Back to the centre of the sun….

I am now back in PHX (aka, the centre of the sun) and am reflecting on the past few weeks of musical activity at the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices.  This program is geared for the “large” voice (think Wagner!) and I was a faculty pianist for it.  The first few days of any music program I have attended always seem overwhelming and never-ending as I adjust to new schedules and musical expectations.  Then, routine sets in and time flies by as lessons and coachings are given, ideas absorbed, and goals set.  The last night of the Institute featured a concert that showcased all of the 21 singers.  Each one of them sang beautifully and demonstrated the rewards of all the hard work over the past 3 weeks.  I had a great time here in Reno and feel very fortunate to have been invited to collaborate with the other faculty; all are top music professionals and are genuinely good people to boot.  All of us observed that we all actually LIKE each other and ENJOY being in each other’s company (case in point: some of us spent our free time hiking together and exploring the gorgeous natural scenery around us).  I intend to use the positive musical momentum from this program to kickstart my career in Phoenix; as anyone who has ever relocated knows, it can be challenging to restart one’s career in a new city, especially when social networks and contacts are lacking.  (That said, if any of you readers know of people or musical organizations in Phoenix that need a pianist, piano teacher, or accompanist, please forward my name to them!)


(Photo 1: Reno Riverwalk.  Sadly, the river level was pretty low this summer.; Photo 2: the iconic Reno arch; Photo 3: beautiful “cotton candy” clouds I saw during an evening walk; Photo 4: another gorgeous night sky!)


(The above 4 photos are from a party that the Institute attended.  Our host had an amazing property; he built his own Wild West-themed town from scratch….he also designed and built his own 18-hole mini golf course.  And let’s not forget the actual working train that encircled the entire property!  Amazing party house!)

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(Photo 1: beautiful flowers during my hike up Mt. Rose; Photo 2: top of Mt. Rose, NV, elevation 10,700ft (3261 m)!  Lake Tahoe is in the background.)

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(Before the final concert!)


“Spinning” around in Reno

I’ve now been in Reno for one week and have heard a LOT of operatic singing.  There are a lot of talented singers at this program and they are working very hard to process all of the information doled out to them in lessons and public masterclasses.  All of the faculty are housed in extended-stay hotel accommodation, which is terrific because we all have our own rooms with a kitchenette, giving us the option of cooking our own food.  As hotel guests, we receive a discount for a gym pass at the gym down the street.  Hooray!  I bought a pro-rated gym pass for the duration of my stay and have been really impressed by the quality of the facility.  One of my goals while in Reno is to maintain a basic level of exercise.  That is the reason I checked out a spin class yesterday morning.  “Spinning” is a type of group fitness class conducted on a special stationary bicycle that focuses on endurance, strength, and high intensity.  I thought I would try it to work out my neglected leg muscles.  It wasn’t too bad.  The instructor would yell out the number of turns we had to turn the dial up or down to increase or decrease resistance.  She would then direct us to stand (and pedal furiously) or sit (and pedal furiously), all the while urging us to “push it!”  The hour-long class ended with some stretching.  During the entire hour, I had 4 thoughts that kept circling around in my brain:

  1. I would rather be outside riding a bike than be inside and pretend to ride up a big hill (I know, I didn’t think I’d think that either!).
  2. I have never had sweat sting my eyes before (this was because the class was in a small room with only fans to promote air circulation….I wasn’t working THAT hard!).
  3. Why was the room not air-conditioned?
  4. The seat of my stationary bike was way too cushy and padded.

I think I’m a bike snob now.  At least I got a workout in yesterday!


Today, two of my colleagues and I decided to do a day hike in Tahoe National Forest.  It was such a pretty hike and we all agreed that it was the perfect thing to do on our day off.  While we would have liked to have seen Lake Tahoe, we thought that a shorter outing would suffice for today.  (I plan on visiting Lake Tahoe next Sunday and hope to hike there as well.)  We hiked the Five Lakes trail and saw beautiful granite cliffs, many shades of green, and peaceful lakes.  Since one picture is worth a thousand words, I will stop writing and show you many thousands of words with the following pictures!

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Staycation spin

Last week, I realized we didn’t have any plans for the long weekend.  My SAT (that would be my “self-appointed trainer,” for those of you new to my blog) and I discussed a few camping options and decided that camping sounded like too much work, especially when I would be leaving right after the long weekend for a short-term opera accompanying job.  “Eureka!” I exclaimed.  “Let us partake in a staycation and take advantage of the sweet summer deals in town!  After all, there should be a plethora of discounts at this time of year because no one in his or her right mind would intentionally plan on visiting Phoenix in the summer!”  So, we did partake in a staycation and it was indeed relaxing.  We spent the 4th of July weekend at a charming resort in Fountain Hills, a golf-oriented community nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountain Range, about 20 miles northeast of central Phoenix.


(View of our resort.)

It was a delightful stay, full of good food, nice weather, and yes, even some cycling.  We started both days with a bike ride, mainly to create a calorie deficit for the impending (over)consumption of food to follow.

The main point of this blog entry, though, is to record my second bike ride of the weekend.  Why?  Well, that bike ride featured the most climbing I have done since moving to Phoenix.  When I was training for my double century in Las Vegas waaayyy back in January and February, my rides included a respectable amount of elevation gained by blood, sweat, and (mostly) tears.  A typical 50 mile training ride would encompass 3500-4000 feet of gain.  Here in Phoenix, the terrain is flat and my normal 30 mile ride boasts an impressive 700 feet.  However, my second staycation spin featured almost 2500 feet of climbing!  Ok, so I only biked 32 miles.  But it was like biking 40 miles with all that elevation, right?  One cool segment we discovered was a wicked 18% downhill descent; according to my cycling computer, I hit 44.5 mph going down that hill!  That is the fastest speed I have attained on my bike to date.  It was really fun!  Sadly, going back UP that hill was a grind….ah, who am I kidding?  Like I would bike up that hill.


(I was almost 10 mph over the speed limit!; Pretty mountains.)

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(Pretty morning light.; Official stats of the ride.)

My goal for the next few weeks is to make time for a few good workouts per week, continue to eat as vegan as I can (I have a kitchenette in my hotel room but very limited time to cook), and abstain from excess sugar (i.e, no Coke/soda pop, processed sugar).  I have another adventure on the horizon a couple of weeks after I return home, so it behooves me to be good over the next while!