Big House

110K fans doing the “Hail” hand jive, this truly excellent band with their awesome sound, hot drumlines, and “nice diags” (tip of the pen to Dr. Andrea Brown). Life in music will sometimes surprise you, and it sure did this opera geek on Saturday. But first let me back up a bit.


So…hi, y’all! Long time no see! Somehow the first-week-of-school update I planned never happened. How to describe returning to Ann Arbor after this summer? For the first time in several years, my husband and I got some real vacation. It was pretty overwhelming to come back and plug in to the information stream again. It demands a lot of us! But what a joy, in contrast, to plug back into this community of people and students. I’m teaching courses in aria preparation and recitative, and coaching up a storm. With my colleague, conductor Oriol Sans, I’m preparing students for a crazy cool concert of vocal works by Sariaaho and David T. Little. With my colleague, the fabulous tenor Stanford Olsen, I’ve been working on a recital that we’ll debut in a few days, so more on that soon. In the middle of all of that, I got this fun invitation from the band to conduct the national anthem at the game against Colorado. Who could turn that down? Drs. John Pasquale and Andrea Brown were so nice to me, and it was incredible to watch them own the Big House along with the fantastic Michigan Band. I had the best time!

Fun fact: the band is about half engineering majors! The vast majority of the band are not music majors, which makes their dedication to this truly demanding performance mode even more impressive. I’m impressed with the music majors who do it as well. It’s a huge time commitment with all the other playing we require of them. I’ve known this band was an excellent ensemble for many years, but now I’m a fan for life.

I also got myself back over to the Motor City to start things up with the Michigan Opera Theater Resident Artists again, and we had a very good first day of work. We’ll be together a lot more often this season, which is wonderful.

And all that? the last two weeks? It’s just my little corner of this huge place, with ensembles large and small, solo projects, and academic work happening in every room. What a vital and inspiring atmosphere.

But yesterday, activity stopped for a bit as faculty and students gathered to remember our beloved professor Kay Castaldo, who passed away over the summer after a long illness, during which she never wavered from her luminous and kind way with us all. It was profound to see how deeply she touched us in the short four years she spent at Michigan. In the middle of all that activity, she never lost her focus on, and energy for, the students and colleagues around her, even in the most challenging circumstances of her health.

Monday again, with so many adventures ahead. And many more opportunities to pause, reflect, and experience it all. What a life!

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