THE BLOG
01/09/2013 12:45 pm ET | Updated Mar 09, 2013

Kicking My Starter

I have had this dream project for many years now to record songs by the opera composer Carlisle Floyd. (I premiered one of these wonderful groups of songs of his back in 1983 and am still the only person performing it in its entirety.) Not doubt he has a proven track record having written many operas, and is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Medal of Arts. I guess I am no slouch either, considering I have had an international career for thirty years and have a good-sized discography.

Looking for funding for my classical music project is not unlike looking for a needle in a haystack. Many foundations only grant to organizations, not individuals.

I decided to try the crowdfunding route using the Kickstarter (non-motorcycle) website and social networking through Facebook and Twitter. I thought the point of the crowdfunding sites was to expose a project to mysterious donors who scour the sites looking for dark horse projects. On my project page, maybe three of the 103 donors to date are strangers. I am extremely grateful to them and those friends and acquaintances who have donated. There are a few who do not want to commit to anything over the Internet, which I understand. The big snag is that unless I make my goal I will not get any of the money pledged. I start over.

I have been warned that the classical music projects on Kickstarter are not perused as much as the others. I could list it as a popular music project or even a new app but that would be misleading. I have had many unsolicited helpful suggestions, from adding varying levels of pledges with premiums a la PBS to being sure to make a promotional video.

The suggested video is now in progress. I used my laptop and the Photo Booth application to record a message that ended up with many bloopers with increasing expletives for my eyes only. When the final version was done the sound did not sync with my mouth. Lovely. I have a techie friend helping me figure that out. The other videos are so creative and hip. Mine is just me in my living room. What can I say? I guess people will be surprised that I do not have horns and breastplates.

As for premiums, at one point I listed perks like my French "His Masters Voice" Poster from 1933 and my original advertising poster for a recording of "Pelléas et Mélisande" from the 1940s until I read, in the fine print, that the premiums have to be related to me, the project and not random items. Heck, I might have even offered up my 1974 Beemer that I am trying to sell. Fortuitously, there is a biography of Carlisle Floyd being released this month so I can add that in as well as free downloads and copies of the CD.

Wracking my brain for other ideas I came up with the opera singer's version of "Wait , Wait... Don't Tell Me" Carl Kasell's voice on your answering machine: Susanne Mentzer sings Happy Birthday or Anniversary to someone special to you. This idea actually worked for a silent auction at my son's Montessori School years ago, when someone purchased me and I sang for an entire Italian family and all their long lost relatives in some suburban Chicago living room, a capella at that.

There was also the time when "dinner with Susanne Mentzer" was auctioned off by the local chapter of the Lyric Opera Guild. Some friends hosted the dinner for the winner and a couple of friends. We all thought we had nothing in common but ended up having a really fun evening including finding out that a bag of sugar will stop a load of cement from hardening, but that is a whole other article. Unfortunately, it is hard to use dinner as a perk on a website that covers the entire world.

For a large donation one can buy a live performance of all the music on the recording for you and your best buds. You just provide the piano and the space and we take care of the rest. No takers, alas. It does feel a little bit like prostitution with my clothes on but I remind myself it is for my dream.

The project is the point. It is one in which I believe, and I intend to have a high-quality product in the end. There are few recordings of songs by Carlisle Floyd. His operas are the most known. I tried to talk up this project with record labels but there was no interest. I find that hard to swallow, especially when this American treasure of a composer, now in his late 80's, is able to supervise the recording so future generations will know his original intentions. How many times have I been in a rehearsal where we all wished we could beam up the composer from the past to ask them this question! Moreover, when there is a recording available, students often start to learn and program the work. The pieces I intend to record are already published by Boosey & Hawkes. They could become part of the great canon of American art songs.

When 12:03 a.m. on Feb. 25 rolls around, I will know if I have my funding.

Fingers and toes crossed, mantras uttered. Varoom Varoom, Hojotoho!

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