Here is the fabulous Anna DeGraff singing my song cycle the “Ballad of a Vocal Performance Major”.

Movement 1

The letter came in early Spring.

My mother beamed with pride.

“You’ve been accepted into college, dear. They’re offering a full ride!”

My father walked into the room,

and sitting by my side,

congratulated me and wept,

his arms help open wide.

It was then I gained the courage,

to speak freely and confide

the dream I’d hidden secretly.

I looked at them and sighed,


I want to study music.

I want to sing.

I want to study music.

I want to sing.

My mother shook her head in shock,

like I’d committed treason.

My father sat and wept again,

but for a different reason.

I want to study music.

I want to sing.

I want to study music.

I want to sing.

Movement 2

And so,

I spent two years in theory until I was able

to give every root, third, and fifth its own label,

Inversions of sevenths and chords I resented

Like Picardy thirds and French Sixths all augmented.

Part writing, voice leading, form and analysis,

Parallel fifths that can lead to paralysis,

learning to sight sing by singing solfeggio

nearly compelled me to jump of a ledge-io.

(My white notes were fine on Do Sol La Fa Mi Ti.

My black notes, however, were more like some Fi Si.)

In diction I learned all the sounds that were dentals,

and labials, and plosives, and suprasegmentals,

uvulars, palatals, lateral fricatives,

velars, and glottals, and also the ejectives,

all so my accent would be irreproachable

only provided my tongue would be coachable.

(Ich würde auf Deutsch jetzt lernen zum Singen

mit Freuden und Sorgen so gut aus zu klingen.

Italiano piacere, con fuoco e forza.

Français manifique avec je ne sais quoi.)

History taught me the names dates and places

That after the test my mind promptly erases.

Schubert and Schumann both Robert and Clara

and Chopin’s girl “George”, who wore no mascara.

Schütz, Bach, and Sweelinck, and crazy Carl Orff,

and Ditters von Ditters von Ditters von Dorf,

Ravel, Cimarosa, Duparc, and Bizet,

Gesualdo, (who murdered his wife, by the way),

Guido d’Arrezzo who taught boys to sight sing,

Jean Baptiste Lully who died from conducting.

Schönberg, and Webern, and old man Zemlinsky,

Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, and even Stravinsky.

(I learned all my eras, Medieval, Romantic,

In spite of my teacher, who was quite pedantic.

Composers from Italy, France, and Moldova

were a petulant pain in my great big arse nova.)

I finally finished with somber elation

and promptly began a grand celebration,

my friends at the party came over while sneering,

especially the ones who had studied engineering.

“I’m a Bachelor of Science,” one would casually say,

“I’m planning on making five hundred a day.

What did you say your degree’s called again?”


I have a B.M. I have a B.M. I have a B.M., a B.M.”

Movement 3

After two years of teaching just to subsist,

(it’s expensive to pay for a good therapist.)

I finally decided to chase my ambitions.

I quit all my jobs, and I went on auditions.

It was a chance I was sure I could take.

I would soon be discovered and get my big break.

My break wasn’t big but came sooner than later.

I got cast in a part at a dinner theatre.

There aren’t any roles that are lesser or greater.

I accepted my lot and became the head waiter.

I would have preferred a role on the stage,

’cause I wanted much more than minimus wage.

In order to get the director’s attention,

I used all my training and skills, not to mention,

a modest amount of deservéd pretention.

(I was, after all, a studied musician

despite the contraints of my current position.)

When customers ordered, I’d give a response

by singing my question with great non-chalance.

If somebody orders the rasberry jello,

I sing, “Vi gradiscono le pattate fritte con quello?”

If someone requests the fish al fresca

I sing, “Voudriez vous des pommes frites avec ça?”

Order any meat that was cooked with a flame,

and I sing, “Würden Sie mögen Pommes Frites mit dem?”

In every language it’s always the same,

Waiting on tables while waiting for fame.

Finally using my college degree,

and never once singing flat.

I take their orders and respond with a smile,

“Would you like fries with that?”