I love social media. You probably know that. I also look forward to Social Media Week twice a year, when this amazingly free conference graces major cities worldwide with their advice and musings about the history, direction, and uses of social media. Why? As Gary Vaynerchuk points out in his book The Thank You Economy, “Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.” As someone who relishes bumping into friends from Israel on the subway in Manhattan, I can’t resist having another tool to turn my big city life into more of the small town environment in which I once lived as a child.
Since you’re reading Skydiving for Pearls, I imagine you also value the ability to “pop in” on friends, checking out their statuses and “liking” their newest smart purchase, recent personal triumph, or webisode (like the next installment of the Kara Morgan Show). Perhaps you don’t anticipate streaming events on Livestream with conferences from Social Media Week, or you’ve never actually seen a TED Talk. Either way, we’ve all seen video online and more of it as time moves forward, live or pre-recorded. Watching performances of friends, episodes of our favorite shows, that adorable cat who likes to shower.
Sometime last year at a Social Media Week conference, I discovered the value in video. Livestream still has me hooked, and I can learn from online clips how to do everything from folding a shirt to making my next iMovie. At this discovery, I had a million ideas and no real clue of how to execute them. My April in Paris recital with Eugene Sirotkine seemed the perfect opportunity to attempt a live video stream, had I only the money and tools, which I didn’t. Instead, I gratefully accepted the offer of a professional audio recording from my friend Rich Salz, an accomplished audio engineer and the brains behind On-Site Acoustic Testing.
Now what? Well, I had a (supposedly) high-quality webcam. Perhaps I could bring my laptop, record in HD, and mix the professional audio together with the video. Not a brilliant plan, apparently. Logitech‘s webcams have a surprisingly notorious issue of recording in too few frames per second and crashing certain professional video editing softwares, such as the one installed on my old PC and Adobe Premiere Pro, used by a professional video editing friend I had hoped to employ. Whoops.
No more tech talk, but I did have to return to the drawing board. Many months later, I have a new Apple laptop and a plethora of YouTube videos to teach me how to use iMovie 11. Thank you social media. Uploading my first song of many to come, today I finally joined the digitally functional community of video. Although April in Paris: A Recital with Abigail Wright and Eugene Sirotkinedefinitely sounds clearer than it looks overall, I present to you a new song by a brilliant, living composer and a fresh beginning for my online community. Expect much more to follow.
Gone are the days when I hear the phrase, “Oh, it must be so easy for you,” in reference to myself or anyone else dating or finding a good match. Still, people often look surprised upon hearing that New York has a reputation for stacking the numbers in favor of the single man, and even those who defend the dating scene here admit (and, in true New York fashion, like the fact) that it isn’t easy. Although I have learned so many beautiful lessons, found priceless and lasting friendships, and truly value those I’ve met while dating in the city, I admit I have suffered occasional defeat.
I once wrote a post (or two or three) about dating; however, I admittedly shy away from discussing such a topic online, especially when it involves other people I respect. Even omitting any mention of the couple of mixers and speed dating events I’ve attended during and because of my efforts writing Skydiving for Pearls, I seem to have decided to remain a bit of a mystery in this area of my life. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
On the other hand, when I stumble upon something of interest to myself and potentially other women (or men) who, like me, navigate the sometimes muddy waters of the single life in Manhattan, I feel obliged to share. At a group exercise/dance class downtown last night, I met Maria Coder, founder of InvestiDate. As a former journalist and certified investigative reporter, Maria has steered her life toward helping people learn the skills necessary to date smartly.
With a surprisingly optimistic outlook, this dating sleuth told me that she doesn’t judge the way someone chooses to try to find a mate. Craigslist, for example, could theoretically work with the right investigative mindset before making potentially dangerous mistakes on a date with a stranger. When she invited me to her class this Thursday with a discount, I decided to give it a try. Hopefully I have already learned the street smarts not to put myself in situations that might harm me, but I don’t doubt I might learn something new.
For those of you wondering, “Is this what we’ve come to – not trusting anyone and doing background checks on my husband?” I suspect the lovely Maria has a more balanced approach. Based on our brief conversation, I believe she wants to help women succeed in their efforts to find whatever they seek by dating in the city, without putting themselves in physical or financial danger. Sometimes we can’t avoid emotional pain, but I look forward to this class on Thursday where I may just learn to try my best. Either way, I doubt my heart can ever doubt too much to once again fall in love.
I never quite made it to the World Trade Center buildings before they fell. You know, one of those things I assumed I’d get to eventually. I did manage to stand within a couple of blocks from the site on September 12, 2001 (although of course I’d rather I could just hop on the subway and visit them today, still standing). Singing my first professional gig after achieving my undergraduate degree, I had a scheduled rehearsal on September 12 at New York City Opera (which, ten years later, also very sadly seems to be falling down) for I Capuleti e i Montecchi.
In 2001, I lived in Newton, NJ, a two-and-a-half hour commute from the opera house, with my husband at the time (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus), a music teacher. Newly out of college and too poor to pay for cable, we had no television. We tried rabbit ears once during the World Series, but returned them when we could only view the RAI Italian network. On September 11, my friend called to warn me not to go into the city in case I had rehearsal. When she told me about the plane (only one had crashed by then), I assumed she meant a comparatively harmless private plane. Attempting to understand, I turned on the radio. As the plane crashed into the second tower, I only had one radio station left to hear, NPR. All other radio towers broadcasting to my region were conveniently located on top of the towers.
After a day of receiving images via the Internet, phone calls from my mother, and updates out of London on the BBC network broadcasting for NPR (not an exaggeration), I felt oddly out of touch with my nearest major city. I also doubted I’d have rehearsal in the morning but had no way of determining my next course of action. I called our rehearsal hotline. No change. Still no change. Still no change.
I took the NJTransit train in the next day from the Dover station, not knowing what to expect. What didn’t I anticipate? A free ride to and from the city on NJTransit, the only way into New York City on September 12. Plumes of smoke visible from the train, from Penn Station, from Lincoln Center. People walking slowly in Penn Station and locking eyes with one another on the subways. Strangers of all ethnicities praying together and speaking frankly, as if related to one another, on the trains in from NJ. An eerily empty Broadway.
With rehearsal of course canceled ten minutes after my arrival at Lincoln Center, I went to the now also defunct Barnes and Noble on 66th Street and Broadway to gather my thoughts, like a deer in headlights who couldn’t move. I stumbled upon a week-old article in a weekly Washington-based journal that asked the question, “What needs to happen for us to realize we need to change something about our intelligence community?” In the surrealism of that moment, I knew I wouldn’t turn around and go home.
I’d like to blame my lack of television coverage for the remainder of my actions that day, but I now realize I suffered from the same first stage of grief that most Americans felt: denial. My husband and mother would both scold me for venturing down to Ground Zero on September 12 but in doing so, I witnessed the heroes who continued to volunteer well after 9/11 and the unfathomable beauty of strangers made brothers up close. Taking the 1 train (since the 9 suddenly no longer operated) as far as I could, I got out at Canal Street and continued walking south. In itself, that fact still astonishes me, considering I get lost there now as a New Yorker, having lived here for several years.
More miraculously, I found a way to continue walking past the initial barricades designed to keep anyone but residents out of the area, after walking into a small chapel, praying, and leaving through the other side. Along with so many volunteers and residents, I was able to walk down to Stuyvesant High School, close enough to see the flag so famously photographed among the rubble and far enough to stay out of the way of the work that still continues, now ten years later.
Of course it broke my heart. Inhaling the death and ash, a stranger I’d met along the way and I picked up used doctors’ masks on the ground out of desperation to breathe. We saw someone’s incinerated résumé, cars that had hardly any metal and definitely none of the rubber left from the destruction, ash… Lots of ash. Amidst all of the turmoil (most of which lay one day behind and too far away to see), we had the moment to watch as each person present came together to offer support, provide food, search for survivors, and begin the process of picking up the pieces of our sometimes broken world.
As AT&T offered free phone calls across all pay phones in New York, NJTransit offered free train rides to and from the city, and countless people offered their time, energy, health, and lives, a strange and beautiful sense of community entered into the actual heart of our capitalist society. Since then, we have struggled. Plugging our money into wars, banks, and Ponzi schemes, we have lost things too this decade, in addition to the people who have also perished. Our hopes rise and fall, and we wonder sometimes where to place our faith.
Buildings tumbled, and we bled, but the biggest difference I came to understand that day lay in the fact that we embraced the truth of our common reality. Each of us who lives, breathes, and dies saw for a brief moment the precious human mortality we all share and made eye contact. We knew each other and understood, and it was beautiful.
I don’t preach for a living, I sing and act. Last night, I had the unspeakable pleasure of singing in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony No. 2 with the New York Choral Artists and the New York Philharmonic. Tonight, it airs on PBS at 9:30pm, following the President’s address. As I sang, I remembered that day, the day after, and all the challenging days since through which we have endeavored as a people, sometimes together, sometimes apart, to resurrect ourselves. Imparting a message of hope through struggle, we gave the best gift we know through free music, and the most grateful audience I have ever seen applauded for what seemed like an eternity. I leave you with a translation of the text of the final movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony, by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Gustav Mahler, along with my sincere belief that together, we will rise again.
APRIL IN PARIS: A Romantic Recital by Opera Singer, Abigail Wright and Pianist, Eugene Sirotkine
Ah spring! Retreat to Paris this April 16th at 7pm with mezzo-soprano, Abigail Wright and pianist Eugene Sirotkine for a romantic recital with a French accent at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Teaneck, NJ. There will be a reception immediately following the event.
Ms. Wright is an accomplished singer/actor whose wide-ranging career has taken her from the Metropolitan Opera stage to modeling to the world of puppetry. She has been critically acclaimed for her remarkably wide vocal range as well as for her sensitive musicality while delivering intense and dramatic performances. Eugene Sirotkine brings his expertise as a pianist, a world-renowned conductor, and a composer to their rich collaboration, inviting Ms. Wright to perform at St. Mark’s and also to sing one of his brilliant compositions, Sensation (poetry by Arthur Rimbaud).
The evening also features the song cycle Le passage des rêves (“The passage of dreams”), an exquisite new work by composer Benjamin C.S. Boyle, exploring the lush poetry of French philosopher, Paul Valéry. Other selections include Claude Debussy’s Ariettes Oubliées, set to the poetry of Paul Verlaine’s Romances sans paroles (“Songs without words”), the magically evocative Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel, and a set of English language songs – including Vernon Duke’s April in Paris, of course!
Tickets can be purchased at the door, for a suggested donation of $15, to benefit St. Mark’s.
What: “April in Paris: A Recital with Abigail Wright and Eugene Sirotkine”
Who: Mezzo-soprano Abigail Wright and pianist Eugene Sirotkine
When: April 16, 2011 at 7pm; reception to follow concert
Recommended by some great friends in social media, I have recently begun to work for a company called ibidmobile.net. Working with corporations, ibidmobile provides the service of wireless auctions on ipads for charity events. If your company threw a party to benefit their favorite charity, you might attend and bid, via silent auction, on an ipad instead of a piece of paper. As an ipad valet, I can show you the available items for auction, show you the current bidding prices for each item, and help you place a single or multiple bid, allowing you to place your maximum price and watch it rise incrementally against other competitive bidders.
It sounds easy, but I definitely earned every penny made on my feet tonight at my first shift at Cipriani. Hedge Funds Care, an organization dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse, hosted this evening’s event with some really incredible items up for auction in the beautiful space and venue at the 42nd Street Cipriani. Unlimited glasses of spirits, plates overflowing with the highest quality cuisine, cater waiters, ipad valets, coat check valets, registration workers, board members, and guests galore peppered the expansive room.
As with any event involving strangers, co-workers, and dates, the space filled with so many people, many of whom (definitely not all!) wanted to sell something: their photography or videography service, lighting effects, the catering company, single men, women on dates, workers trying to get ahead, etc. Despite not making any commission on bids, I personally felt the odd urge to compete, push, and sell from the very beginning of the night. Ultimately realizing that I do far better as the available person with a good smile and a helping attitude, I eventually relaxed into the only sales role in which I succeed and survive, mentally-speaking. Thankfully, my attitude served me well, and I had a great time, worked hard, and met some really lovely people along the way while helping a great cause.
My favorite lessons learned at tonight’s 13th Annual Hedge Funds Care event at Cipriani:
Todd Weiner, the founder of ibidmobile, really cares about the charities and has so much to give as a person and efficient manager/owner of the company. Listening to him help one of my clients with a question about a specific bid, he reminded me how the purpose always returns to helping the charity.
Listening to other valets work with bidders, I realized how much I have to learn from not only Todd but all of the staff, old and new.
Fearlessness and gracious persistence always win… in auctions and in sales (not that I need to compete within the company).
Sales techniques truly carry over to successful networking. Needing to promote myself regularly as a performer in person, not just online, working in a scenario like this can really help teach me vital skills to advance my career, if I pay attention.
When the winner of a golf package advances from asking if I golf to inviting me to learn how to hit balls with him one night, he’s probably no longer discussing golf. Bad pickup lines amuse me at the end of a tiring first night on the job.
Congratulations to Hedge Funds Care, who seemed to have a truly wonderful time raising a very large sum of money tonight, all to help prevent child abuse and treat children of abuse. Of all of the participants who won tonight, those children who will benefit from your generosity took the true prize.
Old and new friends and acquaintances reunite, familiar music resounds, as Sarah Small and her brilliant cast and crew come together once more for another, more private tableau vivant. Set in the Bathhouse Studios in the East Village, this version has both a more intimate audience, set, and feel. The same challenges arise as each of the models hold their static poses, sing, and watch in our peripheral vision to catch the tempo, the changes in harmony by the stringed instruments, and the moments when Sarah Small might float in to signal our poses to come alive and interact.
Earlier in the day, after a few hours of rehearsal for the tableau, interviews, hair, and makeup, Sarah also floated about the set, this time in a Tim Burton-like white dress and half upswept hair. We took our places afresh, this time for a new video concept involving Sarah as an obsession rivaling social media’s love ofJustin Bieber, as we literally fall lifeless at her feet. Upon the long-awaited final entrance of a baby in the final shoot, lifted up to the heavens, we all breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of a little rest and dinner before the performance.
Reminding me of my days of high school marching band, I felt a bit lightheaded but excited after our, “do it again, just one more time” (all lies!) kind of day. What could have possibly energized me so much after a truly exhausting day with little time to stop to eat or rest? With such a different venue from our DUMBO Arts Festival performance, a seemingly small change provided me the first and most profoundly personal inspiration from this tableau vivant.
Rather than enter through the crowd, the house opened to a space full of “sleeping” models, each of us frozen in static poses for twenty-five minutes until a Bulgarian wool-clad Kamala Sankaram powerfully sang “Caro nome” from Rigoletto to bring us to life. Amusingly, Kamala actually made the dynamic a bit louder than usual on her first phrase in case any of the models actually had fallen asleep, but having to hold a perfectly static pose for twenty-five minutes makes sleep fairly challenging. Although I have spent some time considering the prospect of life modeling (posing nude for artistic endeavors, usually classes) in the future, I never quite grasped the difficulty in maintaining even a seemingly comfortable but perfectly still position for twenty minutes or more.
Somewhere between odd but unresolvable back pain and moments of Zen where I actually almost dozed off despite the discomfort, my thoughts began to compare the sensation with the reality of living my life in a static pose of inactivity. Like many Americans, I struggle with the temptation to hide from the cold or the challenges of life in the comfort of my warm apartment, in front of the anesthetizing influence of the television, computer, or other media. Only after I stand up and attempt to participate in living do I perceive the alternating pain and sleepy haze into which my paralyzed state has thrown me. Doubtless this observation provided the motivation to move slowly away from the television, one muscle at a time, and back to living my glorious life.
Although I’ve re-discovered a much fuller existence these past six days or so, since my first day of braving the hazy shade of winter relentlessly blanketing the city, I have yet to act on another gigantic impetus to change, once more inspired by my performance at Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant. Somewhere between each palpably quickened heartbeat before singing “C’est l’amour vainqueur” from The Tales of Hoffmann, a familiarly impish spirit of adventure washed over me as I decided to wait longer than I could seemingly bear in the silence before beginning my first note in the nude. Similarly, at the end of an ever-present and confidently sung aria with no clothes nor poorly-acted pretense, I enjoyed my final high note in suspended time, without fear or reservation, before coming back down to end the piece and tableau.
Afterwards, as we descended past the grateful audience down the frigid staircase to return to our fully-layered lives, I chuckled with an unusually cogent confidence upon the realization of a truly impressive feat. “Why,” I thought, “would I ever feel afraid or self-conscious at auditions when I know I can do something this amazing so expertly?” Those of you who have read my writing more than once or know me personally understand that while I must regularly promote myself as a performer, such self-assurance does not greet me readily when I rise each morning. For this I have to work so hard, such that I failed to attempt a single audition last month, even after agreeing with colleagues to apply for at least five monthly.
Yet somehow, performing with a roomful of dedicated and similarly vulnerable humans, without a single pretense or guise of fabric to call my own, the Tableau Vivant gives me the strength and faith to perform honestly and without apology, as the very best version of myself. In my life, I believe I have never received a greater gift; however, the offering each performer and creator lays out at the feet of their audience materializes into a much more profound treasure of creation. About this community at large, the performers within, and the message Sarah Small’s Tableau speaks to humanity, I have far more to say over the next few days. My thanks to those of you who have decided to join us.