Inspired music making- FIRST AND FOREMOST

Friends,

I believe this is an important topic and I hope it will inspire dialogue in anyone who takes the time to read it. If you spend any part of your day listening to music, I’m going to to go out on a limb and guess that you are hearing it on the radio, streaming it from the internet, or playing it from an mp3 player. The fact that I can think of a composer or artist and have an exhaustive list of their songs/albums in seconds on Spotify is truly mind-blowing. It’s especially difficult to wrap your head around if you grew up consuming music before Steve Jobs brought the ipod into our lives.  The other really incredible aspect of this technology is the quality of sound we receive from these devices. Many of us no longer seek out live concerts or performances because the sound quality we can obtain with the right equipment in our living room or on our headphones is sometimes better than if we went to a theater or noisy bar to hear our favorite musicians play.

I would like to focus for a moment on the changes that I believe are occurring in performance, and consequently vocal production, as a result of the shift towards consuming pre-recorded music. It has been on my mind as my first auditions in Berlin are happening this month. Auditions have always been difficult for me and I believe it is because the voice in my head is telling me to look and sound my best in order to impress the panel of inherently critical listeners in the room. “If I sing well, they will think I’m good enough”.  This mindset doesn’t work sooooo I’m going to change it 🙂  I have been reading a fascinating book that I hope every singer will make a part of their library: Singing and the Imagination by Thomas Hemsley. It addresses the issue of concerning oneself primarily with “sound” in performance and it has challenged me to think more carefully about my intentions both musically and dramatically when I sing. Although auditions are not necessarily performance, really good auditionees have a way of convincing themselves that they are onstage. Hemsley describes a magnetism between a singer and his/her audience that requires exhaustive preparation and vulnerability from the singer as wellI as open hearts and ears from the audience. I believe that every audience enters a performance with these qualities, but it is really the singer’s job to keep her listeners in that state of mind. I have obviously had experience on both sides and I believe that it is abundantly clear in the first few moments whether or not a singer has made the music and the text her focus or if she is more concerned with creating a “perfect sound”. I think we can all agree that not only is perfect boring, it is impossible, and striving for it is a sad, unfulfilling journey.  Bringing intention and honesty to a performance with a willingness to tell the story and breathe life into the music requires courage and A LOT of work, but the result is a shared experience between performer and listener that cannot be replicated on any sound recording. Not only that, I have found that my technique tends to find it’s way when the music and poetry have direction. I choose to believe that this is even possible in an audition room if we want it to be. Generally, I think it takes both an informed audience and an informed singer to begin addressing this issue and so I hope it inspires you to re-think your intentions if you are a performer/auditionee and to continue to seek out live performance and listen with an open heart if you are a music enthusiast.

Your thoughts are welcome! Bis bald!

Katelin

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Finding the words…

Do you ever have a hard time coming up with the right word/words when you are communicating a story or asking for something from a stranger? In Germany, I face this daily and in almost every conversation I have. I am excited to be starting my first German language class on Halloween day and it can’t come soon enough. They don’t celebrate Halloween in Germany but some companies in Berlin have embraced the holiday and decorated their storefronts with spiderwebs, witches and skulls. It is oddly nostalgic. I am especially amused by Dunkin’ Donuts’ “Scary Autumn” advertisement on the sign that sits outside. 🙂  The school I will be attending is called Deutsche Akademie and was a much more affordable option to the Goethe Institute, which seems to be the gold standard of German language courses. My hope is that the structure of a classroom will give my learning curve the boost it desperately needs.

I am continuing to meet new people and I hope to work with 2 coaches who I have connected with recently. It will be nice to sing for another set of ears soon- much preferred to singing to myself everyday! The hard part about getting your voice to be heard in any competitive environment is that you must be opportunistic and completely uninhibited about talking to anyone and everyone. I have found that the only way to do this and still feel like my integrity and humility is in tact is to take genuine interest in what people do, and to be unafraid to ask them to be interested in what I do. And those are the kinds of conversations that make me excited to keep meeting new people in this city. I always emerge from these exchanges feeling enlightened and grateful instead of pushy and needy. I hope you will forgive me for this extremely brief outpouring of my thoughts this week. Below are some updated pictures on my instagram feed.  Prost!

Katelin

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Ich bin ein Berliner!…now how on earth does this washing machine work?

Guten Tag meine Lieben! Week 2 is on the books! WOW. I cannot believe that it is Saturday again. It has been an eventful week of firsts, but I think my most important announcement is that I received my 1-year VISA on Thursday!!! This process meant showing proof that I have what I need in place to survive here to the Ausländerbehöde Amt (translation: “Foreigners rights office”). I brought with me a huge folder full of every important document you can name. It was one of the really stressful things consuming my thoughts, and I am SO happy to finally be certain that I can legally stay in Germany for the next 13 months as a freelance artist! image1 This was my most satisfying cappuccino yet.

So….German washing machines look like this: image2

Yeah, your guess is as good as mine. I spent some time translating this and finally just decided to go with the lowest temperature to avoid ruining anything. The tough part is that we don’t have a dryer so there are clothes and towels hanging all over our apartment at the moment. Who knew laundry would be such an adventure?

 

 

img_1549This transition has been such a wonderful opportunity to nurture my inner socialite. I have enjoyed meeting new people almost everyday and it has given me a lot of motivation to learn Deutsch!  One of these new friends is actually a graduate of the Northwestern University school of music. She graduated 2 yrs after I did and moved to Berlin where she started the “Berlin Opera Group”. Last night they performed Puccini’s La Bohème and I got to do the subtitles! The production was on the second floor of a bar in Prentzlauerburg called Brotfabrik and sat around 100 people. It was SO cool. Additionally, I just returned from a birthday party this evening and in 2 hours I met people from Argentina, Italy, Israel, Germany, England, Greece and Spain. Isn’t that just amazing! When I left there were 3 couples salsa dancing in the living room! It was definitely a night I won’t forget. I had some wonderful conversations with a woman who is teaching German to Syrian refugees. More on that later.

I have three auditions scheduled with agents in November so I will be sure to fill you in as those dates approach. I have spent some time practicing in my apartment as well as in the practice rooms I mentioned last week and between these two options I have everything I need to stay fit and learn my music.  I have inserted an instagram feed below and will continue to do so each week so you can see my travels in pictures and short videos as well.

Ihre,
Katelin

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Wilkommen in Berlin!

If you are here because you love me enough to check in, consider this a big cyber hug of gratitude, and DAD, please stop worrying. I’m alive 🙂 If you are here out of curiosity, I hope you come away with inspiration, entertainment, or just having learned something you didn’t know about German culture, people and history. I will do my best not to ramble…no promises. Just to bring any new comers up to speed, my husband and I took a giant leap out of our sweet, cozy home in Kalamazoo, MI, and we are beginning a new life in Germany. Evan will pursue German brewing technique at the VLB in Berlin. My plan is to learn German, and audition as often as I can with a few performances to show for it.  I don’t know how long we will be here or where our next steps will take us, but I am excited to share this journey with you and I offer my sincere thanks to all who have supported us through this transition. God is Good.

It is both wonderful and terrifying to be in a place where nobody knows your name or your story. It’s empowering, at first, to realize that every interaction is a new opportunity to be your best self! There is a blank page unfurled before you and no matter what you say or how you say it, to each new person, it’s just you!  Imagine now being greeted at customs by a lovely Dutch man who asks how you’re doing (Wie geht es Ihnen?) and you respond quickly: Gut, und Sie? nailed it. Then he asks, “What brings you to Deutschland”, also in German.  At that moment, an AWESOME and super witty answer enters your mind, but when your mouth opens to say it, you just start sweating profusely and the only coherent German words that come out are “ich” and “Bier”. You fill in the blanks with some English words, but now you just appear confused, sweaty and a little drunk. did not nail it… at all. Fortunately, this particular gentleman was very patient, and since then, the sweating only happens when I am at the front of a long line ordering food or buying stamps.

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1. Before departure at Midway
2. At DTW for short layover before flight to Amsterdam
3. Just exited the plane in Amsterdam and heading to customs to meet the lovely Dutch gentleman 🙂
4. That same day in our new apartment in BERLIN!

 

 

 

In an effort to boost my learning curve, I have joined a running club at Runners Point in the city center. It is across from the famous Kaise-Wilhelm-Genächtnis-Kirche on Kurfürstendamm Strasse.I had no idea what to expect, but I walked away from a fun evening of interval training with plenty of German practice and a few new friends! The best part: we drank delicious non-alcoholic beer after the run instead of Gatorade! Below is a picture of my new friend Joana who graciously translated everything for me during our recovery between intervals!

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I’m sure many of you are wondering what our apartment looks like. Imagine one of those staged rooms at IKEA…it’s like that but with a real human living in it. Just so you know I’m not exaggerating:

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I am very comfortable here. To be honest, it has been a refreshing dose of simplicity but while we’re being honest, I miss my husband and my dog.

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I mean really, look at those faces. Can you stand it?

Although I miss friends and family, I’m taking any moments of loneliness in stride. I am fortunate to know a few people living here who have been extremely generous with their time and advice. Evan and I have a very lovely and talented friend name Sarah who has lived in Berlin for a total of 5 years! I am so glad to have reconnected with her. Sarah has already introduced me to Kreuzburg, two of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever tasted, AND seriously, the world’s most heavenly carrot cake. There is literally no contest. I can’t show it to you because I could not convince myself put the fork down for a picture.
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This post is getting rather long-winded so I will end by showing you more pictures, and by apologizing to my husband because he cautioned me against being long-winded…
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Die U-Bahn. Doesn’t this platform resemble a piano?!

 

 

 

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Mitte: where I shared another delightful cappuccino with myself and got to speak some elementary Italian with the owners!

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Practice rooms that I discovered online and finally located on Friday. They are booked until next week so my neighbors may have to suffer for a few more days…

 

 

 

Thank you again for visiting!  My hope is to keep you informed as I pursue my dreams, explore a brand new world, and learn a little more about being human along the way. Kindly forgive any extraneous commas, misspelled words or occasional grammatical faux pas. Hopefully, practice will improve the blogging experience for all of us. Please remember to follow me on instagram by searching for kmeffert: https://www.instagram.com/?hl=en.  Bis Bald!