Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good Friends: Tammy the Opera Star

This is the first conversation I have with anyone:
"What did you study in college?"
"art history"
"ahh....[silence, think, think] so, are you an artist yourself?"
"umm, no. I wish I were."
~at this point, the conversation dies~
I may not have one great talent, but I do have one blessing in my life that I cannot deny: I have some excellent friends (and if you are reading this, I'm talking about you!). They are inspiring and bring so much good into my life. So, I decided, if this blog is about finding life's good stuff, I should interview my good friends and see how they got to be so terrific.

So, for my first official interview on this blog, I give you the great 
Tammy Mumford

I have to say, Tammy is my most famous friend. She sings at the Metropolitan Opera--like the one in New York, you know, at Lincoln Center, and has the best operas and big opera superstars. So, of course, her voice is phenomenal. You better believe it is really fun to sit next to Tammy in choir and pretend that I, also, am such a singer! la la! But, after knowing Tammy all these years, the thing I find most amazing about her is her sense of balance. She has her fancy opera life and family life and church life, and keeps it all together so beautifully. I had to ask her some questions to find out how she became not only a world-class singer, but also, a really great person.

How did your parents foster your love of music?
It started with my grandparents. One grandpa was a high school music teacher and did musical community events. Consequently, my dad grew up singing and did it more seriously as he got older. My other grandpa loved opera. He had it playing in my mom's home, and my mom grew up listening to opera and going to many concerts. As my mom and dad raised my family [of 12 amazing kids!], it was similar, in that the music was always there. My dad sang in semi-professional theatre, and we would always go see him perform (which was usually a positive experience, except for when he was in the freaky dream sequence from Fiddler on the Roof. It made us all cry!).
Also, music is such a prevalent part of the church. Many times, my sisters and I would be asked to prepare a musical number for a ward program, so we would figure out what we were singing and practice together at Family Home Evening. We also grew up mainly watching musicals, since they were a wholesome form of entertainment.

As you approach motherhood (in the next few days!), how do you see yourself introducing your kids to music?
Piano is such a good skill for everyone to know, especially as a member of the church, so we will encourage our kids to take piano lessons. But, really, we'd like to see what our son's interests are and help him develop those talents. Music will always be a part of my life, and it will always be a part of our home, so our children may naturally gravitate towards music, but I don't want to push it if our kids aren't interested. The hard question about all this is how do I know if a child is really interested in a musical instrument or not? Everyone has moments when they are taking lessons when they want to quit. So when do I know to keep pushing or to just let it go? [such a good question.] In my own family, the level of interest varied from kid to kid, and my parents adapted to that. Looking back, it was such a sacrifice for my parents to take all of us to music lessons. We always took lessons before school, and I imagine that my mom didn't love getting up so early.

What were the most formative musical experiences as you grew up?
I was the Sterling Scholar in music during my Senior year of high school, and this required me to think through how serious I really was about music. At this point, I knew I wanted to focus on music, but I had always envisioned myself teaching. During my Freshman year at Utah State, I remember listening to a recording of some songs that I was learning. My friends were going out and invited me to come, but I really wanted to just stay home that night and listen to this beautiful music and learn it well. That was a moment when I realized that people really do sing for their job, and I really wanted that. Although sometimes it does feel like a job, there are many moments when I really feel touched by the message and beauty of the music. Also, when I am singing with my sisters, I remember how much I want music to be a part of my life.

How do you keep your composure and not get nervous while you are on stage?
It's funny, the times I get most nervous are for church performances, because I know that everyone else knows me and knows I do this for a living, so I feel a lot of expectation. But, the more I perform, the easier it gets. By getting accustomed to those nervous feeling, like butterflies in my stomach and a racing heartbeat, the more I know how to work with it while I perform. It is very important to be super prepared. If I know it very well, then I can go on auto-pilot, rather than thinking about every little thing. It is important to have the technical aspects well prepared, so I can really focus on what the music means to me.

What great wisdom from a great musician and friend!  Thanks, Tammy, for your insights, and good luck in the next great act of your life--motherhood!


Meghann said...

Cute idea! I might have to steal this one.

Kristy said...

What wonderful insight from such an incredible person.

katherine said...

oh becca, i love this blog, you are so cool. what a fun, fresh perspective on everything. really, thanks for blogging and making my daily blogging a little bit better. i love you!!

Jill said...

What a star! Tammy is amazing. And beautiful!!