Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Artistic Statement

The following was a requirement in the Dawn U. Carnegie Hall Workshop I'm hoping to land!

The assignment:
Please attach a statement of approximately 1,000 words that answers the following questions:
1. What inspires you as an artist in your professional and personal lives?
2. What do you hope to gain from this experience?

“What can I do to live a better story?” This piercing question serves as the source of my two main inspirations as an artist: story and excellence.

Last summer, a Broadway play (Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Pretty) provided the defining balm I needed in a season of much pain. The choice its lead character made in the final scene spoke a healing word into my life that no other amount of counseling or journaling or time could mend. I found, after that play, I was free. Great art, done well, has time and again, brought health and freedom to me. As I grow as an artist and a person that loves art, I am equally inspired by the stories that others tell and compelled to tell a better, more excellent story with my life and gifts.

I started taking voice lessons at the age of 12 so that I could be the best musical theatre performer the San Francisco Bay Area had ever seen. With Les Misérables completely memorized, I was sure I was bound for Broadway. My path was diverted by my first voice teacher who happened to be a tenured chorister with the San Francisco Opera. She cleverly introduced me to opera and claimed me for her genre. I was thrilled by the challenges of singing opera, of learning languages and investigating the history of each composer. Somewhere in my mid-twenties, however, I lost my fuel for pursuing it with the passion I once had. I had concentrated so much on perfect sound projection and “sempre la voce” that I had lost the drama. At this point, my journey twisted back over to my first love, musical theatre, and I proudly called myself a “reformed opera singer!” I dove into acting classes, performing Chekhov scenes and monologues, dusted off my tap and jazz shoes, and built a book of musical theatre songs with which I connected. People often asked me why I left opera for theatre and I would explain that I loved the story-telling that musical theatre demands. In opera I was missing the story. In my time away I learned to love telling stories again, making choices before beautiful sounds and taking risks before rubatos.

Now as I am hitting my stride as a singer, I realize, of course, that stories can be told just as vibrantly in opera or art song as they are in theatre. In the past year I have reclaimed the genres of my original training and have re-ignited my passion for classical singing. Art songs have become the main course for my creative mind’s growing appetite and a favorite vehicle to express myself. I recently prepared and performed my first song recital in four years. I loved working with the masterful material and understanding the original context of the poetry while making the text mine. My own story was heightened because of these texts and songs.

Great story telling draws me to continue to tell stories of my own. I aim to touch others, to inspire them to tell their own stories choosing the risky road of vulnerability and living a life story better than they imagine for themselves. Music has such amazing power to do just that and I love that I can participate in others’ stories!

I never knew how long I would stay in New York when I moved here in 2007. I wasn’t sure if this would be a short-lived experiment, if I would hit the audition scene and rise and fall with its success. Success has come in waves with great opportunities to perform and class but most exciting has been the evolution of a found community of musicians of all shapes and stripes, although quite heavy on the singer-songwriters. Some of my dearest friends create music daily and share it often in the clubs of the Lower East Side. I meet them there to hear how they are working out their often difficult lives through melody and lyrics.

Beyond the Lower East Side, the daily accessibility of truly stunning art in all its forms has fueled my continual growth as a singer. Excellence inspires excellence and has been a great source of motivation to be faithful to the gifts I’ve been given as a singer and an artist. Steeped in artistic excellence immersion for the last three years, I have found my goals have changed. I moved to New York so I would never say “what if” but what I have found is much different than what I expected. I thought I was sending myself on a “make it or break it” adventure but instead I have found a community of friends that inspire me to make music, to take chances, to cultivate my own “voice” as an artist without limits or boundaries on “making it” in one particular field or opera house. Their excellence inspires me to continue to drink deep of the well of music, to create perhaps not my own songs, but my own interpretations in the genres where I am gifted.

Even still, I have often listened to my songwriting friends and been jealous of their vision for writing songs and performing them, of creating new material and finding an audience for it. With this workshop, I would love to experience the thrill of collaborating with composers to create something new. Fascinated by composers and their gifts, I would be delighted to originate a new work and to see the behind the scenes pieces come together.

As a freelance singer, no longer luxuriating in conservatory life, I have missed so much the master class forum where such valuable learning comes from observing other artists as they try on new music and the challenges that come with telling new stories!
I cannot imagine a more fantastic week than a master class with these leaders in our field and among such excellent singers and composers.

Recent opportunities to work with up and coming composers in the fields of musical theatre and opera have whet my appetite for more! I have never taken the time to focus my energy in new music as a soloist. This intense week would stretch me and would be a fantastic opportunity to delve into that realm. I would love to meet and grow with the other selected singers and composers and continue to build community with like-minded artists that are passionate about story and excellence.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Can a Mother Forget?

Tim's sermon this week was on Isaiah 49, specifically verses 14-16. He titled the sermon, "Can a Mother Forget?" based on verse 15, where God says to Zion:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

It was a great 1st Tim sermon for my sister to hear. 3 points, of course. Professorial, anecdotal and the third point was all about Jesus. I eagerly listened to every quote and story, each fun fact and explanation through my sister's ears, wanting her approval and shared excitement. To me it was just another explanation of the gospel, of the unconditional love that God shows us though he has no need of us and we offer him NOTHING. It was a sweet reminder to feast on God and that amazing love and not settle for idol snacks. But I find with so many great sermons, I'm spoiled. I take my notes, I expect Jesus to be the last point, I agree that He's the cure, but I often don't digest it fully.

Last night I called to check in on my mom. Lis and I have an AMAZING mom. Always has been, always will be. She has been sick for the past week or so and because of "best.weekend.ever.sharpley.sisters.take.manhattan" colliding with two feverish grandkids, rest and recuperation were traded in for extra babysitting. So while Lisa and I were finding the world's best bargains, eating the country's best pizza, traipsing across the city, enjoying restaurant week with friends, brunching with all the "buddies", tearing up in Broadway shows and bonding and creating memories we'll never forget, our sweet Mom was recycling something she has done so often...bearing the cost of our delight! After I talked to Mom I took the "best.weekend.ever" post off of my facebook, not wanting to rub in what we had enjoyed while she worked on our behalf. And I know she didn't mean to make us feel guilty (Lisa, you are not allowed to feel guilty reading this!), but the fact is someone had to fill in the gap in order for us to have the kind of mad-fun, sister weekend that we had.

And suddenly, I remembered the sermon. Here was Mom, someone who not only never forgot us at her breast(!) but even into our 30s never forgets us but continues to make sacrifices to give us the best life. And what did she get? The joy of knowing her daughters love each other and enjoy each other? Maybe. She shows us unconditional love and thereby shows me God's love.

This past weekend really was the best.ever. And God promises in Isaiah 49 that this culmination of all the best weekends and days-are gifts from Him who took all the pain, all the sickness, all the isolation that we might know joy and love and fullness forever.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy New Year!

One day while I was at home watching one of those vapid 7:30pm shows as part of my "I work for a church and December wipes me out" recovery program, they ran a story on Oprah and her resolution for 2009: to get her weight in control. They showed her in January 2009 feigning disgust with her then state and promise that "this would be the year." With so much build-up, I was SURE they were going to say that she fulfilled her goal. Instead, they said "Oprah didn't succeed but she's never looked happier."

Well, in hopes to look happier than ever at the end of 2010, I only made one resolution:
Less Blackberry, More Jesus.

The biggest change I've made thus far, is removing the Facebook application from my blackberry. No mindless walking to work and reading near-strangers status updates. How about some prayer instead?

Also, I would like to stop being "that girl" that incessantly checks her Blackberry, including during dinner out with friends, etc. No berries of any kind shall hit the dining table. Unless it's a strawberry that falls off a pillowy cheesecake from Juniors...mmmmm...

I was chatting with a friend at our Redeemer Leaders' Meeting on Monday and she had so much earnest enthusiasm for what the New Year can bring. Much of that was because of the spirit of all of us collectively being willing, being open to change and growth. I like that. I can get behind that!

So, some areas to grow in for 2010!
*Keeping up with my friends far and near
*Blogging, writing, staying creative...maybe even writing a song or two (WHAT?! I hang out with too many songwriters, I guess!)
*Practicing consistently. Developing new repertoire and demos. Singing for important people.
*An opera role or musical theatre role.
*Choosing LIFE in relationships.
*Less Splenda. Ha. Always.
*Consistent time with the Lord. In the mornings.
*Less mindless tv.
*More Bible literacy.
*More reading. Real books. (3 are on order!)
*1/2 marathon.

Uh, oh. I've completely gone all Oprah.
"With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."

Recognizing that, I look forward to 2010 with God.

Friday, November 27, 2009


On Wednesday I spontaneously burst into tears anticipating a Thanksgiving apart from my family. I am now 31 years old. One would think I would be "grown-up" enough to not need my mommy's mashed potatoes at the end of every November.

This holiday, this year, however, seems to have brought up more heaviness than usual. I have spent several Thanksgivings with other families...with the Sulaymans a few times in Chicago and with my grandmother's side of the family in KY. Both locations were full of joy and love.

Last year's Turkey Day, however, is a stinging memory. I spent the holiday with my ex-boyfriend's family. I had then thought they would soon be my inlaws. Though in many ways our relationship was crumbling, the "happy clappy" shoe hadn't quite dropped and I traversed this different Thanksgiving as part of my new tradition. My family doesn't do "black friday", his family was in line at 3am. My family does broccoli, his did green bean casserole. My family does movies, his family does football. And on and on. That weekend was the last time that I saw any of his family, the family that I had prepped myself to love and enjoy, serve and blend into and this week's reminder of them bowled me over.

In the day to day, I feel I've managed to move on from the relationship well, but commercials for black friday coupons and aromas of turkey and stuffing proved more than I could handle. For the first time in months, I was tempted to make contact, to check in, to see how his brother's college applications were going and if he'd been up to the city to see "West Side Story" yet. I wanted to know if his sister was still dating that guy at the grocery store and to tell her that I got my hair straightened again. But these left-overs if you will, are the last pieces of hanging on to a past that God has carried me through. And I'm not meant to go back there.

I wished for a flight home to be with my REAL family, to re-write once again our traditions in my head and forget the stormy end to 2008. I wanted to drown myself in niece and nephew time and disengage with my future or chosen life. Expensive flights wouldn't allow it.

Instead I had a wonderful and full day of attempting the parade with Mon, pumpkin pancakes and bacon with Steph and Kevin and a Thanksgiving potluck with NYC orphans at Emily's. I might have been away from my family, but here I was creating new family, new memories and feeling full in every way.

I do long for the day when I'm not a single, not an orphan hopping from party to party. I long for my future husband's family to love and for new traditions to absorb. I look forward to caring for his family and not having to wonder about their future. I look forward to the forever. Until then, I'll make my own Cranberry Fluff, I'll call my family and get the entire menu detail from Grandma, giggle at pictures, ooh and ahh over Noe's latest outfit and thank God for the rich life He's given me as a single girl in the city.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

6:30, 7:30 and 2:45

My cell phone is possessed. While in a long-distance relationship, I might have exercised the cell phone so much that it had no choice but to fight back. After months of bullying, I'm close to tossing it to cell phone heaven. For the past month or so, it has stubbornly refused to let me reset its' alarms. So if I have my cell phone turned on, it will, without fail, buzz or beep at 6:30am, 7:30am, and 2:45pm every day. I use my cell phone as my alarm clock. I know what you're all's so obvious: Why don't you turn your cell phone off and buy a $4.99 Duane Reade special alarm clock? Well, everyone, that would make perfect sense, but I'd rather have a small, unreliable, ornery and once shiny, now sadly dulled rectangle rule my mornings and mid-afternoons.

The amazing thing in this all? It's been putting me on a schedule! I wake up earlier, got to the gym or practice, have a QT, make breakfast and if I'm feeling particularly luxurious, a cup of tea! So this annoyance is really creating the discipline I need. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways. And every night when I'm tempted to stay up till 12 or 1 scanning facebook statuses or, I'm inspired instead to go to bed because I know what will be buzzing at 6:30. That reliable little friend of mine that I can't wait to replace!

Off to bed's past 10:30. :)

Oh but wait...I have to share! I'm reading a wonderful Beth Moore called "Get out of that Pit". It truly is helping me to do just that. I thank God for the way He has brought Beth into my life once again to teach me and excite me about His word.
Also, I've signed up for the memory verse challenge on her blog:

The first verse that I posted is from our FG's most recent passage, Galatians 5:1

"It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

This past Sunday's sermon was on Romans 4 entitled "Through the Blood of Jesus Christ" We need redemption because we are slaves to guilt and shame and also our slave masters/idol factories.
What are my slave masters? Approval, career, family(husband/kids), ideal weight, so many more, I'm sure!

Monday, March 9, 2009


Monday afternoons mean worship meetings at the Redeemer Offices. All of the worship leaders/pastors, the worship/music staff as well as the Sunday Ops staff meet to discuss what's coming the following Sundays as well as to debrief what went well and what well, didn't, the day before. My predecessor promised these meetings would be entertaining. Mostly, we look across the table from each other either too shy to share what we really think or too eager to get to the next event and we're in and out in just a few minutes. But here and there, we laugh.

Matt was sharing that a man at the East Side PM Service somehow got on the stage and plopped down next to Jon, while Jon was playing the postlude.
Matt: "I thought this guy might be a streaker."
Chris: "Please tell us you mean stalker."

Friday, March 6, 2009

6th months later...

Hello long-forgotten blog!
I just went to my 6th month post-op appointment last week. The news is good...all is well with the vocal cords, even after 2 weeks of coughing! More alarming was the fact that 6 months has gone by since that momentous time of trusting and waiting and being carried by prayers and my community.

Of all the 6 month stretches in my 30 years, this past one has been filled with the most jolting highs and lows. After weeks of real sorrow at the beginning of this new year, I was overjoyed with the way God was reaching down and gripping me out of my pit through the strength of family, old friends, new friends, passions no longer on hold and His Word. But then, most recently, I was brought low once again. Something that should have been encouraging, sent me to despair, back to grieving the loss of the one I thought would forever hold my heart.

A few weeks ago I felt utterly lost. While on my walk to work, I wondered what the difference was between my life now and the giddy life I had in the fall. Certainly, a person and a relationship. But as I navigated the same windy path with all its familiar marquees and landmarks, I realized the core of what's gone is the dream of a life with someone, of building a future that is not just in my own hands. My dear friend reminded me I am building a future with that someone and that I can dream of my future with Jesus. It sounds cheezy, like the back-cover of one of those Bible Belt Christian self-help books, but it's true. I've been reflecting on 1 Peter 1:3-8 over the last 24 hours and I'm struck by so many things. The Lord wants to hold and direct our future and so wants us on the inside of his kingdom, of his peace and heart....those verses are dripping with INS!! "In his great mercy"...."into a living hope" "into an inheritance that can never perish.." "kept IN heaven", etc. And so even while we are suffering, we're still "in" with him, never on the outside of his love or gaze.

Now on the other side of the past 6 months marked by physical healing and wandering and rejoicing and leaning on one over the ONE I continue to be humbled and stripped down, plainly seeing my sin and the darkness that lies within me. But I can confidently say I also have hope and a future IN Christ Jesus, not because of my record but because of His.

"IN this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1:6-7