A first audition

Blog readers,

Thanks for returning yet again to my little corner¬†of cyberspace ūüôā I have some things to report on the musical front!¬†I know I wasn’t able to speak in detail with all of you before I left but the process of applying and singing for German theaters is slightly more complicated than in the states. I was told before I left that the best use of my time would be auditioning first for agents in Germany instead of directly for houses because this is the best way to get in front of conductors and music directors. ¬†Individual opera houses typically don’t offer auditions¬†because they have so many applications that they cannot sort through everything. SO three months before I departed for Deutschland, I sent about 150 emails to agents in Germany. I heard back from about 10 of them, and received auditions from three. Upon arriving, I then sent an additional email to the agents that I hadn’t heard from. ¬†I was told (by many singers and coaches) that one of the auditions I was offered was a¬†waste of time and money because the agent¬†invited mostly everyone to sing for him whether he was interested or not. Additionally, he charged 60 ‚ā¨ and the location was in the middle of nowhere southern Germany. After much deliberation I decided to cancel and use the money for a few extra coachings and lessons. ¬†Another, one of the offers, was supposed to get in touch at the beginning of November to schedule something and I am still waiting to hear from them about a specific date.

The THIRD invitation¬†actually happened! It¬†was over a week ago and, thankfully, an extremely rewarding experience. I was a little anxious because I had heard that this particular agent could be moody. Since it was my first audition, I was praying that he’d had his coffee that morning and was in good spirits. Somehow my nerves were quiet and¬†I can honestly say I felt full of gratitude for the chance to be there. I started with the aria “Frere voyez…du gai soleil” from Massenet’s opera¬†Werther. He heard the whole aria and then asked for “Batti Batti, o bel Massetto” from Mozart’s¬† Don Giovanni. I had actually expected that he would ask for this aria…because it’s Mozart and when you offer a Mozart aria, most directors ask for it. It is my newest aria on the list that I typically offer but it is feeling great in my voice so I was glad to sing it.

After I sang, he approached the stage and sat with me for few minutes talking about the audition. The good news is, he had positive feedback BUT he told me my voice is better suited in smaller houses. Most agents want singers they can place in large houses because they pay better so it is in his best interest to have singers with large voices on his roster. I was not entirely surprised by this suggestion, but I hadn’t realized that the smaller houses would hear me without an agent. SO-that’s the next step! ¬†I hope to be in touch with many of them in the coming weeks.

Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarken) update!

I have so far been to 5 Weihnachtsmarken in Berlin. Here are some bullet points that describe my favorite moments and truths about this tradition:

  • Gl√ľwein and Spiked Hot Chocolate is available from 12-8pm pretty much everyday and sometimes you can consume it in a beautifully decorated Yurt
  • Crepes, spiced-nuts, cookies, chocolates, and other delicious treats are literally everywhere and it’s wearing on my self-control
  • Talented Artists sell beautiful things. Gl√ľwein + Shopping = bad choices
  • Today we discovered a warming station. Here you can slip into a long coat with radiant heat pumping¬†through the fabric¬†and sit on a bench with other people wearing said coats.
  • Christmas carols¬†sung in German are extremely beautiful

Thanks for reading!

Hugs,

Katelin

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Politics and Religion

I know it has been a couple of weeks! Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for coming back ūüôā I thought I’d¬†begin with two topics that always bring people together! I know better (usually) than to start this conversation among friends, at a family gathering or casually at a bar. Since this is the internet, if my ideas offend you at any time, you can storm out of the party and I will never know! Isn’t that awesome!? Indulge me, friends.

Berliners have become very interested in American politics over the last few months for obvious reasons. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I have had many¬†opportunities to discuss, dissect and analyze the US election results. German citizens are, not surprisingly, very informed about our¬†political climate, the system, and the issues involved. They usually begin with, “If it’s not too difficult for you, I’d like to talk about it”.¬†The German people are exceedingly polite, and they choose their words carefully so the idea that Donald Trump will become the leader of the free world does not compute for them. As disappointed as I am about the election, I am not entirely surprised given the pulse of the rest of the world at the moment. Brexit was a shock to many people including Britain, and Germany has a surge of German¬†nationalists and fiscal conservatives who oppose Merkel’s decisions on the refugee crisis.

I am an independent voter. ¬†My views don’t align completely with any one party which makes voting particularly stressful and time consuming. Everything was so much easier when I didn’t ask questions! (I have my husband, NPR and the University of Michigan to thank for that). I am also a Christian. In a room full of artists this word is more offensive than pretty much any other word in the english dictionary. My¬†faith is based on the teachings of a man who showed the world how to¬†love and forgive, but there will always be people who prioritize other parts of the Bible. Jesus asked us to love God and each other. For me, that’s all there is to it. I am grateful for this guidance in my life.

When our focus is not on being heard but on learning something, constructive conversation becomes¬†possible. ¬†It can happen when people of¬†different opinions and backgrounds show respect towards one another¬†and take an interest in what the other¬†person can bring to the table. That’s obvious, but all¬†of us have been in arguments, and this kind of problem-solving isn’t easy. Taking that first step towards bipartisanship when there is equal passion and concern on both sides of the aisle, is difficult, but it is how our founding fathers envisioned the process, and I still believe in it. ¬†It was this belief that ultimately determined my vote for Hillary Clinton. I voted for her for the same reason that many independents voted for her: not¬†because I think she’s the best woman for the job (I can think of a number of women I would have rather supported) but because she was the better choice on a ballot that would not have been possible in my wildest dreams. Although I do believe actions speak louder than words, I also believe that words hold weight and, like the Germans, I think that choosing language carefully is a sign of strength, not weakness. I think it can bring people together or further divide them. Our president-elect¬†has not chosen his words carefully and he therefore bears responsibility for empowering not only racists, bigots and misogynists, but a group of people who don’t embrace dialogue- who don’t have an interest in engaging people that aren’t like them. He has empowered this on both sides of the aisle and as a proud American it has been disgusting and heart breaking to watch.

So as artists, what can we do? Let our work build bridges. Music really is a universal language. I hope that I can find a way to connect, through my art, with people who don’t see the world exactly the way I do. I hope I can start constructive conversations about religion, politics and anything else that drives the human narrative. I hope I can make¬†art that is relevant…time to brainstorm!

Thanks for reading! Sending love from this great city. The Weinachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets)¬†open this weekend. I’ll give you the scoop next week.

Bis bald!

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A weekend in Bavaria

What a rare and wonderful opportunity it was this weekend to see the beautiful cities of M√ľnchen, Andechs, Rothenburg and N√ľrnberg and to tour the Bavarian country side with the infamous John Mallett! For some of you who don’t know, John is Evan’s boss at Bell’s and a real world traveler. He invited me to join¬†him and some colleagues in M√ľnich¬†while I was still home in Michigan and I happily accepted the invite! I am so glad I did. The south of Germany¬†stole my heart and I can’t wait to go back. I haven’t seen very much of the sun since moving to Berlin so it was nice to soak up some vitamin D. I think most of us can agree that the sun makes everything seem a little bit more beautiful. We did experience about 20 minutes of a straight-up Alpine blizzard but we turned back around and headed north to find lovely clouds and blue skies.

Favorites from the trip:
– the¬†Asamkirche, a baroque church in downtown M√ľnich
–¬†St. Peter Kirche, the oldest church in the city and home of some facinating relics.
– Strolling¬†the Englischer Garten¬†in M√ľnich where we discovered a market and ate N√ľrnberg sausages and Hungarian Strudal, all while listening to an awesome Klezmer band play If I were a Rich Man¬†from¬†Fiddler on the Roof.
Рthe INCREDIBLE Andechs Monastry which sits atop a hill in Andechs, Bavaria and has some breathtaking views as well as delicious Bavarian Weiss Beer. Carl Orff is buried in the Sanctuary there!
–¬†Rothenberg: THE¬†quintessential medieval German village. It is bursting with Bavarian charm and amazing views as well as a wall around the city built in the 1200s…YEAH. The city has been very¬†well-preserved.
Staatstheater N√ľrnberg– for obvious reasons ūüôā The building itself is really remarkable.
–¬†St. Lorenz kirche– it’s gorgeous and¬†the organist just happened to be practicing some carols for next weekend’s mass.

A big thank you to John for letting me tag along and for showing me some of his favorite things! This was a weekend to remember ūüôā

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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 ūüôā ¬†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. ūüôā ¬†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 Ausl√§nderbeh√∂de 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 Boh√®me 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¬†ūüôā 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¬†ūüôā
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-Gen√§chtnis-Kirche on Kurf√ľrstendamm 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!