Blog

Teachers, Olivia Newton-John, and Speaking Up

I had the wonderful opportunity to do a “Guest-Blog” spot for NPR on their weekly topic of “Teachers Who Made a Difference”, for it brought up wonderful memories (as well as a few twitchy ones), and gave me the pause to consider how deeply one person’s influence can affect another’s.

As luck would have it, I was at my grade school Alma Mater, St Ann’s, yesterday morning, the day the article posted, and I was flooded with memories of term papers, construction paper/stick glue projects, playground shenanigans, and demanding, attentive teachers.  My 7th grade Speech and Drama teacher is now the principle and I talked her ear off with memories of my performance for the required “Advertising Campaign” which consisted of pink leg warmers, a matching pink sweatband, shorts (God help me) and the pitching my product: a perfume called “Physical”.  Yes, if you were around in the 80’s you can picture an awkward but eager 7th grade girl trying to impress her crush, Eric F., with a very solid rendition of Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical.”  How did I ever survive Junior High?

My point in bringing this up with her (which THANKFULLY she did not remember at all!) was that from where I stand today, I can trace back, directly, step by step, my path in getting here.  All the failures, successes, misguided school performances, risks, humiliations, little triumphs – they all add up and provide the foundation from which I still function.  I felt very lucky walking those hallowed halls yesterday and loved working with the 5th and 6th graders, giving them a few pointers on how to breathe to sing.  Wouldn’t you know it, the 6th graders, one by one, challenged me to a sing-off!  I loved the enthusiasm and the fascination they showed with a real live opera singer singing right in front of them.  Once they dared to lower their hands, which instinctively went to cover their young eardrums with my first sounds, they actually really enjoyed seeing something so “exotic” up close.

It also made me painfully aware of how lucky I was to grow up with a supportive network.  Not everyone is so lucky.  What if I had been bullied because I liked singing or for being in the school plays? All the latest news reports of teenage suicide, in particular of young gay/lesbian suicides is weighing very heavily on my mind.  Again, I apologize for stepping off topic here, but it is something I feel quite passionate about, and simply cannot stay quiet – I wasn’t alive during the Civil Rights Movement in the US where African Americans were fighting for equal rights (or women, for that matter!), but I do remember being deeply upset when I realized how inhumanely one person could be treated simply because of their skin color (or gender, or religion, and the list sadly goes on and on.)  I would ask my parents, in all my splendid ignorance, “Did people really have to live like that? But why didn’t you do anything about it?”  That wasn’t a condemnation – it was simply curiosity. Happily, I was not raised to see people as separate, or lesser than me, but I always wondered why so many people tolerated behavior that was inhumane, and ultimately, ridiculously arrogant.

So I know that I cannot, in good conscience, stay silent on actions that not only affect other human beings, but some of my very dearest friends.  That a young person would feel it is a better option to take their own life, rather than be accepted for who they are, at their very core, saddens me more than I can say.  We have a responsibility to stop teaching hate.  It is literally killing us.

But there is someone who recently said it MUCH better than I ever could: a councilman from Fort Worth, TX.  This, to me, is what bravery looks like, and I feel immensely grateful that there are people in the world who will speak for what is right, even when it is not popular or politically correct.

Thank you for letting me express myself on this.

Back ON topic – I have to go board a plane now for Germany and Spain. Next time I’m home it will be Christmas.  This is the hard part of what I do.  I don’t want to fly to Europe.  I want to fly to Salt Lake where my husband is getting ready to debut his first La Boheme and I want to cheer him on for his opening night.  But duty calls, and once I arrive, I’m sure I’ll be happy I’m there (especially since I just found out that STING – holy cow! – is singing in the concert in Essen on Sunday!), but boy is it hard to step onto this flying machine!

See you on the other side!

Cheers!

11 Jun

Who needs espresso? Or to understand the wonder of life? Apparently I only need this....! https://t.co/F56DafpiH7

11 Jun

Indeed. https://t.co/p8G1st1OSG

9 Jun

Cry. You can reapply the concealer .... tears are cleansing and sometimes called for ... 😔 https://t.co/fd9hDX0OgS

FOLLOW Joyce DiDonato

#SummerLovin #LovinLavender #LavenderLovin

I arrive (nearly) to the end of this very full season, and it’s good moment to remind each of you reading this that YOU are the reason I travel the world, away from home for months at a time, working towards an unattainable perfection, exposed in ways very few people can imagine, singing the stories of characters searching for enlightenment/redemption/hope/relief/joy, and why I dedicate a large part of my life to this century’s old art form. I do it to entertain you at a minimum, but mostly to offer you comfort, to help us all join in a communal “event” that connects us across time and space despite our perceived differences, and I do it because I truly believe it makes the world a better place. I know you feel this most of the time as well. It’s likely what keeps bringing you back! I hope that after this season, perhaps you feel a bit more inspired to take what you receive as an audience member and activate that sensation in your own life, to bring hope and joy to the world around you. Don’t ever underestimate your power to do that - one doesn’t need the spotlight to bring transformation. #Songplay #Winterreise #Agrippina #Didon ✨

If this girl can do it, you can too!!!!!!! #belikeanant #heavyload #yourenevergivenanythingyoucanthandle #antsruletheworld #summerlovin

Grazie Mille @accademiadisantacecilia and the @baciopanino boys. What a JOY it was to perform with you all. Until the next time!

Celebrating #WorldOceansDay ... hoping every single one of you has the chance to swim in the vast blue ocean one day. Growing up in Kansas, I didn’t have the chance until I was in my 30’s, but when I finally did, an entire new universe opened right underneath me and I was changed. I’m so grateful for all that the planet’s oceans give to us. I want to be sure I’m doing all I can as a citizen of the world to take care of them and their vast, life-giving properties. Let’s get more informed and more active in protecting them and helping them thrive.

I was not prepared. The inspiration is through the roof to bring to life the towering cantata of #JoanOfArc tonight in the very cathedral de St. Denis, where she prayed for strength centuries and centuries ago. The same stones that received her pleas tonight will hear them again filtered through the mind of Rossini and the vibrations of those of us on stage. This, perhaps, is the thing I love most about the world of music - it connects us directly through time and space, and it shows us demonstrably how we are one. Ask me how much I love my “job”! @festivalsaintdenis @accademiadisantacecilia

#HowToFlower . . . What’s beautiful around you right now?

Grazie Mille, Roma. What a gift to be here for the briefest of moments - how much life we can find in the now!!!! #LightShower #Pantheon #Mystical #Luz #Luz #Luz #NoFilter #LookAround #Stopqndbreathe #batheinthelight #recoup #regenerate #batheingratitude #boydidtheromansknowhowtobuildabuilding #agrippinawashere #perfection #ladolcevita

And behind the scenes with Maestro Pappano and his @accademiadisantacecilia: a glimpse into the PROCESS which I love so much as we create our journey to prepare for the magic of the audience’s arrival. Thank you all for making our hard work so worthwhile!

Follow Joyce on Instagram

There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.

~ Joyce DiDonato