Questions from Pam!

Can you stand another interview? I hope so!

1. What is the thing you find most annoying about singers?

You guys have to understand that Pam is not a typical singer, and this answer in no way reflects upon her personally.

I've worked with a lot of singers, and I find vocal repertoire to be the most fulfilling in a lot of ways. There's something so special and intimate about the human voice and the way words are wed to music in a good art song that just can't be duplicated in a piece for, say, violin. Or the tuba. But singers are an odd bunch. Many of them are vain and self-involved, and in a way, I kind of understand why. The human voice is the only musical instrument that is inside the body (unless you count those people who can fart on pitch, but I digress...). To sing in public is to make yourself very vulnerable to your audience. There's no instrument to hide behind. I mean, I get a whole piano - talk about a security blanket! In addition, the world of singing and opera, especially, is extremely competitive (because there are so many singers, just gobs of them), so how you look and who you know matters as much, if not more than, how well you sing. So the ones who make it have to be able to look good and promote themselves and cozy up to the right people and so some of those less desirable characteristics just come with the territory. Not all good singers are like this (some of my best friends in my musical life are singers, as I've mentioned before); in fact, not all successful singers are like this. But more often than not, that's what you get.

But that's not what annoys me. I've participated in, or at least listened to, many a conversation about Blondie's latest appointment with the photographer for headshots, and the color of Hypochondriac Soprano's phlegm over the course of a week, and Gay-But-Won't-Admit-It-To-His-Wife-Baritone's thorough analysis of various methods of snot removal (Neti Pot vs. Nasal Spray??), and Chesty-Mezzo's rendition of her favorite SNL sketch (singers watch a lot of TV), and Tenor McEgo's deliberation over which aria to sing for his next audition: the one with the high B or the high B-flat?, and while some of this talk may bore me, none of it particularly bothers me. No, if you want to annoy an accompanist, act thusly:

1. In a rehearsal, say "Could you play the melody through for me a couple times?"
2. Hand him or her a difficult aria, like something from The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky) and say "Do you mind sight-reading this? I don't think it's too hard. It's OK if you don't play all the notes."
3. Change your mind about your recital repertoire three times in the course of one week.
4. Try to put a vase of flowers on top of the piano for your recital. Just try.
5. Bow without acknowledging your pianist, then leave the stage.
6. Say, "Oh, I'm never sure where to come in there. But you can cover for me, right?"
7. Call your pianist your "accompany-ist."
8. When your pianist tells you he/she is raising his/her rates for the first time in four years, say "I was hoping I could get you for the old price!"
9. Sing something, anything, by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

2. What is your favorite restaurant in Madison? and what do you like to eat there?

I'm not sure I could pick just one! We eat breakfast at Lazy Jane's Café almost every weekend. Their best usual breakfast is a scramble with green onions and cream cheese with a side of fried potatoes, though every so often there are breakfast specials that include some manner of omelet with whole roasted garlic cloves. They also have the best scones in town.

For dinner, one place we've always liked, but don't go to very often as it's a wee bit pricey, is El Dorado Grill on Williamson Street. Best margarita I've ever had, and the food is like modern Tex-Mex cuisine. They've got really good black bean enchiladas.

Probably the best meal I've eaten out was at Harvest. It's one of those fine restaurants you go to for your anniversary, and not just any anniversary, but the last one you have before you become parents. Harvest buys lots of their ingredients from local growers and farmers, they cook seasonly, and it's gourmet cuisine, the kind you have to order three or four courses' worth to feel satisfied. They make something as simple as mashed potatoes exquisite. You blow a week's grocery money on one meal and it's worth it. And because it's in Madison, you can go there dressed to the nines or arrive on your bike in jeans (nice jeans, of course) and the service is the same. Obviously, we've only been once, but oh!

3. What do you miss most about the TAA? (seeing that you're not as involved anymore)?

I miss the special feeling of comradeship that comes with spending time with a bunch of other hell-raisers. For those that don't know me, or know me recently, I got involved with the TAA in the spring of 2004 when we went on a 2-day strike. I'll save the long story for another time, but briefly, that was the worst semester and the best semester for me, certainly the most interesting. I made some very good friends that I still have.

4. What do you like best about studying with Martha?
I could go on and on about this one, but this post is already getting long! Martha and I just click. I've studied with her long enough that she knows my playing in and out, and I know her teaching in and out, and I know what she's going to say almost before she says it. Our personalities are very different, but we actually have very similar issues musically. This means she's perfectly suited to help me with my weak points, because she understands where I'm coming from. Also, even though we have totally different body-types, our hands are exactly the same size with exactly the same finger-span. Isn't that cool?

5. What do you look forward to most upon waking in the morning?

My immediate answer is the excellent lattés Stuart makes us for breakfast every morning. I'm just finishing mine now!


pamigelsrud said…
I loved reading this, Susan! Thank you for answering!! :-)
Steph said…
Your list of anti-advice for singers made me laugh so hard I almost peed. That should be published in a singer's trade magazine or something.
Anonymous said…
>2. Hand him or her a difficult aria, like something from The Rake's Progress...

Would you like me to sing your rhythms through a few times?
andre said…
Damn, Suze! Remind me never to get on your bad side=) Your read on singers is frightenly spot-on. . in-the-closet baritones to chesty, SNL-loving mezzos. . . you gotta love those mezzos. . and I thought composers were a strange lot!
Animal said… actually KNOW someone who can fart on pitch?!?

Uh...number, please!

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