Giuseppe Verdi and The Divine Sarah Vaughan

My career path has opened up into a place in which I have the unique opportunity to create concerts honoring pioneers of the music that resonates deep within my soul. Not many performers have these amazing and challenging opportunities, so I consider the responsibility of caring for the music as it is delivered to the audience to be sacred and extremely meaningful. Artists and composers about whom I have created, arranged, and performed concerts in the past include Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Van Heusen, Peggy Lee, Jerome Kern, and J.S. Bach, among countless compilation performances honoring multiple music masters. My next concert celebration, occurring this weekend, consists of performing the passionate and unparalleled Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi at The Peace Center with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and the Greenville Chorale, conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel. Just two weeks later I will be fronting the best jazz band in Upstate South Carolina, the Greenville Jazz Collective Contemporary Quartet, in our collaborative romp honoring the musical legacy of Sarah Vaughan. Wildly different extremes? Maybe, maybe not.

I once studied classical voice with a teacher who told me, “One day you will have to make a choice between singing classical music or jazz. You won’t be able to do both well.” A few weeks later she finally heard me sing jazz in a public performance and told me, “Now that I have heard you sing jazz, I may have been wrong. You may be one of few people able to pull off singing both styles at a high level. . .” A few decades later, I AM singing both, and I attribute this to my adopting a mindset taught to me by Duke Ellington: “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad.” I have endeavored to only listen to and to perform the former, while eschewing the latter. As I have progressed through my career, I have enjoyed performing (and teaching others to perform) authentically in more than one style. It takes very good ears to do this, as well as a willingness to continue to learn from other performers, and a technique that is malleable. Moreover, a disciplined lifestyle and commitment to the art form are necessary, too, as any high level singer can attest. Performing “good” music well is no small feat.

The fire of Verdi’s music juxtaposed with the cool simmer of Vaughan’s represents a challenge that I have relished over the last month or so. Working on these two bodies of literature simultaneously has actually helped to create balance in my vocal instrument, in that the Verdi requires full, operatic, powerful singing and dynamic extremes, while the Vaughan music allows for more improvisational interpretation, gentler singing, but with no less breath management and precision. In a way, the Verdi has honed my chops in preparation for the Vaughan, since Sarah was known for having an instrument as supple, seamless, rich, musical, and full of beauty as those possessed by the finest operatic singers of her day. Perhaps this eclectic juxtaposition in my concert calendar was divinely planned! Perhaps I needed the Verdi to correctly interpret the Vaughan. . . the serendipitous ordering of these events is not lost on me.

So get ready, Greenville! You can witness the angst, fury and spiritual upheaval of Verdi’s masterwork on May 5 and 6 at The Peace Center, and then join me on May 22 at the Coffee Underground Theater (1 Coffee St. @ 7:30 pm) for the denouement–an equally satisfying breath of sweet music so effortlessly bestowed upon us by Sarah Vaughan, “The Divine One.”



Why should artists journal? What could there possibly be to write about? I have noticed over the past couple of months that I personally journal more than I initially realized I did before I gave it serious thought. To give you a description, I have one journal that I write in like a diary, recording things I am learning, quotations I wish to remember, events that are significant, a daily list of things for which I am thankful, thoughts, feelings, patterns I notice in my life, goals, and other miscellany. Another (separate) journal I maintain on a daily basis is a business log of all the work I complete during the course of a day. This helps me keep track of important contacts, dates of possible future concerts, progress on any projects I am in the middle of, work done at home or away from home, errands run, strategic planning, commissions, songs or articles written, and so forth. Being a self-employed, entrepreneurial, performing artist, composer, and author, this log helps me both assign and complete the work I set out to do according to goals set and projected timelines.

Yet another notebook is used to log in my daily practice time including start and end times and total number of minutes practiced, as well as the instrument and repertoire. This log is necessary, because with several projects on my plate at once, I have to have a system through which I plan enough preparation in advance of a project, so my practice log is a wonderful way I can keep my commitment to practicing for jazz shows, symphony concerts, church solo repertoire, and any impending piano performances. I also write about any problems, challenges, or victories/revelations that come to light in each practice session. I’ve been encouraging my students for many years to journal about their practice sessions and things they learn when they delve into the music and text. Music provides so much that we can learn and apply to life, but to continue to be a student willing to absorb learning takes continued discipline long after our schooling is doneā€¦

Still another log is used to record my physical exercise. For this I use my old-fashioned day planner (a small notebook, not a computer or phone) so that I can quickly access and chart my schedule of workouts, recording which workout I did on which day. Since I aim to cover cardio, weight training, stretching, yoga and various body-targeted regimens each week, recording them in my calendar is necessary so that I don’t miss any or skip the ever-important and long-awaited “rest” day when it comes around in the rotation. šŸ™‚

I strongly maintain that I am more apt to remember something I wrote longer than something I typed or clicked into a digital calendar, so I am glad to keep with the familiar written word when I record all of these daily tasks. I have started something else called an illustrated discovery journal (suggested by Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance) in which I cut, paste and write things I love–it is more of a scissor/paper type of journaling system in which I have fun drawing pictures and writing in colored markers when I’m feeling the need to be juvenileā€¦ All told, my journaling habits have expanded and evolved over time to include so many aspects of my daily life. When disciplined routines become necessary, I embrace this long-practiced habit and am thankful to have been shown at a young age the benefits of journaling and the myriad ways it can be utilized to accomplish one’s goals for work and personal growth!


For the latest news and updates, subscribe below: