at my brother through the moving train's window and mouthed the words, "Go two stops."

And they disappeared into the train tunnel.

The platform was empty now, save for two people: me and Grandma.  I went up to her, still oblivious to anything that had just happened, and said, "Grandma, do you realize you just missed the train and almost got lost in Paris???"

And she looked at me with a very serious face and simply said:

"I want to buy a beret."


In my mind, all I could think of was:


But no, there was nothing to be said.

I want to buy a beret.

We waited on the platform together until the next train arrived (probably 5 minutes), which felt like an hour.  Grams and I took the train two stops ahead where I was praying the rest of my family would be waiting for us, and sure enough, there they were.  It was one of those wonderful moments my brother likes to remind me of when he says I got off the train and walked toward them with a look of frustration and absolute exasperation on my face.

Family in Paris, Day 1.  

This was going to be one hell of a week.

Special thanks to Grandma Ruth for giving me one of the best one-liners of my life.

I want to buy a beret.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

April is HERE.

So I wrote this [totally awesome] blog post a couple of days ago while playing on my iPad in New York, and it got erased.  Not so easy to proof read a post on an iPad, I'm just saying.  Anyway, I threw down my toy in frustration, and here I am...going to try to blog yet again!

Ironically, I mentioned in said blog how much I love my iPad.  It was pretty much a shameless plug for Apple, and then it goes and treats me like that.  Sometimes life is funny.

Anyway, the point of that is, if I am attempting to blog on my iPad, it can only mean one thing:


Yes, yes, I've been in New York for a couple of weeks now making my New York City Opera debut as Rooster Wild Thing in the opera "Where the Wild Things Are."  Haha, I know what you are thinking...just stop being jealous that I am making my debut in New York as a bumbling Wild Thing, okay?  It's my job :)

So a brief update on this stingy traveler.  In the past two weeks, I've been living in New York, made two trips to Philadelphia, and I have had to return to Boston twice now for rehearsals there (which is where I am this morning typing this blog on my dearly beloved Mac desktop).  Life is good.  I must admit, however, that all of this traveling has really put my frugality to the test, and here is why:

I know quite a lot of [wonderful] people in New York City.  So coming to town for a longer period of time, I am constantly plagued with the same idea:


Plagued. Ha, I'm such a jerk.  OF COURSE, I want to see these people, and frankly, I am not in New York City to make mac and cheese in my apartment.  So from my Frugal Rock standpoint, I have to face a very important fact here: it's time to live a little.  But have you ever stopped to think about how often we make excuses on why it's okay to spend a little extra dough?

"Well so-and-so's in town..."

"I really do neeeed a new one!"

"You know, I really do need to completely re-do my wardrobe..."

"It's Tuesday."

So where do we draw the line?  I'm not saying people shouldn't have a little fact, I'm saying that we only live once, so at times it is important to LIVE A LITTLE!  BUT I think we can also be smart about it.  For example, because I don't go out to eat on a regular basis when I am home in Boston, I think it is more than acceptable to meet some friends for dinner while I'm in New York.  I definitely want to see them all, and it's NEW YORK for goodness sake!  You can close your eyes, throw a rock, and you'll probably hit a restaurant.  [Or a homeless person].  I'm only here for 3 weeks, and if I were going to be here any longer, I certainly wouldn't make a habit of going out all the time.

In fact, twice in the last week, I've had the pleasure of hanging out with some people at their apartments, and we made dinner for ourselves.  And we had a good time!  Made me feel a little better about the restaurant receipts that have been accumulating up until now...Also, I have to consider that the opera company is giving me a pretty generous per diem to sustain me while I'm in New York.  And since I got a smacking good deal on my sublet, I can feel safe that a few extra [and abnormal] trips out to dinner won't break this stingy traveler's bank, not even for a second.

So here I am, enjoying my last day in Boston until the week is over, and I am genuinely excited to get back to New York.  This week, I have 3 performances, and my family comes in to town on Thursday.  Very excited to see everyone, and now that rehearsals have died down, I should have a little free time this week to enjoy my last bit of time in New York (until, of course, I come back next month for auditions).

And, as always, I can't help but smile at the life I lead.  It's no better than anyone else's, but it's mine, and I'm doing what I love.  Even though I keep a close eye on my bank account, I can still shake it off and have a good time.  I can't help the fact that I possess small symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but at the end of the day, I can sit back and smile knowing my life could be worse off.

Way worse off.  

And I'm thankful it's not :)

See you at dinner!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Money saving wonders of the world

Ladies and gentlemen, I have some wonderful Frugal Rock happenings to report, mostly in the field of saving a bit of money.

First of all, in response to my previous post, I sent an email to United Airlines about my trip to L.A. and how awful it was, and, as expected, they replied with an email apologizing and agreeing with me that I should have been offered more for their double-booking my seat.  So as a result of writing a letter, I now have a $400 CREDIT to be used on future flights!  Woo hoo!

You know, it's really easy to come back from a trip and whine and moan about how it went or how badly you may have been treated.  And how many times do we just vent about it but think to ourselves, "Oh well.  I guess there's nothing I can do about it."  SAYS WHO?  By simply writing an indignant email, subsequently venting into the email and describing exactly what happened on my trip, I have now been given an extra 400 bucks....all for an email that took maybe 5 minutes.  Well worth it, I should say!  Had I simply come back and complained about it, not only would I risk losing friends, but it really wouldn't be very productive.

So write your letters, folks.  You'd be surprised what you can get.

My second Frugal Rock victory is in reference to a wonderful sublet I just got for New York City.  I will be singing with New York City Opera in March/April for about 3 weeks, and I decided to check out the sublet scene to have a place to stay.  Went to craigslist, found a guy leaving for Europe on business the EXACT DAYS I will be in NY.  I was in New York for an audition last weekend, so I went to his place to meet him and see the apartment.  For the wonderful price of $400, I will be living in Washington Heights, a block away from the A train, and about 15 minute ride to Lincoln Center.  Hecks to the yeah.  I gave him the money, he gave me the keys, and I checked them to make sure they work on my way out.  Keep in mind that NYCO pays a per diem rate to cover living expenses.  When all is said and done, I'm going to be pocketing a hefty chunk of change because of what they're giving me versus what I'm paying for my NY apartment.


In other news, I went to the dentist yesterday.  Yikes and double yikes.  I have my own insurance, but it does not include dental.  I realize that this is not a good idea, but for an individual buying private insurance plans, IT SUCKS.  For those teachers, government employees out there thinking I'm stupid to not have dental, go bask in your government benefits.  You are a lucky breed.

That for an individual purchasing a dental plan, you have to pay into the plan for ONE YEAR before you receive ANY BENEFITS?  And even after a year, you are only covered for UP TO 50%!  What the hell? I don't see how this system helps people.  It needs to change, folks, it needs to change.  For a self-employed  free-lance worker, insurance is the pits.  When it comes down to it, it's not worth it.  And that shouldn't be the way.

Okay, enough about that...not a political blog.  Back to my dentist story.

So I don't have dental insurance.

I figured I had a cavity or something, because I had a toothache that started a couple of weeks ago.  I purchased a handy dental coupon for a teeth cleaning, examination, and X-Rays for only $50!  (this is a $400 value, friends).  If you're not getting your groupon, I highly suggest it.

As I thought, I do have a cavity.  Dang.  I brush and floss every day, but sometimes chocolate ice cream is just going to come back and bite you in the arss.  THEN I'm informed that I need a new crown.  Dang number two.

Any idea how much stuff like that costs to the uninsured??

Well I will tell you:
1 filling = $300
1 crown = $1,700+
GRAND TOTAL = $2,000+ 

And...Frugal Rock takes a nose dive into the pit of despair.  

But, friends, this is a stingy blog, and I always come up with a money saving solution.  And here it is:

I gave my friends at the Boston University Dental School a call, and here's what I found out: I can go in to the school and get an appointment for $70.  Not bad.  When they tell me exactly what the other folks told me needs to be done, here is what it is going to cost:

1 crown = $580
1 filling = $62
GRAND TOTAL = $712!!!

And that, my friends, is a whopping savings of $1,300+

You're welcome.  

When all is said and done, I will actually come out on top on this one.  Had I paid into a dental plan for A YEAR before I went in for this appointment, I trust I would have spent well over $700, and I would have had to still pay for a hefty portion of the bill.

Score 1,300 for the STINGY TRAVELER.

Happy savings, friends.

And...even if it is going to cost you a bit, take care of your teeth.  Go to the dentist.  At the end of the day, I know I have to have this stuff done because no one wants to see me make my Met debut with a Jack-O-Lantern smile :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

An actual travel post

Last Thursday and Friday, I went to LA to sing in the semi-finals for LA Opera.  It was a whirlwind of 48 hours.  So here, friends, is my first actual travel blog :)

Got to the airport at 9:15 Thursday morning only to find out my connection flight from San Francisco to LA had been cancelled the night before.  (Because of RAIN apparently...)

And so begins the worst travel experience of my life.

They put me on stand-by for two other possible flights, both of which I was unable to get on.  Duh.  So they finally got me on a flight to Washington-Dulles at 4:41 PM!  YES, that is a whopping 7.5 hours later.  God bless the Boston airport for having free wi-fi :)

Finally made it to D.C. and was scheduled to leave for LA around 8 PM.  But alas, it wasn't in the cards.  I went to the gate to check my carry-on bag since the flight was full, and I simply didn't want to deal with the thing on the way to LA.  When I spoke to the agent at the gate, she looked at me with a puzzled expression, and said, "Hmm...someone already has this seat."


Yes, friends, United had double-booked my seat, so I was, once again, BUMPED.  I guess it was silly of me to think that having a boarding pass with my name on it and a seat number somehow meant that I had a seat on the flight...silly Adam.

I won't go into details about how rude the gate agent was to me.  I was perfectly polite with her and trying my very best to be patient, but she was in no mood to play nice.  So I ended that conversation receiving a whopping $125 voucher for my next flight.   Ha.

When I finally boarded a plane to Los Angeles, it was 13 HOURS after I got to the airport that morning.  13 HOURS, and I didn't even leave the time zone!!!  I finally arrived in LA around 1 am (4 am Boston time), and I was picked up from my wonderful friend from high school, Hema, who now lives in LA.  SHOUT OUT to one Hema Kathiresan for being one helluva host :)

So all in all, it took me 19 hours to get to LA as a result of, as I suspect it, a flight from San Fran to LA that was undersold and, therefore, canceled due to RAIN.  Ha!  These airlines, I tell you...

Anyway, this blog is not meant to be a place to rant and whine about my life as a stingy traveler.  There are MANY plus sides to this trip, and here are some of them:

-I got to go to LA, even if it was only for 24 hours.  I haven't been since I was 6 years old, and I must admit: I love California.

-I did receive $125 off a future flight (score one: Stingy Traveler!), and I'm planning on getting a little bit more from United when/if they respond to my very strongly worded letter about their customer service and flight management.

-As it turns out, I did not actually have to pay for this trip at all.  The generous Opera Institute at Boston University managed to round up the funds to fully pay for my trip to LA for this audition (score two: Stingy Traveler!!).  I am SO THANKFUL for this.

-And finally, it was a pretty successful audition.  I did get called back and had a pretty great coaching with a member of the LA Opera music staff before I boarded a red-eye flight Friday evening to get back to Boston for two tech rehearsals Saturday afternoon.  So we'll see what happens!  It is out of my hands at this point.

...but is ever actually in my hands?  I managed to sing well after 19 hours of terrible traveling, and I can't say that I have any other explanation for this other than divine intervention.  Someone must have been smiling on me...


Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Tribute

This morning I sang at a memorial service for an 89-year old member of the choir at the church where I am employed.  His name was Stuart.  And this is his tribute:

When I first met Stuart, I had only recently moved to Boston and began working at the church as a staff singer.  Stuart was 88 years old, and I was 24.  That's a mighty big age difference for two alike souls.  When we first met, though, Stuart offered his hand with a friendly smile, and he said, "Say hello?"  (I know now this was a typical greeting from Stuart) I happily accepted his handshake and returned his smile, and when I withdrew my hand from this pleasant greeting, I found that Stuart left inside my hand a small piece of chocolate.  The terminal chocolate addict I am, I smiled at this generous act, and Stuart smiled back, simply happy to have me there.  It was a special moment.

Over the past year, I've learned a bit about Stuart.  An active member of the choir for over 30 years (maybe even 50, if I recall correctly), Stuart lived a life full of love of music.  He proudly adorned choir robe #1, and over the years he volunteered his personal time as the music librarian.  In the prime of his choir career, Stuart even showed up early to church every Sunday to bake muffins and prepare coffee for the rest of the choir.  Simply put, to say that Stuart was devoted to the choir would be unfitting to the true dedication with which he served and sang.  No words can describe the nature of his devotion.

The Stuart that I came to know was a bit different, if only on the outside.  In 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw and subsequently had the majority of his jaw removed.  The Stuart I knew was a tiny, frail old man with a distorted face, yet he still exuded a zest for life, and he owned a soul as young as mine.  After he conquered his battle with cancer, Stuart still sang.  Even with his aging, wobbly voice, Stuart showed up to choir rehearsals almost every Thursday evening up until last year when we last sang together.

And he sang out.  

I'll admit, when you have an 88 year-old singing out as loud as he can because he can't hear the music and he can't hear the pitch, it's not a pretty sound!  Yet all of that can be ignored when you witness the love pouring from his voice, despite its aged sound and wobbly timbre.  And it was beautiful for that.

As I sit here recalling the brief, yet invaluable time I had with Stuart, I am thankful.  We don't get many opportunities along the way to witness a positive life force such as the one I found in Stuart Dunbar.  I am truly saddened at his passing, yet I find comfort knowing that he is carrying on his tune somewhere beyond my current comprehension.  I can only imagine that Heaven has been waiting a long time to get that voice within its gates.  And I can't help but smile at the thought of it.

Today I sang one of Stuart's favorite pieces of church music.  It's a melody many know and few forget, and its words live on in the memory of my friend, Stuart:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee. 
How great thou art!  How great thou art!  

In closing, I would like to leave this tribute to a great man with one final musical quote.  It's from a beautiful anthem taken from Psalm 23.  I don't particularly care what your religious preference may be, because I think anyone anywhere can fall deeply in love with the poetic nature of this text:

O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise!  
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest, 
But like a child at home.  

I like to think that Stuart is smiling down on us now, and when he finally shook the hand of his maker, I'm pretty sure he left a small piece of chocolate inside God's hand.

Sing on, Stuart, sing on :)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Time to write

I've been working 7 days a week for the past couple of weeks, sometimes until 10 pm or it's been hard to write anything as of late.  Tonight, however, I find myself with the night off and can think of nothing better I would like to do than blog about recent happenings. 

I really like to write.  Like, a lot.  It is a skill that comes in mighty handy when trying to woo a potential employer into seeing all of the greatness that is ME :)  I work in a business where networking is vital.  Who doesn't, really?  I mean, I can't think of any work trade where networking doesn't create positive results.  In my contact with directors, artistic administrators, etc, it is pretty hard to relay the point that I'm dying to be hired without coming off as desperate.  I mean, we need to be wanted, right?  But who wants a desperate brown-noser?  I sure don't.  

So in the countless emails I write, day in and day out, it is important to use the writing skills I have secured over the years.  A special shout-out is necessary here to an insanely talented group of English teachers and professors I have had along the way.  Vicki, Sandy, Pete, and Jolly have meant more to my educational years than you could possibly imagine.  (Yes I'm on a first-name basis with my high school English teachers because we are tight like that.)  I still keep in touch with a small handful of teachers who made a difference in my high school career, and for that I am thankful.  Why, just over Thanksgiving holiday, I had a lovely dinner with one of those former teachers.  Always supportive.  Always happy to see where life is taking me these days.  THANK YOU.  

Anyway, if I learned one thing from them, I learned this in my writing: grammar is IMPORTANT.  I had a professor (who shall remain nameless) write a recommendation for me.  He/she (seriously I'm not giving any hints to who this person is) gave me several copies so I could use them as-needed.  Of course [with permission] I opened one and read it.  The grammar was horrifying.  How can I submit a recommendation where some sentences don't even end with a PERIOD??  It's embarrassing.  Or at least it should be.  And misspelled words?  How does that even exist these days?  I mean, even my blackberry has spell-check...

I am quite happy to have developed what is, in my humble opinion, an eloquent sense of writing.  I think it helps these people who read my emails/cover letters know that I am both sensible and engaging.  And OF COURSE that translates to the stage!  Ha!  I'm an exhibitionist for crying out loud!  I don't like to present a product that is sub-par, so I scrutinize until my brain hurts.  And the moral of the story is: it pays off.  I've always received positive feedback from letters or emails I've written, even if the subject matter is, shall we say, dangerous?  Ballsy?  Courageous.  That's it.  I mean, ask and ye shall receive, right?  What's the worst that can happen if I ask someone to hire me?  They may say "no."  And at that point, I'm no worse off than if I had never asked in the first place.  Say "thank you for your time and consideration" and request to be kept in mind for future employment opportunities.  Fin.  

So tip of the day, kids, is this: love your teachers.  (Or at least the good ones)

In other news, I am happier at this moment than I have ever been in my entire life.  I'm recently coming off of a couple months of being sick...or really, being un-well.  Tired.  Burnt out, really.  November and December taught me a lot in terms of dealing with this career when I'm not feeling my best.  Unfortunately, I had a string of pretty unsuccessful auditions.  [sh]It happens.  Singing ill, however, is rarely a good idea.  No one I know or ever will know can be perfectly healthy and at his best at all times.  It's impossible.  This was simply a case of bad timing.  

Or was it?  I am actually really thankful for the experience of the "terrible auditions." And, more importantly, I am thankful for everything going for me at this exact moment.  I'm feeling healthier than I have in years.   I'm working out 6 days a week (so long, holiday weight!), eating healthy, and singing better than I have ever sung.  What I have rediscovered in myself since December is my love for what I do.  I'm sorry to say that I lost that [a bit] toward the end of the year; but I am happy to report that my love for what I do has returned in bounty.  

God, I'm a lucky guy.  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I fell in the snow.

In my never-ending attempt to add a little humor to life, I would like to begin this blog post with a [true] story:

Last week it snowed in Boston.  And snowed, and snowed, and SNOWED.  We had quite a mild winter last year, which was my first in Beantown, so I have not yet had the pleasure of the heavy snow experience.   I know my brother may scoff at this, but we got somewhere around 15 to 18 inches, I believe (he lives in Minnesota).  Anyway, when this much snow falls, the immediate course of action is to start shoveling.  As a result, the sidewalks become walled in by feet of snow on either side.  In addition, a bush or tree will  occasionally become so heavy with snow that will fall over, creating an obstacle on a sidewalk.  And this is where my story begins...

I was walking home from rehearsal, and I was on the phone (a shout out to all good sons who call their mom).  I was walking along the sidewalk when I came upon said bush blocking my path.  Of course, the daredevil I am, I figured I would simply climb the 3-foot wall of snow to my right to go around the tree.  As I started to climb, my foot sank into the snow, and I went down.  In a valiant effort to not drop my brand new Blackberry Torch in the snow, I made a snap decision to let my body take the brunt of the fall, and I rolled down that snow like a fat kid stuck in a tire on a steep hill.  Imagine, if you will, the younger brother from A Christmas Story falling down in the snow.  Yep, that was me.

But I didn't drop my phone.  Yes, my clothes were covered in dirty snow (you know, the gross kind that you end up with a day or two after the beautiful white stuff).  But I didn't drop the phone.  AND I don't think Mom had any idea it even happened :)

As an ardent fan of videos of people falling, I only wish there was a camera on when I took the plunge.  It would have been epic.


I feel very fortunate that I am able to laugh at myself.  I know I can say stupid things.  I know I don't always know what I'm talking about, despite any attempt at fooling someone that I do.  But I also know that what I have to say can be worthwhile, and I am thankful for the confidence that has been given to me to LAUGH.

I've come across a lot of people in my [short] life, and it is always curious to me when I meet a "stick in the mud."  How can we go through this journey in life without laughing at ourselves from time to time?  It makes life, as the Irish would say, GRAND.

And finally, I would like to end this post with a bit of financial advice.  After all, my blog is somewhat designed around my self-made art of frugality...

Don't put dollar bills in your mouth.  You don't know where they've been.  

Happy snow hiking, friends :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And so it begins...

Well friends and followers, after reading so many of my friends' [pretty terrific] blogs, I have decided to venture into the world of blogging.  Strangely enough, however, it was a blog I read of a complete stranger which inspired me to begin writing myself.  I read a blog of a father who took his nine-year old daughter to the Harry Potter World in Florida, and it was simply touching.  He spoke of the magic of a stranger's kindness to his child, and it made me thankful that I was able to have a look on what would typically have been a more private, intimate moment that made him look at the world differently.  So here I go.

This is not a singer's blog...even though I am a singer.

This is not an educational blog...even though I am educated.

This is not a political blog...even though, well you get the point.

This is a liver's blog.

Wait.  That sounds as if I have a body part struggling to get its point of view across to the world.  Dang.  It sounded so much more profound in my head.

Correction: this is a blog of someone who is in love with living.

In 2010, I lived, studied, sang, worked and/or traveled in Boston, MA, New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, St. Louis, MO, Tanglewood, MA, Dallas, TX, and Wexford, Ireland.  There is a slight possibility I am missing one or two, but you get the gist.  I love to travel.  I have to love to travel in order to do what I do.  I am a professional singer [more or less], and this requires I be available to sing in many different places.  And I love what I do.  In my [extremely limited] career so far, I have met some amazing people, seen some incredible sights, and shared some awesome memories with some wonderful folks.  And I am thankful for that.

So why the title?  Frugal Rock: The Life of a Stingy Traveler.

In trying to think of a name for this blog, I almost tried "sorry, but this blog name is not available."  But even that one was taken.  It's pretty hard to think of a name to represent myself, and there are a lot of really great names already taken out there.  However, with not too much effort, I came up with this title.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty tight pursed, if you will.  Stingy? Eh.  Frugal.  YES.  With all the traveling I do, this is an important character trait to have because otherwise I would be BROKE.  It is very easy to spend a LOT of money when you travel as much as I do.  Why, just in November/December of 2010, I purchased 5 one-way plane tickets.  That's some moolah, folks, and I don't claim to make a lot of that.  I simply spend it wisely.

Back to the title.  In my never-ending attempt to try to apply a clever wit to everything/anything, I thought of the old kids' show, Fragal Rock.  Ha!  Frugal...Fragal.  Play on words.  You get it.  I'm clever [sometimes].  At least I will try to be as I express some simple things in my life that I find to be worthwhile.  And if I am [ever] able to touch the heart of all of the ardent readers I am sure to have, then that will simply give me one more thing for which to be thankful.

Let the blogging begin!