Evening Gowns OUT, Jeans and Comfortable Shoes IN
OK, so, now what?
35 years. What?!? The Performance History document and the Discography show plenty of evidence I spent more than 35 years making my living as a singer. Most of those 35 years were spent working at the very highest level of the classical music business: the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony – at Ravinia and on Michigan Avenue, the Salzburg Festival and the Philharmonics of Vienna and Berlin. Those were regular stops every season. I still have a 5,000 Austrian Schilling note in my desk drawer from the days before the Euro. Yes, there were days before the Euro.
There were also life-changing experiences at Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, and Carnegie Hall. I sang at Carnegie Hall a lot. It was all before social media, though, so no one knew. I got to sing a recital at the Supreme Court, by special invitation from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and I got to sing with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II’s 80thbirthday, which I thought was just grand.
Riding the wave of the CD boom, I made a lot of recordings in the 1980s and ‘90s. Over 70, actually. Works by Bach, Handel, Mozart (lots of Mozart), Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler. I was nominated for the Grammy award five times and won twice! Those two Grammys are on a shelf in my home but you have to hunt for them.
I might also have won a Grand Prix du Disque but I’m not sure. I don’t speak French.
After roaming the classical music world for 20 years, I made a bold – some might say stupid – decision. I chose to walk away from all of it to spend more time singing songs I love from the American Songbook. That would be the Great American Songbook, songs by Gershwin, Porter, Bernstein and Sondheim, which really are Great. I also did musical theater productions, cabaret shows and a few jazz projects. It just felt more authentic, it felt comfortable and I loved it! My standard quote became: “Doing music I love, with people I love, in places I love; for me life does not get any better”.
In 2006, I joined a faculty. As Mrs. Anna (from ‘The King & I’) famously said: “By my students I am taught”. Those words certainly describe my experience as a teacher. To touch the lives of students, or any young person, is to touch the future. I have a lot packed into my head and heart from 35 years of professional experience. Sharing it gives it meaning beyond compare. But, truth to tell, most of the learning was actually done by me.
However, like it or not (and I do both, depending on the day) That Was Then and This Is Now.
Today, I am fully retired and wondering why I waited until my early-60s to do that! I am inventing a retirement career teaching ENL (formerly known as ESL) and adult literacy through a program at my local library called VITAL, Volunteers In Tutoring Adult Learners. I often feel this is the most important work of my life. Helping international folks understand and speak English with more confidence and humor is a great joy!
I've also begun volunteering with the Mobile Food Pantry, part of the Area 10 Agency on Aging's outreach in my community.
Many hours every week, I work for the Refugee Support Network in Bloomington. I'm on the Board and I head-up the Special Friends. Our clients are some of the bravest people I've ever met and it is an honor to work alongside them.
I’m also a classical-music deejay on WFIU, the NPR affiliate at Indiana University. It’s a part-time gig where I work with young, smart, funny people. I’m hoping they make me smart and funny, too. Besides, with them I always have Tech Help. I still sing occasionally for my beloved Causes (please do visit that page of this website) and for ‘friends & family’ events. So far, no one has run to get the hook.
Mahatma Ghandi said, “LIVE as though you’ll die tomorrow. LEARN as though you’ll live forever”. So I continue to attend lectures, take copious notes, and learn as much as I can. Whether it's hearing a NASA scientist talk about the ISS or a pediatrician discussing the Flint, MI, water crisis or learning about the U.S. Constitution so I can half-way explain the First and Second Amendments to my ENL conversation group, I adore learning new things! I’ve also joined a 20-voice ‘a cappella’ choir called Voces Novae where I sing in the No Stress section, also known as Alto II. Let the youngsters worry about high notes, been there, done that …
Other than those retirement career activities, I exercise, do yoga, travel, read, Netflix binge and enjoy my awesome circle of friends! Living the Dream. I’m healthy, I’m comfortable, I’m happy. Who could ask for anything more?