Friday, February 27, 2015

American Choral Directors Association Conference 2015

Greetings, friends! I am writing from Salt Lake City where I have enjoyed 4 vibrant days of phenomenal music at the ACDA international conference. These conference/retreat experiences are so nourishing to me as an artist, and they are simply good for my soul! Hearing such wonderful ensembles as Voces 8, Sine Nomine, The King's Singers, The Real Group, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra (performing in the tabernacle with its amazing acoustics), the USC Thornton Chamber Singers, the Utah Symphony with Sylvia McNair and the US Air Force Singing Sergeants--all in the same week--leaves one dizzy with beautiful, lush, healing sounds buzzing around in one's head. If only all the sounds in my head were always this edifying!

On top of concert after concert of inspiring music (and not just from the professionals--the school and college groups selected to perform here are pretty inspiring too!) there are, of course, the standard workshops that all conferences sport... Being ever interested in learning and growing, I've had my notebook out several times this week, learning about such interesting subjects as American folksongs and where to find them, how to sing in Russian, new interesting methods of vocal warmups and improvisation, the changing vocal fold structure of the aging singer, and singing through score after score of new, wonderful choral music.

Even more rewarding, though, than all this aural and mental stimulation have been the priceless moments of reuniting with friends I have met along my musical path: other Ithaca College music alumni (as well as former Ithaca mentors of mine), other University of Southern California alumni (and mentors from there!), friends from my professional singing career (my fellow studio singers with Alfred Music Publishing), and professional colleagues I've gained from my years living in South Carolina, New York and Los Angeles. What a whirlwind week--and what beautiful memories we are still making...

These very important growing experiences have more significance than I formerly realized. While it is important to continue learning about my craft and profession (by attending conferences) and to periodically surround myself with the very best music on the planet (by attending conferences), an unexpected further blessing comes when I realize that, in so doing, I have taken time to look back and remember where I have been, treasure the people with whom I have learned about life and art, and share memories--both old and new--with those whom I consider lifelong friends in music. I fully believe the words offered me by vocal pedagogue Dale Moore who once took me aside and exclaimed, "You have chosen the very best profession in the world." If this is work, who needs vacations?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Big Band Experience...

I am fortunate to have opportunities to perform a number of different types of concerts in various locales... coming up next will be a Spartanburg, SC performance of my big band show, "Beyond the Sea: Tish Oney's Big Band Excursion" with the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band (Feb. 10 at 7:30 in the USC Upstate Performing Arts Center, 800 University Way, Spartanburg--864-503-5695 for tickets). This show is a big deal to me--the arrangements were written by Chris Walden, a Grammy-winning large ensemble arranger who has helped me put together not only this show, but my two symphony pops shows as well, Joe Riposo, an acclaimed jazz musician (alto sax), educator, composer, arranger and author of several books devoted to jazz improvisation, and Jason Goldman, another top-flight alto sax player/composer/arranger whose music is lush, challenging and full of reharmonization.

This particular show features three Riposo arrangements, two of which are collaborations I have shared with Joe. We co-wrote "Hidden Soul" and "A Blue Goodbye" together years ago (he the music and I the lyrics), and he recently completed a big band chart of the latter, which will receive its world premiere at my February concert. I have treasured Joe as an important jazz mentor, collaborator and friend over the years, so it is my privilege to share his work with this audience.

Last year I had the distinct honor to be the first guest vocalist to share the stage with the regionally-acclaimed Greenville Jazz Collective, a terrific quintet in Upstate South Carolina led by bassist Shannon Hoover. This group also sports a big band (18-piece jazz orchestra), and we have eagerly awaited another opportunity to work together to present my big band show. The opportunity has finally arrived and the public is warmly invited to enjoy this wonderful music written by excellent arrangers and played by truly accomplished performers! The program includes music of the Gershwins, Charlie Parker, Richard Rodgers, Henry Mancini and more. Tickets are $15 for general public, $8 for faculty and staff and $5 for students. All proceeds support jazz education, so please come and join us for this great cause! Thank you for your support of live music!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

If you are like the average person, the thought of making New Year's resolutions either brings you hope or trepidation... I decided I would ruminate this December about things I would like to continue doing or do altogether differently in 2015. Most involve some inherent benefit to myself or to those around me, or toward greater career productivity. In no particular order, here they are:

1)Practice a minimum of two hours a day. I share this goal with many artists I know--without practice, nobody would want to hear me sing. Enough said.
2) Continue exercising a minimum of 3 days per week. Aerobic exercise just feels good. I tend to feel lousy when I am not doing it regularly, so I look forward to keeping up with my P90X, P90X Plus and P90X3 workouts.
3) Avoid allowing the attitudes and behaviors of negative or toxic people affect my attitude or behavior. This is a toughie for me--as a passionate artist, I am passionate about everything I do. This sometimes rubs people the wrong way and they misunderstand my intentions, which leads to negativity coming back at me. While I make every effort to be properly understood, some simply refuse to hear the message and make up their mind to continue being negative. Their loss, I guess.
4)Cook and bake at home more. My busy dual career often leads to eating out on a regular basis... I will do better this year, shop for groceries and plan a meal more than once in a while!
5)Spend more daily time being creative (writing music, blogs, articles, or book chapters). The mundanely urgent tasks continually steal time from my more important creative ones... I shall attempt to invert this muffin and place the important creative endeavors on the "muffin top" of my list of things to do...and do them first...Whoops--sorry about the baking metaphor!
6)Pray and meditate every day. I already do this, but making it a continued New Year's resolution gives me a sense of accomplishment and realization that I CAN and already DO have good ingrained habits that enrich my life!

Knowing myself, I must end the list here. Otherwise I will have a "too long" list of things I cannot accomplish rather than a short list of important items to pursue. May your 2015 be filled with fun, health, prosperity and music, and may you accomplish all you set out to do!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Booking Season!

A working artist always seems to be adding dates to their concert calendar, regardless of the time of year, but the late summer and fall seem to be crucial times each year to make contact with concert presenters who are preparing their concert seasons more than a year in advance. Currently my DTG Productions intern and I are busily preparing press kits, demo recordings, print materials and more to send to interested concert presenters for consideration. My career in performing a variety of different types of shows makes this process complicated, as I am sending out information regarding my symphony pops concerts (both holiday pops and jazz pops), my jazz trio shows and my solo cabaret shows all at the same time to both large and small venues. I am currently planning a big band show in Spartanburg next spring, a solo piano/vocal cabaret in California next summer, and symphony shows for the following 2015-16 season (among other concerts in the works). Concert presenters interested in my shows are invited to contact me through my website, www.tishoney.com. If you would like to see one of my symphony concerts in your city, please ask your local symphony organization to get in touch with me! Thank you, as always, for your support of live music!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Large Ensemble Work

This photo captured a special moment this past July when I was invited to sing at The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head with the wonderful Bobby Ryder Quartet and proprietor/fluegelhorn player Bob Masteller. This intimate jazz setting--singing in a small club with an attentive audience-- has always been a charming way to share my music. Lately, however, I have increasingly been offered opportunities to share performances with much larger ensembles and larger audiences in larger venues. How does a performing artist traverse the wide pathway of musical demands when challenged by very different types of concerts to perform? First, understanding the differences between both large and small ensemble concerts is the first major challenge. For a jazz improviser like myself, much more freedom is generally available when performing in a small combo setting on a smaller stage (although I have successfully played highly improvised concerts with my combo on a large stage... as long as we are placed close together we can improvise as much as we like). In a large ensemble setting, however, improvisation must be carefully planned and rarely, if ever, extended. Also, in a concert with a small ensemble I can adjust the microphone to my heart's content. The sound check can take as long as necessary for me to be satisfied with the acoustical adjustments that optimize our group's blend, balance, and tone. In a large ensemble setting, this luxury is virtually non-existent. The time allotted for the vocalist's sound check is generally short and more about setting a volume level so that I can be heard over the ensemble rather than about fine-tuning the EQ for an optimal tone quality in the room. When leading my small combo or playing a solo show, I am free to select whatever tempo and "feel" I like for each song (and I do!). Obviously, the symphony or big band conductor sets the tempo in a large ensemble setting, which forces me to sing the piece with an abundance of energy and expression at whatever tempo we are given. Communicating with the audience seems to be more difficult when performing with a large ensemble than with a small group because interpretation of the text is permitted more latitude in the small group setting--phrasing and timing can be tweaked to stretch or move the music extemporaneously. Facing such a wide variety of musical challenges sharpens an artist's skills and requires precise, mindful preparation for each new concert opportunity that presents itself!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Premieres...

Tuesday I premiere my Jazz Seasons show in South Carolina... an iteration of this show appeared twice at New York's Metropolitan Room a few years back and was one of my first forays into solo cabaret. I have found that I enjoy playing and singing in this context--the freedom of performing all by oneself is radically liberating somehow. Don't get me wrong--I love performing with great artists! But the cabaret world seems to welcome a person alone onstage. One of the greatest freedoms of performing in this context is the permission to improvise aspects I would ordinarily leave predictable... meter, feel, texture, tempo, rubato... and for a true improviser like myself, that lack of knowing what will happen is particularly gratifying.

This year alone I have premiered four distinct shows: Divas and Masters of Jazz (my latest version of this), The Great American Songbook (with Greenville Jazz Collective), Tish Oney Swings Into Spring, and Jazz Seasons. Last winter I premiered my new holiday pops symphony show with Symphoria on a four-city tour throughout New York State. None of the repertoire for any of these five shows has repeated itself! Having a large body of performing material going at the same time gets pretty demanding, but I have always loved a good challenge. Or twenty. Bring it!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Down Time

How does one define "down time?" Why is it necessary? How can one maximize its benefits? Coming off an incredibly busy and intense school year, I am greatly looking forward to exploring these questions over my intentionally not-busy summer ahead... Sure, I have a couple of selected performances scheduled, but overall I am planning to take some time and genuinely REST for a change. For the artist, restfulness needs to happen if one is to remain creative. While we can (and often do) create art under pressure, our creativity lags when we are overly stressed, tired, burned out or generally overloaded for too many months/years at a time. Taking time to get away, ease the stress and place mental energies onto more creative pathways will nourish an overwhelmed artist.

What can I do this summer to recharge my creative batteries? For one, I long to creep back into my dedicated practice time untouched by other encroaching commitments. Giving myself two hours to lose myself in music is like a spa treatment for my creative mind! The never-ending to-do list must be placed aside if I am to truly experience the "zone" into which creativity pours like a fountain. For some reason, to-do lists and the "zone" are incompatible in my life. But when I grant myself permission to put the list aside, the "zone" is thankfully not far away.

Spending time with loved ones is another important re-charging activity to which I am looking forward! This means saying "no" to various entities that request (or demand) my sacred vacation time. This very powerful word may yet be the key to my sanity... I look forward to trying it out!

Prayer and meditation work wonders when needing a balm from the often traumatic events of everyday life. I look forward to dedicating more time each day to these spiritual practices and watching God transform my stress into peace...

Reading, gardening, jogging, singing, writing, swimming, hiking... whatever the activity may be, I challenge my artistic friends to join me in a summer of rejuvenation for art's sake!