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let’s discuss: There’s a New Music Party in Chicago!

September 23, 2016


If that doesn’t get your blood pumping, you may want to see a doctor. That’s right, folks! Ear Taxi Festival 2016 is almost here! If you are even slightly in the vicinity of Chicago, or you love new music enough to get yourself there, you should think about purchasing your tickets today.

In 2008 the Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia University generously instituted a biennial festival supporting emerging composers of classical contemporary music.

Spearheaded by Ditson Advisory Committee member and University of Chicago Professor Augusta Read Thomas, the Ear Taxi Festival – October 5-10, 2016 – is a celebration of Chicago’s thriving contemporary music scene with concerts, lectures, marathons, webcasts and artist receptions featuring New Music Chicago and New Music USA. Co-curated by Augusta Read Thomas and conductor Stephen Burns and a curatorial committee of Chicago’s leadingartists and intellectuals the festival is a joy-ride through Chicago’s new music scene. From Mana Contemporary and the University of Chicago on the south-side to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance and The Chicago Cultural Center in the loop, to Constellation on the north-side, the whole city will be humming with the sounds of creativity and innovation.

Ear Taxi Festival 2016

A Singer’s Inner Work: Multiple Intelligences

September 21, 2016

Did you know that there is Sybaritic Singer content that is exclusive to the email list I affectionately call, “The Sybaritic Faithful”? Well, there is. If you are on the list, then you would have already received today’s post in your inbox. If not, you may want to take a moment to sign up or update your settings now! Click on the image below to go to the sign-up form. After you enter your information, make sure to select “Sybaritic Singer” under the “Pick Your News!” heading.

A Singer's Inner Work | Multiple Intelligences | Sybaritic Singer

A Singer’s Inner Work: Learn Your Action Style

September 20, 2016

Two days ago, we did some deep inner work by working through our Enneagram assessment which helped us understand our core needs and personality traits. Yesterday, we devoted our time to deciphering our learning style. With those in mind, today we are going to figure out our action style and how that can help or hinder our ability to work toward our goals as singers and musicians.

A Singer's Inner Work | Learn Your Action Style | Sybaritic Singer

Your Diva Action Styles

Kathy Caprino, of Career Bliss fame, has an excellent article for Forbes called, “The 6 Dominant Action Styles: Why You Need To Know Yours To Be Happy And Successful.” We are going to use her excellent advice gleaned from 11 years of coaching professionals, five years as a therapist, and 18 years in corporate life to help us with our singer small businesses and distinguishing our action styles.

You’ll probably want to read her full article and sign up for her email list to get the most out of today’s post. All the block quotes in this post come from her article. (I am not an affiliate and not connected to Kathy’s work – just trying to send some good vibes her way for sharing her incredible knowledge.)

Kathy’s 6 Dominant Action Styles include: The Striver, The Seeker, The Researcher, The Pacer, The Challenger, and The Advocator.

The Striver

The Striver in music will obsessively choose large goals that are based on perceived victory and success. She will work tirelessly to realize those goals sometimes to the detriment of making lasting relationships, having a musical/artistic voice, and her ultimate whole body health.

This individual is motivated keenly by achievement and accomplishment – by setting goals and doing what’s required to clear the pathway to achieve those goals. Strivers work hard consistently to overcome their challenges, and won’t hesitate to get outside help, advice and support from others to achieve their visions. They are deeply driven by accomplishment and by getting to the other side of their goal as expeditiously and efficiently as possible, as if to make a “check mark” on their to-do list that represents “Done.”

The Seeker

Our divas of the seeker type follow their little beagle noses to whatever interests them, or encourages their personal growth, along the way. They may enter a MM degree program and feel totally comfortable using that experience to transform into a stage director or agent in the next iteration of their goals. They aren’t tied to the end-all-be-all goal. Their true goal is to keep pursuing their intuition and internal guidance. I gently remind Seeker Types in the musical freelance world to remember that “hope is not a strategy.” Positive thinking is powerful but not the only way of achieving goals.

The Seeker is motivated by expansion, learning and growth, and sees evolving and learning as the key objectives of experience. Seekers may change directions frequently, embracing the idea of “going with the flow,” and are more than fine with modifying their dreams and visions based on what new “material” shows up in their lives at any given time.

The Researcher

Researcher Divas love school. They love the whole process of really digging into each facet of the singing life. They want to listen to all of the recordings. They want to speak all the languages fluently. They have a never-ending mountain of potential repertoire. Divas of The Researcher persuasion, do not get so busy learning about how to sing that you find yourself without time to do the actual verb. If you notice your diva friends agonizing over researching every aspect of the audition process and failing to actually sign up to audition, encourage them to take the leap and try out their research.

The Researcher is deeply motivated by the process of study, research, exploration and evaluation – assuming a wide range of angles and perspectives in order to understand the best goals to pursue, and the best avenues to achieve these goals. The researcher needs to turn an idea or concept over and “peel the onion” to investigate, dig deep, explore and uncover as many alternative approaches and options in order to arrive at the best plan.

The Pacer

Divas with a strong Pacer vibe will be resolute in their goals but can get bogged down in their own methodology and understanding. There are times in the singing life that you need to be able to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities on the fly. This could be intimidating to a pacer type who wants to apply for gigs, grants, schools, etc on their own time and in their own way. Be aware of when your Pacer action style can help and when it might be preventing you from new opportunities.

Pacers will get to their goal, but they’ll approach the process very slowly, methodically, and often in a plodding way. The Pacer is like a great giant turtle with a hard, protective shell. When events or situations emerge that threaten the Pacer, s/he will submerge under the shell until the threat has passed. The Pacer will reliably plod to the goal, but often others have to move around the Pacer if they wish to speed up the process or take the most expedient route.

The Challenger

“The whole YAP pyramid scheme is a joke and an effort to prey on young, naïve singers! We should abolish the system! We should create our own opera company! We will dismantle the audition process!” If you’ve heard some of these statements before, chances are you’re friends with a Challenger. We should look at the ways the system can be better for everyone involved. Perhaps some of us do need to create our own opera companies. But, sometimes a diva of the challenger variety can run out of energy and other resources before accomplishing the goal they set out to achieve.

The Challenger feels the urge to challenge everything – asking questions, disrupting conventional thinking, and not taking any advice, authority or direction given as definitive. The Challenger thrives on being able to turn a goal or a belief over on its head, and questioning why it exists. He is motivated by following his own, authentic answers to deep questions, and views himself as the highest authority on what is the right, or wrong, way to approach a situation or goal.

The Advocator

Finally, our Diva Advocators are out in the field doing work that they can believe in. They need something larger than themselves to spur them on. They like their goals to be community-focused or service oriented. Advocators get shizz done because they are deeply committed to the idea of “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Our musical advocator action types can find themselves not getting along with others who do not share the same vision. If this is you, diva, remember that not everyone has to share the same goal that you do to make a project successful. Know your goals and needs and know other’s goals and needs. You don’t have to make them the same thing.

Finally, the Advocator drives to a goal only when it has “juice” and excitement for her – when it holds a deeper meaning and purpose, usually around advocating for some desired transformation – for herself, others, her community or the world. Advocators need to have deeper meaning and purpose in their work and in their goals, and long for outcomes that will bring forth positive benefit to everyone involved.

Show Your (Inner) Work

Have you already determined which action style best describes you? I definitely know what mine are. I bet you can probably guess them too if you’ve been a longtime Sybaritic Faithful. Put this inner work knowledge into practice by thinking about a current project or goal you’re pursuing.

  • What is your overall action style?
  • Do you have a different action style when it comes to micro goals along the way to the larger goal?
  • Do you notice yourself having different action styles at different points along the timeline?
  • Who are the people directly connected to this project and what are their action styles?

I hope this post has helped you bring some clarity to how your Action Style, as described by Kathy Caprino, affects your diva life. Share with me your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter. I’m @mezzoihnen.

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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: Find Your Learning Style

September 19, 2016

I have never met people more obsessed with continuing education and life-long learning than singers and other musicians. You can almost hear the cry from their souls, “I want to know MORE!” We love masterclasses and bootcamps and lessons and coachings and lectures and workshops andandand… The list goes on. With all this pursuit of knowledge, it makes sense that we should have a better understanding of the learning styles that help us retain that wisdom. That’s where our inner work comes into play again.

A Singer's Inner Work | Find Your Learning Style | Sybaritic Singer

Finding Your Learning Style

Your learning style impacts the way you understand information and solve problems. Knowing the percentage to which you lean on a certain learning style can help when you are learning new repertoire, absorbing information about theory and practice, and considering ways to grow your singer small business.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll break it down into three areas: auditory, visual, and tactile.


We all know those musicians who can listen to a song and then immediately sing it back note-for-note. Or, those friends who never needed to take notes in class because they were able to remember the lecture perfectly. Those learners store information by the way it sounds. Auditory learning style adherents take very well to spoken instructions.

In music, auditory learning can take the form of listening to recordings, vocal modeling, reading the text of a piece out loud, countsinging, and having your instructors speak through objectives. Can you add to this list?


One would assume that all musicians are auditory learners. While musicians are more auditorily skilled, that may not always be their primary or preferred learning style.

As it pertains to music, I’ve always thought of myself as much more of a visual learner. Scat-singing in jazz, harmonic dictation, and rote learning songs have been difficult in my past. However, hand me the lead sheet, show me the orchestral score, or put some Curwen hand signs to the song and I’m right back in the game. The visual element helps us see what we are learning.

Visual learners in music use flashcards to memorize historical facts or theory concepts, create mental imagery for their repertoire, write notes in lessons and lectures, and love to color code. Musical visual learners need to see things, not just hear things, to learn.


As singers, most of our daily lives is a mixture of the auditory, visual, and tactile. Even in just one part of a voice lesson we hear our starting pitch, see the music in front of us, and feel the sensations of healthy technique. However, being a primarily tactile learner is more than just focusing on sensations while singing.

Tactile learners understand and remember information through physical movement. Think of your friend who always has to take apart and put back together the entire engine to understand how it works. Communication through touch or understanding the physical movement of something without retaining what was seen or heard are classic tactile learner mannerisms.

Musically inclined tactile learners feel most secure in their music once they’ve blocked the whole show, really respond to Dalcroze Eurhythmics, enjoy learning music with hand signs, memorize vocal lines quicker by being able to play it on the piano or another instrument, and more. What are your favorite ways to incorporate tactile learning into your work or studio?

Show Your (Inner) Work

Take a short, 20 question, self-assessment to determine your learning style. Do your results ring true?

Bonus points: brainstorm more strategies for each type of learning style when it comes to learning technique, concepts, and repertoire for yourself or your students. Write them onto popsicle sticks like we did in our Revolutionize Your Studio post or come up with another way to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Now, that obsessive pursuit of knowledge can be processed in an even more efficient way because of your commitment to knowing yourself. Onward!

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A Singer’s Inner Work: The Enneagram

September 18, 2016

In the next few posts we’ll be diving deep into getting to know ourselves. Searching out our deeply held convictions, personality styles, motivations, and more. The idea being that the more you know about how you approach the world the stronger you will be in the face of life’s toughest experiences. Plus, a better understanding of your basic fears and desires can help you become more resilient in the march towards your goals. We’ll kick off this inner work research with The Enneagram.

A Singer's Inner Work | The Enneagram | Sybaritic Singer

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is comprised as a set of nine distinct personality types. Each number on the Enneagram symbol denoting one type. Your basic personality type stands out among the nine; but, it is normal to find your personality including a little of each of the nine types. [Note: The quotes in this post all come directly from the Enneagram Institute.]

Riso-Hudson Type Names

After taking the quiz, you’ll be giving a number and a one-word descriptor that helps categorize the different personality types. Those descriptors, in numerical order, include: The Reformer, The Helper, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Challenger, The Peacemaker.

Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.
Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.
Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.

You may already be able to see why having a better understanding of your basic personality type may give you insight into your musical career not to mention your day-to-day life.

What is so helpful about the Enneagram is the nuance and subtlety that it is able to parse out in each personality type. The 144 question test goes beyond just putting you into a specific dominant personality. It helps answer questions about the emotional center, the dominant emotion of each center, and the two personality types adjacent to your basic personality type.

Levels of Development

As part of your results, there is a section devoted to levels of development for your personality types. “That structure is the continuum of behaviors, attitudes, defenses, and motivations formed by the nine Levels of Development which make up the personality type itself.”

The Levels of Development provide a framework for seeing how all of the different traits that comprise each type fit into a large whole; they are a way of conceptualizing the underlying “skeletal” structure of each type. Without the Levels, the types can seem to be an arbitrary collection of unrelated traits, with contradictory behaviors and attitudes often part of the picture. But by understanding the Levels for each type, one can see how all of the traits are interrelated—and how healthy traits can deteriorate into average traits and possibly into unhealthy ones. As pioneering consciousness philosopher Ken Wilber has noted, without the Levels, the Enneagram is reduced to a “horizontal” set of nine discrete categories. By including the Levels, however, a “vertical” dimension is added that not only reflects the complexity of human nature, but goes far in explaining many different, important elements within personality.

After that section, you’ll read a bit about your direction of integration (growth) or direction of disintegration (stress.) This part helps us discover the shift in our personality when we’re experiencing growth or stress.

The Subtypes

Finally, you’ll look at your subtypes. The subtypes are split into three categories: self-preservation instinct, sexual instinct, and social instinct.

Which Instinct is in each of these three places—most, middle, and least developed—produces what we call our “Instinctual Stack” (like a three-layer cake) with your dominant Instinct on top, the next most developed Instinct in the middle, and the least developed on the bottom).

Show Your (Inner) Work

I was blown away with the results after taking my own Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator. As I was taking the questionnaire, there were certain questions when I felt, “ugh, these are the same to me. I can’t pick one over the other. I bet this won’t be very spot on when I finish.” Boy, was I wrong! The Levels of Development for my type was such an eye-opening process. One in which I kept saying, “Yes! Exactly!”

Divas, your inner work invitation for the day is to simply set aside the time and the $12 (I am not an affiliate or otherwise connected to this organization) it takes to go through the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator. Please feel free to share your thoughts and your types in the comments below. Or, as always, hit me up on Twitter! I’m @mezzoihnen.

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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: Healthy Striving vs Perfectionism

September 16, 2016

Brené Brown must simply be the American Woman’s foremost current authority on inner work. Her writing and speaking seems to be everywhere. Her thoughts on shame and acceptance declared and affirmed from blog posts to podcasts to Pinterest pins and beyond. With that much public affection, it can be easy for the psychospiritual-adverse among us to shy away from her ideas. But then, you read something like, “Healthy striving is self-focused: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is other-focused: ‘What will they think?'” Then, you start to feel the wisdom in her work.

A Singer's Inner Work | Healthy Striving vs Perfectionism | Sybaritic Singer

Perfectionism is Hindering Your Diva Life

So, we’re shining a light on our attitudes toward striving and perfectionism today. When you think about those words in the context of your life and your work, how do you feel? Does one term describe you better than the other? Can you feel where either one is more true in certain parts of your work?

What Will They Think?

Let’s turn to our friend and icon Martha Graham here, “What people in the world think of you is really none of your business.” In a career field that relies on gatekeepers as heavily as this one, it may be difficult to understand this point at first. “Of course I need to care about what other people think. They are the ones giving me the gig!” I understand that logic, but it will ultimately be unfulfilling. We cannot fully understand the people around us that we’ve known for decades. It is obvious, then, that we can never really know what strangers are thinking. We take their verbal and non-verbal information, process it through our own understanding, and then make assumptions based on that and call it their opinion instead of our own.

Ultimately, what other people think of you is none of your business. It is a confession of their own character. That reasoning applies in both directions, friends.

The creative path in this life will be so much more fulfilling and satisfying if we rid ourselves of the notion of needing someone else’s permission to live our professionally creative lives. Remember, you already ARE a singer. Everything after that is simply a jumble of different self-imposed metrics.

How Can I Improve?

Ridding ourselves of the notion that we need someone else’s permission to be professional singers seems to change the rules of the game a bit. “If I don’t have the reviewer from the Times say that I’m valuable…” or “If I don’t have the audition panel for that international competition say that I’m valuable…” or “If I don’t win that shiny trophy for my recordings to say that I’m valuable…”

“… how will anyone know?”

It does change the rules. Your inner work regarding healthy striving versus perfectionism will motivate you to realize that you aren’t clamoring for perfection in your craft in order to gain someone else’s permission to do it more. In fact, it will inspire you to realize that you work diligently at your craft because it is something that you deeply love and you’re searching for alignment in the world. The singing world isn’t actively against you. Truly, they want you to be the right fit for whatever project they’re pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into. Don’t wait, divas. Realize what is valuable about your artistry and then go into the world seeking alignment. Don’t only search for someone to tell you what they need you to be to fulfill their needs.

Show Your (Inner Work)

Think about the difference between what actions, steps, and goals you’ve brought into your life. Make two columns in your journal: ‘how I’m improving for myself’ and ‘goals I’ve chosen based on what other people will/do think.’ If you need some prompts to start thinking deeply, ask yourself:

  • Why did I go to school for music?
  • Why did I choose the school that I chose?
  • What repertoire do I work on and why?
  • What is the big goal that I’m working towards at the moment and why?

Perfectionism isn’t going to bring peace. It is a mythical finish line. More so, it is a through-line to anxiety and depression. When we make an active shift to healthy striving from perfectionism we are not negating our high expectations. We are saying that we’re ready to work in the face of fear. We are ready to try. We are ready to meet our own expectations with our work. Perfectionism means living in a world where we will never be enough. There will always be something wrong with us and our work. Healthy striving means adopting a change in our thinking that focuses on operating at our current best in every situation.

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“The Things I Miss”

September 15, 2016

I don’t miss explaining to people that singing is what I “really do for a living.” I don’t miss hotels and apartments. I don’t miss searching for places to eat that won’t make me sick.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I don’t miss the contrived fights I had with my wife in the days just before leaving the house, because I didn’t want to leave her again for two months. I don’t miss having to explain to my boys why I was leaving and that “I always come home.” I don’t miss how depressed I would be on the walk back to my hotel. I do not miss the night horrors.”

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer
I do miss going to lessons. I do miss opening a brand new score and unraveling the mystery. I miss many of my colleagues. Not all of them. I miss standing next to voices which made me cry and forced me to regain my composure during a performance.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I miss the electricity of the 20 minutes just before the curtain rises. I miss being in a dressing room where greatness once had their scores on the piano. I miss looking at the labels inside my costumes to see who else wore them. I miss my dressers and make up artists who gave me so much free therapy.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I miss belonging to such a marvelous phenomenon which gave my soul wings at times and brought me crashing to the ground at others.

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

I miss…..

Frank Lopardo | The Things I Miss | Sybaritic Singer

by Frank Lopardo