Coming to you live from SongFest in Los Angeles

Oh, my dear blog followers, forgive my online absence.  I have spent most of my waking hours over the past six weeks trying to prepare for the journey that has brought me here, to LA, in a dorm room at a music school.  I’ve landed after my huge leap of faith, at SongFest 2013.

I’ve been here for only six days, but as everyone here says, “Time moves differently at SongFest.”

It’s true.  A day here can be as taxing as a week’s worth of activity.  There are classes given in the program that are so crammed with knowledge and emotional discovery that I have been brought to tears at least once a day.  I am learning from nationally-recognized experts in art song, as well as from composers, my collaborative pianists, and my fellow students, many of whom are astonishingly talented.

I had the great, great joy of singing for a composer I admire, Jake Heggie, in one of his classes.  I sang a comic duet with a friend and received direction and insight into the piece from the man who wrote it – there can be no closer contact between a singer and a song than that!  Jake Heggie is one of the most generous, kind, coaches I’ve seen.  His goal is not to make you sing a song perfectly, but authentically.  There’s a HUGE difference between the two.  And oddly, as a singer becomes more honest and vulnerable with a song, they sing it even better.

Here’s my duet partner with the great Jake after our performance:

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Me, Jake Heggie, and Loralee Songer

I will brag a bit, and say that Jake’s husband, Kurt, was so taken with our rendition of the duet that he said, “You have to take that on the road!”  Can I put that on my resume…?

I’ve heard horror stories about some of the other famous coaches who are part of SongFest.  Graham Johnson is teaching classes, now, and in the past he has been known to cut singers in two before the audience – but I think we’re all seeing him on his best behavior, due to a Sundance Films crew following him around in order to make a documentary.  The man is a walking encyclopedia of the art song genre, and can play a piano so exquisitely that it can transfix a room full of students.  Learning from him is a great honor, but he also really likes to hear himself speak, loves to name-drop Benjamin Britten, and is a kind of reclusive, self-important divo of the type I can’t stand.  So, I’ll do my best to perform my art as honestly and as well as I can (which is my goal, always) and let Graham inform me as he will.

It’s funny, but both Jake Heggie’s nurturing coachings and Graham Johnson’s tough love approach will help make me a better singer, just in different ways.

There are more coaches and lessons and classes to learn from, and I’m looking forward to it all.  I feel lucky and privileged to be here, as tiring and as draining as it is to retain such intense focus for hours on end.  I miss my family, but I wouldn’t miss this experience for anything, either.

Hopefully, I’ll have the energy to keep putting up some posts, but time seems to be flying by, already.  Happy 4th, everyone, and so long for now from the West Coast!

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