Singing lessons

There is one thing
they don’t tell you
about singing lessons.

And the one thing is that
it’s more
than just
singing lessons…

It’s soul work.

It’s digging deep into your roots
to explore your depths
and expose your truths.

And every lesson is a different story …

One day it could be that
hands are shaking,
heart pounding,
desperately aching
kind of love story
between you and music

and the next day
reads as
a serene fantasy:

a garden
blissfully blooming —
breathing as one
with the spirit of music.

But never is it ending.

You have to keep working.

Keep showing up.

Tending the garden that is
wild
and most days
messy,

but always
promising.

Always yielding
discovery,
beauty,
music,
love.


Singing is an incredibly vulnerable activity, requiring the full commitment of your mind, body and soul. The ultimate goal is to find harmony within these (at least for long enough to get through the song you’re singing). You have to cultivate a compassionate space within yourself. Some days it is much harder to get to this space because of all the other stuff you may be experiencing in your life that is cluttering your mind, creating unnecessary tension in your body, and causing negative self-talk that is crushing your soul.

I have been a student of singing for eighteen years and have studied with over a dozen different voice teachers, each with their own skill sets and methods of teaching. As a student I find some lessons to be much more of a struggle than others, and it usually comes down to my mindset and where I am emotionally going into the lesson. In college many of my voice lessons became therapy sessions, as I was regularly in turmoil over my future or feeling completely overwhelmed with schoolwork, social obligations and upcoming performances. Will I be good enough to sing my role in the opera? Will I be good enough to even make it through this day? It was an inner battle I was forced to fight with my anxiety rising in my throat, trying to relax my uptight shoulders and clenched jaw; attempting to also put aside the flash cards in my head for my biology test tomorrow, the seating chart for the wedding I was planning, and the other ten new pieces of music I was learning for the choir tour next week. All these stressors were coming out in my voice while trying to focus on the task at hand: my breath, my technique, my diction, my delivery of the Bellini piece I was currently singing. Many lessons ended in much-needed tears, as it had forced me to really confront all that I was dealing with, realize I could not carry all that weight and I needed to just surrender to the love of music.

I have been a teacher of singing for four years and have found the job to be incredibly rewarding because I get to essentially help guide my students to this more compassionate space for themselves. It is a challenging process because every student is different, some with many more layers to get through than others. My goal is to create a welcoming and loving environment where students can learn to make big mistakes and sing silly voice warm-ups freely, learning to accept themselves at their very raw core. Some beginning adult students will not make it through many lessons because the peeling back of these layers they have built up through the years can be unbearably uncomfortable, stirring up too much, and that is completely fine. Those students might get more enjoyment out of learning a different skill that is less immediately demanding on the vulnerability of the soul, such as singing in a choir. For others, the love of music or their sheer determination to thrive as a solo singer will conquer self doubt and they will learn to enjoy the turbulence and nakedness of using their voice in new ways in front of others.

If you are interested and want more information about voice lessons, take a look at my lesson page or feel free to contact me! I just started teaching online lessons via Skype and Zoom. I will be accepting new students starting July 1st. 😊

Writing and photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Lullaby

On sailboats
we glissade —
ceasing all activity

from choppy shores
to tranquil waters
that ripple to
simplicity.

Boundlessly

we float,

we rest
in loving
kindness
.

Breathing in the
softened skies

we welcome
ocean’s lullabies.

“Lullabye” cover by Katy Funke

Today I wanted to create a special recording project for my friends and family who just had babies or are expecting very soon. During these times I find great comfort in music, especially singing lullabies. My favorite lullaby of all time is Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)”, which he wrote in 1993 for his then 7 yr old daughter, Alexa. It is truly one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard and I have always wanted to do a cover of it. I hope you will enjoy the finished product for you and any little ones in your lives 💗

Writing, vocal performance, photography & videography by: Katy Claire Funke

Lauretta’s Aria

Giacomo Puccini is one of the first names that comes to mind when we think of Italian opera, and for good reason, as he has composed some of the most memorable opera scores of all time. He is known as “the greatest composer of Italian opera since Verdi,” with famous works like La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (1924).

Puccini began his compositions rooted in the Romantic style of the late 19th-centry, following the likes of Verdi and Wagner. However, throughout his career his work evolved with the verismo literary movement in Italy that sought to portray the world with greater realism. Puccini’s verismo style is what made his operas revolutionary. His libbrettos were relatable to the masses, telling unglamourous stories of people in poverty paired with sweeping and bittersweet scores that reflected human emotions in real, visceral ways.

Outside of his most famous works is the comic opera in one act, Gianni Schicchi (1918), which includes perhaps his most famous aria, “O mio babbino caro” (“Oh my dear papa”) written for soprano voice. It is sung by the character, Lauretta, who is pleading with her father to not separate her from Rinuccio, the boy she loves. The aria dramatically contrasts the storyline of the opera, as it provides a sweet and romantic lyricism in an atmosphere of a jealous family fued in medival Florence. Lauretta starts the aria by telling her father how much she loves Rinuccio, but when she sees that he is still not budging on his decision, she goes to the ultra dramatic, crying that she is going to throw herself into the Arno river, which definitely gets his attention and he cannot deny his precious daughter’s wish.

As a soprano “O mio babbino caro” is a must-have in my repertoire, as it is one of the most requested and well known arias. Some of my favorite sopranos who have sung this piece are Maria Callas, Anna Netrebko, and Kathleen Battle. I hope you will enjoy my live performance of this beautiful aria!

A Song for Easter

I started my singing career in high school as the cantor for the Catholic church that my family and I attended in Idaho. Since then I have worked for numerous churches throughout the U.S. and have gotten used to the busy music prep weeks leading up to Easter and the holy days of obligation that surround the holiday.

Since this Easter is so different I wanted to sing some non-standard repertoire for family and friends back home today. (By non-standard I mean religious music outside of what the Catholic Church allows during masses.) One of my favorites that I haven’t sung in quite some time is “When You Believe” from the film The Prince of Egypt. This is sung by the chorus of people departing from the slavery of Egypt to the Red Sea and the Promised Land. I just thought that some of the lyrics to this song were very relevant to our lives right now.

Here is a little live performance I did today. I will probably re-record this one with better audio to have for next Easter, but wanted to share it today.

The featured image is one I took of a bird of paradise plant, which symbolizes freedom. I thought it was only fitting to go with this song.

Music of Good Friday

We are called to:

*Listen
to the melody

(Edge tones of pigeon wings)
(A humming of waves cello
)

*Harmonize
in sonic civility

(Ease of human frequency)
(Stillness of city rumbles)

*Reflect
on suffering’s elegy

(Dissonance of our being)
(Sickness of the innocent)

*Forgive
in resting humility

(Mercy of our heart strings)
(A cadence of gently living)

This year’s Good Friday is especially poignant during a time of darkness and suffering for humanity. Many of the lessons we are learning during this pandemic are reflected in the stillness of this day.

Napili Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Maui. It was so strange to be one of the only people there due there being no tourists on the island.

Writing & Photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Photos from Napili Bay, Maui, HI 4/10/2020

Singing Poems

Bloom

A flower is
as simple as that
not for me
not for you

A flower blooms
despite applause
with no desire
of “oohs” and “ahs”

& for that reason
I will sing
& gladly take my bows
to crickets

Scribbles
On days like today
I scribble and erase
at aria lines

‘til Gounod is a mess,
Bizet leaves the room,
and Verdi goes
completely insane

while Mozart and I
share our madness
in a glass of champagne

and all that’s left to do
is to scream Puccini
into the skeleton
of an empty opera house.
Healing

My healing is in the singing:

In the ribbons of blue sighs

I unravel legato lines.

In the resonance of spirit sorrows

I set free vibrato cries.

In the release of breaths held

& the colors re-warmed

I let ring from the soul.

Writing and photography by: Katy Claire Funke

Moon River

My performance of “Moon River”

Henry Mancini’s 1961 composition of “Moon River” was originally written for Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, to sing in the cult classic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. After the movie’s release the song became wildly popular and branched into several different arrangements, including a jazz standard. The piece swept every award show in 1962 including winning Song of the Year at the Grammy’s.

The lyricist, Johnny Mercer, wrote “Moon River” to be reminiscent of his childhood in Savannah, Georgia with connections to his favorite book, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. However, the song is mainly interpreted as a wanderlust love song.

If you know me personally you know that I have been obsessed with Audrey Hepburn since I was a little girl, so naturally, I adore this song, and it has been on my list to record for quite some time. I hope you will enjoy my rendition of this pretty little ballad.

Photo from Pinterest

If my verses had wings

My performance of “Si mes vers avaient des ailes
Si mes vers avaient des ailes
Mes vers fuiraient, doux et frêles,
Vers votre jardin si beau,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Comme l’oiseau.

Ils voleraient, étincelles,
Vers votre foyer qui rit,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Comme l’esprit.

Près de vous, purs et fidèles,
Ils accourraient, nuit et jour,
Si mes vers avaient des ailes,
Comme l’amour!

- Victor Hugo
English translation:
My verses would flee, sweet and fragile
To your garden so fair,
If my verses had wings,
Like a bird.

They would fly, these sparks,
To your laughing hearth,
If my verses had wings,
Like the spirit.

To your side, alone,
They’d hasten night and day,
If my verses had wings,
Like love!

Reynaldo Hahn is one of my favorite composers and “Si mes vers avaient des ailes” has always been at the top of my list for favorite French art songs. The first time I performed this piece was at my recital during my junior year of college. I simply love the melody and the way every word feels when I sing it. The poetic text is by Victor Hugo.

I am hoping to do a bit of a quarantine recital the next few weeks so let me know if you have any requests! I figured since my days are currently filled with me screaming French art songs into an empty house I could make use of it.

Also, I have decided I don’t want any furniture in this new house. I am perfectly content to just have these acoustics instead! Ha!

performance anxiety

he smiles at me
those perfect ivories 
i try to tickle but
tangle frozen fingers
in careless hair 
anxieties 
coarse with giggling 
notes that mock me 
in dotted dark eyes
with each page 
turn 
sheets of ice 
to sweat 
trickl 
         i
         n
         g 
       into 
       pits 
of an inferno 
under stage lights 
red hot
on my neck. 
rehearsing triad scales 
turn to slithering reptiles 
that spiral into depths 
coiling around 
the songs i knew
in my prison
i mean practice room
whispers to 
withdraw 
run away 
give up
to quit 
when 
a trance of strings 
tune 
me out 
of my nauseous state  
to focus
my wild mind 
on the spotlight 
of the magic wand 
that lifts 
me out. 

By: Katy Claire Funke

The webs we spin and get caught up in can truly hinder us from our passions and our jobs, but we have to let the love of our art overcome. I’ve been a performer since I was four years old and have always suffered with some degree of anxiety. Even after being on a stage hundreds of times. Most days I can harness that nervous energy and turn it into a more exhilarating and authentic performance for myself and the audience. Other days, it gets in the way. Nevertheless, I need to perform because I can’t do life without it (I’ve tried and been miserable), so I take it one performance at a time.

Photo by Jim Arnot on Unsplash

The Way We Were

"Memories light the corners of my mind"

Valentine’s week is upon us and naturally, we will reflect on love– all the beauty, pain, complexity and cliches that come with it. A poetically expressed love song will be the method of choice many of us take to emotions and memories of romance and heartbreak. “The Way We Were” is one of those gorgeously melancholic Barbra Streisand love songs most of us can connect with on some level.

"Misty watercolor memories of the way we were"

I discovered this jewel of a song last week while perusing the website of the beautifully talented mezzo-soprano, Mikki Sodergren. Her performance of the ballad with the The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra began to play and I was immediately transported. Sodergren’s mellifluous voice, coated with strings and those vivid lyrics brought me to tears.

"Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
smiles we gave to one another for the way we were"

The song would be Barbra Streisand’s 1973 hit single, written for her leading role in a new movie and upcoming album, both titled The Way We Were. Streisand and Robert Redford star in the movie portraying a couple deeply in love, trying to make their relationship work despite their fundamental differences. Needless to say, their relationship does not work out and when meeting again years after their separation, they recollect on the fond memories they shared while this nostalgic melody sets the scene.

Barbabra Streisand 1974 album "The Way We Were"
"Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line?"

Super-couple lyricists, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, wrote “The Way We Were” (“The Windmills Of Your Mind” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” among my other favorite works of theirs). Streisand originally wanted the song to be in a minor key, but composer, Marvin Hamlisch, made the decision to make it major so as not to reveal the lyrics too soon. An effective, artistic choice, in my humble opinion, as I feel the contrast is a more honest telling of the song.

"If we had the chance to do it all again
tell me, would we?
Could we?"

Streisand (“Babs” if you will) presented this song to the world with her signature expressive flair, making it an instant classic and her first song to top the charts at #1. “The Way We Were” won the the Academy Award for Best Song in 1974, and the Grammy for Song Of The Year in 1974. The song would be featured in several movies and TV shows, most notably in the 1988 movie Big, where Tom Hanks sang a few lines to his mom to convince her that he is her son.

"Memories may be beautiful, and yet
what's to painful to remember 
we simply choose to forget"

While drafting this post today I listened to various covers of “The Way We Were” and just when I thought this song couldn’t get any better, I came across the most poignant rendition by the “Empress of Soul” herself, Gladys Knight. She chose to start the song with spoken poetry from the stirring piece “Try To Remember” from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks, where it was initially sung by Jerry Orbach. It would be a crime to not also mention Beyoncé’s epic tribute to the song at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors Barbra Streisand concert, where she gave a performance nothing short of stunning.

"So it's the laughter we will remember
whenever we remember the way we were."

I am amazed that I have not heard this song more in my life, especially considering that I grew up listening to the 70’s Saturday Night radio program religiously with my mother. “The Way We Were” is a gift that I am so grateful to have stumbled upon.

Hope you will enjoy my cover of this beautiful song!

Check out this poem I wrote inspired by “The Way We Were”.