14 Jun 2018

a poem of love and loss

June 14, 2018 5 Comments
When did this civil war begin
inside my own home?
What caused these toxic seeds
to be sown
that equate self-worth with dimensions?
That suffocate and taunt with physical conventions?
Who started this vicious rumour that the curve of my stomach
was something to fear?
That the crest of my breasts
was never to appear?
The light lies within, not on the surface,
but society has exorcised it for a new purpose.

16 Mar 2018

KB Abroad: A little life update

March 16, 2018 0 Comments
Well hello, I am returning a little sheepishly to my blog, so thanks for coming back and reading, even though I have neglected this little space for a while.

In the last couple of years, I've become more and more at ease opening up to people, especially when it comes to mental health and emotions. If someone asks how I am, 9 times out of 10 I will give them an honest answer. However, for a number of reasons, the last two and a bit months have had me doing a lot of self-reflection, which wasn't always easy and at times pretty sobering. Emotions are pretty complex and, using the analogy my good friend Shrek used to describe himself; have layers - and I wanted to sort out my little jumbled brain privately rather than through my blog.

A lot has changed since I last posted on here! I moved rooms in January (within the same building but living with different people) which came at a good time, despite the initial mare of not sleeping through the night for about two weeks when I first moved. I took a pretty spontaneous visit home in February, I returned with a new attitude and perspective on my studies here. I'm not entirely sure what it was that changed in that weekend, perhaps it was admitting that I needed more support, or maybe allowing myself to take some time away, or just TLC from the family and my soul-mate of a best friend. Whatever it was, it worked - I'm finding it far less difficult to cope with being away and a lot less stressful when I encounter new challenged; I can hardly believe that I only have three months left! And when I got back, I made a snap decision to get a fringe cut - at first it was quite off-putting when some friends pointed at me and said 'Pony!' but I soon realised that it means fringe in Dutch.. We have a love/hate relationship and I spend most of my time either thinking how great it looks or debating whether to grow it out.

I went back to Leeds for five days to visit my friends, also having a lesson from my teacher Sarah (and successfully took on the beast fro the east to return to the Netherlands!!). Being back in Leeds was huge fun, I was reminded how much I love the city and how excited I am for final year, but also of what's changed since I finished second year last May. This year has felt like a hell of a lot of changes, I've probably said it before, but I'm constantly reminded that the challenge is not in the change itself but in how you deal with it. We encounter changes at every point in our life so embracing vulnerability is pretty key to really living.

This week has been a little hectic to say the least! I started in rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday with Consensus Vocalis to sing my first Matthaus Passion in five concerts, opening a week today! On Wednesday I was in Amsterdam to see Tom Misch playing at Melkweg, which was a pretty special gig. After buying the tickets in November, this day had been highly anticipated and boy, it didn't disappoint. 12 hours after it finished, I was in the Dutch National Opera for New Vocals as part of the Opera Forward Festival in which we had a masterclass from the Chorus Master, Ching-Lien Wu. She is a fiercely enthusiastic person and hilariously sarcastic, so it was a great privilege to be able to work with her yesterday. The day ended with a talk from Pumeza Matshikiza, a South-African soprano who gave a talk about her path into opera from a township outside of Cape Town and her visions of how to bring opera to audiences in the future. She was extremely humble and had a very refreshing attitude to western music, perhaps because she wasn't brought up here! A week full of musical diversity in every sense, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Have a fab weekend one and all

KB xxxxxxxxxx

Some pictures from the last couple of months x x


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2 Jan 2018

To 2018!

January 02, 2018 0 Comments
Well here we are, another new year looming ahead of us, full of possibilities and opportunity. For reasons I won't delve into on this space, it didn't quite end the way I had expected. Life has a way of doing that sometimes, throwing the unexpected in our face and leaving us to deal with the leftovers. As exciting/daunting/overwhelming as we may find the prospect of a new year, I'm finding that looking ahead is actually pretty medicinal right now. 2018 is the year that I will finish my Erasmus, turn 23, (how on earth did that happen???) enter my final year at university and start thinking about where I'm going to direct my life post-university. So, in order to try and sort out this spaghetti brain that I proudly call my own, here is a nice shiny list of some aims for 2018.

Slow down, take time out and be more present

During 2017 I began practising meditation and my aim for 2018 is to meditate at least once a day and take one full day off social media every week. Both these things have become really important for me in order to take more joy in life and to live more in the moment. For 4 days over Christmas I took part in a digital detox, where I took time away from social media in order to be more present with my family and truly enjoy family time without being distracted by the subconscious infiltration of social media. I massively benefited from this, as whether we realise it or not, social media does infiltrate our thoughts and when I took time off it, my mind felt clearer and healthier. 

Let go of perfect

Not just for 2018 and definitely not something I will fully achieve in one year! It's so easy to evaluate and compare yourself with the hundreds of people we see on our feeds and it's certainly not healthy. Something I will make a conscious effort of is to let go of those nagging thoughts about self-worth, appearance and ability.  I feel this ties in quite nicely with reducing the time spent on social media and practising more meditation as these are definitely things which affect how we think about ourselves. Time to shake off those self-destructive demons and 110% back yourself.

Reduce plastic consumption

As the years go by, I'm becoming more and more fascinated by the Earth. To David Attenborough, I will always be grateful. We are very lucky people to be here and we should recognise that and respect the planet we live on. Plastic pollution is a massive problem, which we are becoming much more aware of. Our oceans are full of it, our ecosystems are damaged by it and our wildlife is suffering from it. If there's one small thing I can do, it is to use plastic more consciously, by which I mean, to use it less and recycle it more.

Invest in seeing more live music

As a music student, I probably see a fair share of live music already but there is definitely room for more of it in my life, particularly professional concerts. There is nothing like seeing an artist/band/singer/orchestra live, no matter what your musical preference - it sets the senses alight and makes for an unforgettable evening. I'm VERY excited to see Tom Misch in March, but having looked at the programme at the Concertgebow in Amsterdam, there is a strong chance of seeing a few concert there before leaving the Netherlands.  So instead of indulging in buying jumpers (guilty), I'm going to set that money aside to see more concerts. 

These are some  broader 'resolutions' for the year, there are a few more specific and music-focused aims that I have in mind for the year too. The start of a new year, academic or calendar, can feel pretty overwhelming; so much lies ahead and we're not sure where we will be by the end. To 2018, whatever it may bring - I hope for everyone it is a happy and healthy one. 


15 Dec 2017

KB Abroad: A Winter Roundup

December 15, 2017 0 Comments
I’m sitting on the train, listening to ‘Driving Home for Christmas’, which I suspect most of us on our year abroad are doing as we begin our journey home. What a term. I can hardly believe that I’ve completed four months of my year abroad. The last two weeks have been an absolute slog – last week was a project week on modern music (in which I sang in 6 concerts!) and this week was more of a mental slog as I have just been so focused on getting back home. It really affected my practice and concentration, which made it even more frustrating! But now I am on the way to the airport with three weeks of home time ahead of me, which begins tonight with watching my cousin perform with her drama group. I'm really hoping it'll be a Love Actually lobster costumes vibe, but I think that might be asking too much...

All I can really think about right now are mince pies, which is making writing a blog post quite difficult. However, I feel much more aware of what is a typical British Christmas because having shared with Dutch, Swedes, Spaniards and Latvians what constitutes a Christmas dinner, needless to say they are all extremely different! Strangely enough I feel somewhat proud of our Christmas day traditions and this year I think I am more excited than ever to sit around the table with my family and eat my bodyweight in food.  

There’s something that speaks to me a little bit more than usual when listening to ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ today. Although it’s always been a great Christmas anthem conjuring up images of Smithy in his Volvo singing his heart out to it, home feels a lot stronger this year. This will be the longest stretch of time I’ve been away from home and while there’s a lot of the Dutch lifestyle that I love, I actually miss the UK a bit! (despite the state of its politics...)Absence makes the heart grow fonder after all. I was a little bit nervous as ‘home’ in Bristol hasn’t been home for very long but actually I know that wherever my dogs are is home… oh and my family. It’s probably much like the Boomerang post that I wrote back in April. I’ve been out spreading my wings for the last few months and learning a hell of a lot about myself and my capabilities, but I’m also 100% ready for some down time and to recharge a little bit in order to keep up the same momentum.

Looking back over the last few months, it has certainly been a roller coaster. I feel like I have been through almost every emotion on the spectrum… and I still have six months to go! It’s tough to juggle university, homesickness, socialising, a long distance relationship, practising and learning the language (at least attempting to..) all at once, so sometimes it does seem quite overwhelming. However, those days where these things all go well and I feel happy and proud of myself are making this year absolutely worth it.

Lots of christmas love, 


24 Nov 2017

KB Abroad: The Power of Letting Go

November 24, 2017 0 Comments
Almost 2 months without a proper blog post, shame on me! I should take inspiration from blogging goddess/good friend/blog mentor Alice Dodd and up my blog productivity game. But alas, November had me lacking blog inspiration, until today!

The majority of us these days are guilty of experiencing that running commentary that goes through our heads, whether it’s at work, when speaking or when looking at yourself in the mirror. It’s all too easy to think ‘I’ll never achieve that’, ‘I’ll never be as good as them’, ‘I wish I could lose a few kilos’… it goes on and on. And it’s no surprise either, for this is a direct result of a bombardment of information from all media sources.

Last week I finished a class called podiumpresentatie or stage awareness and I really think it has changed the way I think about my performing. The classes involve performing a piece to the group and talking objectively about what you experienced during that performance. The teacher, Mart Blom, provides ideas about what can be done to combat nerves, obvious problem areas or difficult passages in a very safe and non-judgmental way. This often comes through reminders like ‘breathe’ (a phrase which was probably the most commonly used throughout the classes!) and reminding us to stay present in the moment and taking our awareness to the whole room. It’s seriously fascinating how these seemingly simple aspects of life enhanced our engagement as performers (from a range of instruments) and as an audience. We want to control things, and for musicians this is much the same. So, today I  want to share with you some of the lessons I learned through the simple act of ‘letting go'. (This mostly relates to what I learned musically, but I feel this also has some relevance to daily life too..)

It’s scary
Letting go is ALWAYS scary, because it taps into a fear of the unknown. Often this self-criticism has become ingrained in our system and like quitting any bad habits, it takes time, practice and trust. Fearing the unknown is understandable, but if we don’t venture into it, (whilst making a few mistakes along the way, musically or personally) you might not learn the limits of your instrument or environment.

Leading on from the first point, once you test those limits, finding a feeling that you didn’t realise was possible is so empowering. In the final class, a friend and I performed a modern piece that I had been finding particularly difficult and was dreading performing in an upcoming concert. After working on it in front of the group, maintaining my sense of spacial awareness and allowing the difficult passages to come and go without over-analysing, I felt like a new woman. I never thought I would be able to feel comfortable with that piece and yet, (granted, it’s not perfect yet and still throws up a few issues here and there) now I know that I have the capability to sing it in front of people without having a mini breakdown. That’s always a bonus…

Not controlling vs Out of control 
The thought of not controlling a certain difficult phrase or note can be seriously challenging and scary because it seems contradictory to be ‘out of control’ during a part that is difficult. However, recognising the difference between not controlling and being out of control has really changed my approach (in a positive way) when tackling these problems in my own practice. The more we worry about our faults or previous mistakes, the more our work will be scattered in them. Leave the past in the past and set aside the commentary - the difference can be immeasurable.  

I have learned some invaluable lessons through this (all too short!)  course; the power of presence and awareness will definitely stay with me. I think letting go is one of the hardest things to remember to do, especially when you want whatever you are doing to be as perfect as possible – but perfection is intangible and the more we recognise that, the more empowered we will feel. Performance, in all its forms, is a process. Ultimately letting go of the running commentary and self-judgement equips you with the tools you need to combat challenges that arrive, in life and music!


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