Anastasia Tsioulcas writes at NPR Music for “Deceptive Cadence” (http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence). Widely published as a writer on both classical and world music, she is the former North America editor for Gramophone Magazine and the classical music columnist for Billboard. She has also been an on-air contributor to many public radio programs, including WNYC’s Soundcheck, Minnesota Public Radio’s The Savvy Traveler, Public Radio International’s Weekend America, and the BBC’s The World.
The mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is widely loved not just for her glorious voice, but her very refreshing down-to-earth spirit. As "The Yankee Diva," DiDonato uses social media — YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in particular — to talk to her fans. There's no artifice and, despite her tongue-in-cheek handle, no diva-ish glitz (very unlike some of the images projected by some of her contemporaries). DiDonato's YouTube videos are very simply put together: she's just your wise friend/compassionate teacher Joyce, talking to you one-on-one at generous length.
In her latest upload, she tackles a really important question: How do you handle loneliness on the road? You might think it's mainly a topic for young musicians staring down their possible destiny — if everything goes right, that is. But in giving her own answer to that question, and stressing that there's no one right solution to this question, she gives out an awful lot of great advice that's applicable to just about anyone:
On creating the life that's right for you, away from external and internalized pressures of what you are "supposed" to do, or how you anticipated your life would unfold:
You want your life to be fulfilling, even if the dream has shifted a little bit for you. And that's OK.
On friendships that wax and wane with work:
The first few years I was doing this, I thought, 'Oh my God, these friendships must not be real. They must be superficial, or somehow just temporary.' And I didn't like that ... But then a couple of years pass, and you start meeting these [same] singers around the world, and what's beautiful is that you pick up right where you left off. You realize that there was a real friendship that was born there; it just takes on a different form than what you're used to in your normal life. It's just defined in a slightly different way.
And on alienation:
Loneliness is a big part of this career. You have a fabulous triumph — or maybe you don't, but at least you're singing and you have that high after the show — and you come home to your kind of grungy apartment, because you can't afford a nice apartment ... and that sense of alone-ness is devastating, and cataclysmic, and huge. It's like social whiplash. That's the bad news. The good news is that there can be some really beautiful things in that. You have to learn how to be by yourself ... that's where contemplation happens. That's where fortitude happens.
Anyway, the whole thing is very beautiful and meaningful and honest — and very well worth your time.
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