A New Invitation to Last April’s Event

Rehearsal for April in Paris
Rehearsal with Benjamin C.S. Boyle and Eugene Sirotkine

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 Sirotkine definitely 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.

Dear Mom, I Heart Peer Pressure ~ 177

Flashbacks of brightly-colored public service announcements, Hallmark-like after school specials, middle school health class lectures, and visiting high school students to preach the dangers of drugs to our elementary schools flooded back one Sunday during the first phone conversation I’d initiated with my mother in weeks. Between several voiced concerns about nudity in tableau vivant, she warned of the dangers of drugs, potentially for the first time, at least in my memory. I can only assume this lecture of concerns around thirty years in the making signaled an overabundance of party photos on my Facebook page. Who knew social media geeks (myself included) could worry a mother so? Didn’t she reach her early twenties in the late sixties, after all?

Admittedly, I’ve found myself more regularly in the company of folks who attend Burning Man (via social media friends, not tableau). While I may have learned my low tolerance for alcohol the hard way on rare occasion, their free, happy, and non-judgmental attitudes encourage me to embrace the most positive version of myself that I daily seek to find. Furthermore, although I do have close friends who have done LSD, Coke, or Ecstasy, I personally haven’t ever seen anyone doing hard drugs, nor has anyone ever offered me any. Aside from the obvious fact that I love life and don’t need hard drugs to “enhance”/ruin it, I really truly couldn’t afford to buy illicit substances once, no less support an addiction.

No, fortunately for me and my sometimes worrisome yet loving mother, I happily benefit from the very best forms of possible peer pressure. Financially, many of my close friends and colleagues suffer with me in a painful recession in the arts. With varying degrees of difficulties among us, several can’t even use credit and struggle to eat while still burdened by debt. We cook for each other, recommend each other for gigs, help find work for each other whenever possible, and brainstorm together to find ways to survive well in the city and keep performing. One of the most supportive groups of people I know, the artist community in NYC really knows how to stick together and encourage other artists to work hard and spend less. Even strangers I’ve met here, through social media and Internet Week NY last year have helped me out with financial motivation. Having met some amazing folks from Mint.com at the after party for the Webby Awards, the best suggestion planted itself and germinated until today, when I finally bit the bullet and created an account at Mint. What a great site and company… The services people offer together to help motivate the world truly astound me.

In a few short weeks, my good friends Amy Armstrong and Maren Montalbano travel to the city to attend a free seminar bymarketing/career coach Dallas Travers. We’ve formed an accountability and brainstorming team of writers, singers, and actors (each of us does all three) to keep one another on task, focused on furthering our futures as performers, and persistently putting ourselves forward in auditions and contacts with companies, regardless of success or rejection. We call it “The Diva is in the Details,” and I hope we keep it and ourselves forging ahead for a long and productive time ahead.

Although not convinced my mother believes this a positive or productive influence, I likely never would have gone skydiving without my sister having tackled if first or without the insistence of my dear friend Sarah Giardina, and it changed my life. While I have diligently moved forward on my own toward finding challenges to enhance my life, writing here gives me an instant source of peer pressure, knowing that anywhere from one to hundreds of people per post daily check in to see if I remain on track. Something as common as my recurring television addiction can derail me for a long time. Then, I go on a few dates with someone who reads a great deal and rarely watches television, or I witness first hand the productivity and excellent work ethics of my friends who don’t have a TV set, and I pledge once more to forgo repeats of mind-numbing sitcoms for practicing, working, marketing, networking, exercising, or doing necessary paperwork (in other words, actually living). I head to Planet Fitness as we speak, following a morning job and breakfast with a good friend…

Serendipitously, I ran into a great friend and colleague I hadn’t seen in almost a year while working out today. He told me all about his new successes as an extra and featured performer on Boardwalk Empire and Gossip Girl, sharing with me his passion for diversifying life as a singer and actor. Recommending his casting agency, he further went on to tell of recent solo concerts he gave in China, and we chatted for nearly an hour about possibilities of working in Europe and ways to work well at the trades we love so much. Don’t get me wrong. Some singers in the city do not play as nicely, especially in the audition halls like NOLA Studios, where “old friends” trade recent credits and upcoming gigs like status symbols to make themselves seem bigger and more successful than the competition, aka their friends. Not mine.

My friends root for one another, keep each other motivated, and attend each other’s concerts wherever and whenever possible. We recommend each other for gigs, remind our friends and colleagues when their behavior has gone a bit astray, and alert them when gossip has turned to focus upon them in a negative way. Finding ways to party, relax, and have a good time together, the very best friends I could imagine keep me happy, healed, and having the time of my life while enjoying a great career that, though difficult to maintain, offers the best rewards I can imagine. You’re right, Mom. I have a lot of peer pressure living here in the city, and I enjoy a better existence because of it every day.

Social Media Begins with the Letter “S” ~ 171

That’s right, boys and girls. Today, and for the remainder of this week, the world receives a free education in social media and all its myriad uses and possibilities. If you currently live or visit New York, San Francisco, London, Rome, Paris, Hong Kong, Saö Paolo, or Istanbul, you have the incredible opportunity to hear lectures, party, play, and experience everything live. In other words, you can attend lectures, party, play, and experience social media in real time with companies like MTV, Comedy Central, Youtube, and Microsoft at venues like the Google Science and Technology Hub and the Gramercy Park Hotel.

For those of you residing in a different location this week, all you need is an Internet connection to access much of the free instruction and discussion happening globally. Visit Livestream to watch events happening now or talks you may have missed. I know many of my friends and colleagues still react towards social media as unnecessary, distracting, or evil and haven’t yet decided to learn how to make the most of so many tools available to us as members of a complex and changing society of corporations, freelancers, citizens, and participants in the history to come. If Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, MySpace, Tumblr, and WordPress all make you want to run for the exit, I highly recommend dipping your toes into the wading pool this week for free. You may find a way to enhance your life with our more connected twitterverse and if you don’t, you have invested only a bit of time.


Abby, Bert, and Ernie
Relative Virality: How to Explode in Your Niche, at Sesame Workshop

Deciding to begin my #SMWNYC adventure in a less gigantic-corporation and free stuff sort of way tonight, I headed over to the offices of the Sesame Workshop to learn from the successful marketing campaigns of three separate Jewish organizations. Stephanie Wilchfort of Shalom Sesame began the discussion of how to leverage as many platforms as possible to succeed in marketing to one’s niche. Within five minutes, I had at least two pages of ideas already reproducing further ways to promote my career to the very specific industries within the arts and entertainment world to which I belong.

Motti Seligson of Chabad discussed ways in which seemingly underdog high schools won large sums of money in an online challenge sponsored by Khol’s. Most importantly, he stressed the value of empowering a passionate community to rally behind one’s cause and reminded us all of the necessity of keeping such a rallying point personal and relevant. Reaching out as human beings to the rest of humanity seems a crucial theme for this Social Media Week in New York, and Andy Neusner of Jewish Community Heroes spoke last and extensively on working more closely through as many channels as possible to individual. Specifically, he addressed the importance of avoiding polarizing issues that might distract from one’s mission and ways to engage with individual “thought leaders” in smaller parts of the community that one wishes to attract.

Discussions on hashtags, listening tools, automation points, email blasts, efficiency, time management, and the impossibility of overexposure ensued. This panel agreed that the ROI, or “risk of ignoring something,” far outweighed the potential danger of oversaturating one’s niche by posting the same information in too many places. Why should anyone care? Social media will change throughout the years, but our ability to connect as a society will likely continue to increase for quite some time. As a freelance singer and actor, I have a duty to myself and my career to promote and encourage future current and future work. With an obligation to my friends, readers, and supporters to treat them with respect and not as a number, I highly value the input given to help me consider every option available to me to intensely market myself, but with grace and consideration of my audience.

Tonight, I feel incredibly thankful for all of the sponsors, speakers, and participants in Social Media Week 2011. Take advantage of it, if you can. Tomorrow, I attend a case study of the marketing platform for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear with Comedy Central and MTV and a discussion entitled “High Art vs. the Masses” about the art world’s use of and reaction toward social networking. In the meantime, Sarah Small has one of my newly favorite pieces of writing in hand regarding her Tableau Vivant and hopes to have it published. I don’t know exactly what tomorrow will bring, but I can guarantee I won’t be bored, depressed, and hiding from winter anymore. Progress.

Laila Tov!

In the Flesh and Online, Two Honest Quests for Social Good, Day 125

Ground Zero on September 12

Sitting on a crowded subway on my way home from a sublime meeting with Sarah Small at her apartment, I feel a strangely beautiful connection to the people around me, in a way I haven’t quite felt since traveling through the city on September 12, 2001. I remember the faces of the New Yorkers taking public transportation or walking along the street who, despite the horrible tragedy, connected with each other on a profound level in knowing glances and even in prayer. Countless citizens of the world volunteered, donated, and came together in a spirit of unity for the greater good without any hope of profit for themselves.

Today, the black-capped, flannel and Fila-wearing cyclist managing his bike, iPod, and MacBook next to me feels at this moment less an awkward and unwise stranger I might judge than my brother, connected somehow by the fact that we all come from stardust. Not a response to national catastrophe, this present epiphany comes from my time spent connecting with Sarah through stories told, artistic visions revealed, and music shared. Oh, how an hour with an inspired and naturally vulnerable person transforms my view of the world, tweaks and calms my inner monologue, and increases my love, kindness, and empathy toward others!

Do I sound like too much of a hippie? True, I will perform nude on Saturday, and our first rehearsal occurs tonight. I have to bring a robe. While I will refrain from revealing too much of Sarah’s vision for this Tableau Vivant, I can assure you it will indeed be alive. Exploring the most human and commonly profound experiences in life, this will doubtless bring together the performers and audience in a shared energy I have likely never felt to such a degree. Promoting an awareness of us all together in humanity brings us further from hate and war and closer to patience, acceptance, and each other. If that makes me a hippie, bring it on!

For those less organically inclined, today Mashable offers Social Good Day. No, I didn’t make a mistake; rather, one of the largest blogs and the creators of Social Media Day have teamed up with the 92nd Street Y this U.N. Week to bring attention to the possibilities of using social media to create positive change in society. In fact, had I noticed sooner, I as a blogger could have had access to briefings from the U.N. Summit (previously far more closed) all week through a digital media lounge established at the 92nd Street Y. Monday, we could have attended their Social Good Summit with celebrities and industry leaders discussing new media’s potential role in addressing the world’s challenges.

Why care about the impact of social media on the world? As I blog, tweet, post status updates, and check in on Foursquare, some of my friends have asked, “What’s the point?” We all still know someone without a Facebook profile, either because they need to enforce their own break from cyber-stalking an ex or because they tire of seeing everyone’s business. In Edward Norton‘s speech from Monday’s summit (a complete recap of videos from the Monday are available here at Mashable.com), he starts by describing his initial adverse reaction to sites like Facebook and the overwhelmingly personal nature of most friends’ updates and posts. Discussing his company Crowdrise and how they enable individuals to evolve into effective grassroots fundraisers for charities, he uses the average social media user’s “impulse for personal narrative,” to give anyone a platform to show others and herself how one looks at herself “as an agent of change in the world.”

In short, go to the website. You’ll find a fun and addictive interface designed to help people volunteer, raise money for favorite foundations, and exchange ideas with other members looking to support something worthwhile. In the video, Edward Norton tells a story about a woman in the United States and a woman from England who found each other through Crowdrise supporting similar causes.  Presently the two, once strangers, travel to Africa to work together with funds raised from their online platforms for change.

Crowdrise isn’t the only organization with this concept, and many more new companies have started to pave the way for us to use social media as a tool for more than keeping up with friends or self-improvement. Still, we have so much work to do in the world! Mashable and (RED) first initiated Social Good Day to raise awareness about the Millennium Development Goals, a challenging but crucial set of priorities developed by the U.N. to raise the quality of life for a large percentage of the world’s population suffering from extreme poverty, disease, poor education, gender inequalities, and many other woes.

Our world’s governments can only do so much to empower change; surprisingly, each of us can help. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to prompt our compassion and sense of humanity. Start today on Social Good Day. Offer someone your seat on the subway and look around to see the individuals around you as you travel from place to place. Watch some of the videos from Mashable’s summit or read the news in English from another country across the world. Volunteer, raise money for your favorite charities, or just support one. A little effort from many people can help so much. If you’re the more inventive type or someone who likes to debate ways to create your own version of change, leave work a few minutes early today. Find a Mashable Social Good Day meetup near you and discuss with other passionate people how we can all make a difference. I hope to hear all about it.

Happy Social Good Day!

My Social Media Small Town with Big Dreams, Day 77

Last night, I attended this month’s Obliterati event, saw my fantastic friends and met some great new ones.  I heard about someone’s spacious new apartment and art studio in Bushwick, met a woman writing her first book about sex and dating, lent a sympathetic ear to a friend after a breakup, talked with someone about the intriguing prospect of writing a blog post for Spa Week, introduced an awesome guy to my friend The Date Coach, and met Peter Pawlick and his friend who attended the party with a message to spread.

Humanity > the Internet
Peter Pawlick for h>i

Simply stated, Peter wanted the people at this social media party to remember that humans are greater than the Internet.  I imagine his encouraged social media fasts (and perhaps other technology fasts in general) might actually help people find deeper ties in their current relationships, while gaining a more focused opportunity for self-discovery.  On the other hand, my recent dives into the pool of social media have enhanced my life, some relationships, and even my career in ways I never could have expected.

Challenging me to jump out of my comfort zone every day, my blog has given me a restored desire to try new things, meet different people, see varied performances, and brave more auditions.  Through it, I have had the opportunity to review organizations, concerts, and experiences and encourage people to attend worthwhile events.  Shockingly to me, Twitter has provided me an amazing vehicle for promoting friends, concerts, and even a charity or two.  Occasionally, I find the random friend or colleague who busily responds less to phone calls and emails than Twitter, so it sometimes helps me to reach out in a third way and cut through the noise to get his or her attention. I also have a sneaking suspicion that all of my exposure online through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and even WordPress helps me promote my career in a way I never could have done before, just by regularly reminding at hundreds of people of my existence and hopefully my essence.

Admittedly, seeing status updates, new technologies, deals, and posted opinions not just daily but sometimes all day does wear on one’s attention span.  On the other hand, shared events occur far more often and more easily with the help of the Internet.  Recently, a girlfriend of mine found a cheap studio online and invited some of us to try out belly dancing.  That was a fun bonding experienceGroupon led me to a new friend and great personal trainer, and a newer discount-focused website called Yipit gets delivered daily to my inbox, offering me opportunities to try out classes, food, spa services and more, all gathered from several various daily deal sites according to my interests.  Thankfully, for a writer with a very minimal budget, sites like these help me immensely!

I heard about Yipit and another website I hope to use very soon called Kickstarter from the April 18, 2010 article entitled “Tweet Tweet Boom Boom” in New York Magazine.  Its author, Doree Shafrir, talks about technology-based social media startups in New York, their optimism, and their unusual outlook that technology really can bring people closer together.  Despite the obvious dangers of constantly posting one’s status and location on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and especially Foursquare, I do believe that the benefits far outweigh the threats to safety, especially when we can carefully accept or deny friendship invitations and control our postings.  For a girl who spent four years as a child living in a village in Ohio, I can’t recount how many times a day a big grin develops on my face from running into my friends in the street or even online in this great village of Manhattan.  I never knew a big city could feel to me like such a small town.

A new colleague of mine brilliantly accompanied an audition for me yesterday.  We met briefly at her production of Handel at the Gershwin in early March.  Doubtless she would not have remembered me from only that meeting; however, I wrote a rave review of that event, and she blogged about my post.  Finding her on a website for singers called YAP Tracker, listed as an available accompanist at yesterday’s venue, I called her right away and had a great audition.  Thank you technology and Jennifer Peterson.

When speaking in the hallway afterwards, Jennifer and I talked about technology and media’s impact on relationships and careers.  In response to my mention of the New York Magazine article, she tweeted an article to me about Amish business ethics and how a lack of technology has likely allowed them more reliable percentages of success.  One Amish businessman named  has allowed some technology into his practices, and I think on either side of the h > i argument, we can all agree with his response.  “How far do you let technology affect your business? I guess you just have to stay true to your convictions and draw your own lines and not overdo it where you lose the values and your way of life.”  Here’s to all of my friends and family: a jargarita to celebrate finding ways online and off to deepen our relationships and enhance our lives.