Spring has sprung! Tis the season of flowers and rebirth and allergies. Isn’t it wonderful?!
April is also a special month for me because it’s my birthday month. I love that I was born in the season of renewal because I get a chance to reflect and do things differently. After 45 years, I am happy to say that I am still learning lots of new things.
But before I get into that, I have to give a hearty congratulations to my students Kendall Dill, Ella Winter, and Violet Noon for their spectacular performances of Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, and Glinda, respectively, in their middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. I am so very proud of them. I can’t wait to see them in our Peak Vocal Academy production of Suor Angelica in June.
Great job, all of you!
Speaking of performances, I am singing in the chorus of the North Carolina Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess. One of our chorus members is a singer named Elvira Green. If you’ve never heard of her, that’s okay. I didn’t know who she was, either, until I looked her up. But it wasn’t until I met her that I really understood who she was. Ms. Green has been singing longer than I’ve been alive. She has sung all over the world including as a resident artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for 20 years. This lady knows a thing or two about singing. Her signature role was Maria (pronounced Mariah) in Porgy and Bess; however, in this, her last performance of the work, she chose to sing in the chorus. And she is a native of Greensboro, NC!
During rehearsal, we got a chance to talk for a bit and she explained how her first performance of this show was in the chorus and this was her way of coming full circle with it. She has sung 647 runs of the show. Of this she said, “…and I am still learning it.” She didn’t have an air of superiority or arrogance. Instead, she sat and listened to our amazing chorus master and even asked him questions. She, easily, could have corrected him or taught him; instead, she wanted to make sure she was following his direction. This is the ultimate in humility and, I think, how we should all approach life.
She unapologetically asked questions and openly admitted her mistakes. She did not expect herself to be perfect and didn’t try to be. She just recognized where her shortcomings were and made adjustments when necessary to make sure she could deliver her best performance. So, to my students, I will say this: If Elvira Green after 647 performances still makes mistakes and doesn’t expect perfection, neither should you after 1 or 2 tries of a song. I don’t think any of you have performed 647 of anything, so have patience with yourselves and move forward from a place of wanting to do your best instead of striving for perfection.
Then came the singing part. I sat next to Ms. Green for 2 hours and I listened to her sing. She is an older lady yet her voice still has power and beauty. It’s amazing! I learned about breath control, articulation, and musical phrasing; I learned about understanding and accepting my limits and not just pushing past them for the sake of keeping up with everyone else. One doesn’t get to sing for over 55 years by not respecting and taking care of your voice. It is such an incredible experience to sing next to this absolute super star of a woman. She could be a very different woman; instead, she is kind, humble, helpful, and sweet. What a great example she is setting for all of us. This is what it means to be a diva.