Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our last listening session

For those of you who want to keep a list, here are some of singers we viewed/heard on YouTube during our last listening session: Dmitri Hvorostovsky Simon Estes Thomas Hampson Robert Merrill Jussi Bjoerling Alistair Miles Thomas Quasthoff William Warfield Simon Keenlyside Angelika Kirschlager Agnes Baltsa Susan Graham Jonas Kaufmann Jon Vickers Maria Callas Renee Fleming Kiri Te Kanawa

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Acting food for thought, opera singers!

Here's the first installment of acting classes by Uta Hagen, acting teacher extraordinaire.

Three new blogs I found...

Here's a new blog I found through my college friend and colleague, Jean-Ronald LaFond: http://susan-oncemorewithfeeling.blogspot.com/ Read the latest post...good food for thought, young singers. And, for some of the best acting teaching around, nothing beats Ute Hagen. A blog based on her work, including a wonderful link, is at http://respectforopera.blogspot.com/ And a blog on the history of bel canto singing... http://belcantoforum.com/ Read and learn!

Thought for the day

"I see the notion of talent as quite irrelevant. I see instead perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire."--Gordon Lish

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Teaching voice...YOUR voice, and YOUR brain!

As most of you know, I've been studying with a renowned voice teacher in Vienna. We've had three lessons a week for two weeks, and it's been a very intensive experience, as you can imagine. I've learned a great deal as a singer, and anticipate this will translate to some interesting changes as a teacher, too. Here's why: I tend to be pretty concrete. Do this with your tongue, watch your alignment, be sure that vowel is a reall "oo," etc. I tend to respond well to this kind of teaching, and (as we learned from my Kolb workshop), my default teaching style corresponds predictably. I do try to meet each of you where you are and speak your language, as it were, but I want to continue growing in that area. Here's what's been so interesting about this summer: my teacher here is extremely abstract. And I mean, REALLY abstract, at least to my mind. No muscles directly addressed, no tongue position, nothing that I might consider concrete. [There is ONE concrete thing, though. We'll talk about pelvic floor later; this has been astounding.] Sometimes I'm not sure what she's talking about, even though our lessons are in English. But I jump in and do it, and am hearing a HUGE difference on my recordings. It seems that even if my conscious brain doesn't always understand, my subconscious does. Or my body does. Who knows? All I know is, it's working. So the question I want to pose to all of you is, how do you learn in lessons? This might be different than standard classroom learning. Which lessons jumped out at you as breakthrough lessons? Where did you hear progress? Would you be open to trying totally new approaches? Talk to me, and please be as free-form as you wish. I'm really interested in hearing what each of you have to say. This could impact our experience together in a powerful way! Please post here, and see what other people have to say, too. Reading other responses might spark something in your own mind that hadn't before occurred to you. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Student Preparation: OPERA America concerns

Here's some food for thought, aspiring singers. At the recent Opera America meeting, professionals in the business discussed not only what they are looking for in young singers, but also concerns they have about singers getting started in today's world. Following are some of the points raised. Post here and let me know your thoughts. The morning session began with posing a question to Forum members who work with singer training programs: What are the blueprints or foundations on which your training program is built? A rep from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music said that learning to sing is the most important part of his program. A rep from Oberlin Conservatory of Music agreed and added that developing a level of musicianship is another essential part of his program. A professor from Yale Opera added that creating professional singers is a main goal of his program. One teacher from the University of Minnesota – Duluth noted that students are lacking independence and a sense of self empowerment because they have been hand-held. In response to this statement, a rep of Des Moines Metro Opera posed the question: How do university programs address K-12 deficiencies? One professor from the University of Maryland said that students are given remedial tests when they enter her program but the results of these tests are sometimes just reflections of how much the students can cram. Rice University’s admission requirements ensure that undergraduate students will be at a high academic level and it is with the masters students that they encounter problems. University of Minnesota – Duluth is cutting academic credit limits which leads to deficiencies in graduates. Eastman School of Music noted that such cuts may lead to the return of ½ and ¼ credit courses at her school. The conversation moved to a discussion of the skills and attributes artists must possess in order to be considered for training programs. A rep from the Banff Center said he looks for singers with a baseline of technique and a unique sound, noting that teaching singers to act is different than teaching actors. A rep of the Houston Grand Opera Studio said she looks for the best voices. Another rep of Houston Grand Opera added that the ability to take on new information is important and that a singer’s training has to be quickly accessible. One panelist from Boston University expressed concern that singers are being over-trained and therefore lacking a spark of individuality. She worried that singers are over-listening and over-perfecting. A panelist responded that self-knowledge and training should work together. Some questions posed: Does collegiality factor into the audition process? One panelist responded yes, in the sense that she looks for a willingness to learn and self-awareness on the part of the singer. Another added that he looks for a quality voice and a singer who has something to say artistically. There is a new gap in the process of singer training and career development: between completing a young artist program but before achieving a performing career. Some felt that as students move up the pyramid, they do not know how to get to the next step. The conversation then moved to a discussion of how to teach singers about the business of singing. Highly emphasized was the importance of goal setting in regard to teaching students to become professionals. Concern was expressed that students waste time worrying about things they cannot control, referencing a mindset of “I’m going to get a career.” Some said students often focus on their external presentation as opposed to studying languages or becoming interesting people. (This struck me as particularly important, folks!) In response to the topic of teaching singers to be professionals, the importance of showing up on time and the ability to make quick changes and flexibility when working with directors and conductors was emphasized. One artist manager added that as an artist manager she expects singers to have a sense of their craft so that they can distinguish themselves, but she is not seeing this as often as she would like to. It was added that singers should have a hunger for artistry that involves going to rehearsals, chamber concerts, etc. Here's a question: Is there work for all these singers we are trying to help? Now, that's a sobering question. Thoughts?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sad passing of a vocal pedagogy legend

I am deeply saddened to report the death of Professor Emeritus of Voice at Oberlin College, Richard Miller. Richard died Tuesday, May 5, 2009. It is impossible to capture in words the significance of Richard's contribution to the field of music as an artist, teacher, and mentor; it was utterly extraordinary. After 42 years of advancing the art of teaching and the name of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Richard retired at the end of the 2005-06 academic year. Richard Miller's rich performance career was distinguished by diversity in opera (some 50 roles in more than 450 performances), oratorio and recital, in Europe and America. He is known internationally for master classes in systematic vocal technique and artistic interpretation presented in 38 states of the U.S., in Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Research and teaching projects have been undertaken in 14 European countries. Miller taught 28 years at the Mozarteum International Summer Academy, Salzburg, Austria. Beginning in 1982, he presented countless week-long master classes at the Foundation Royaumont, the major French conference center for music. Engaged by the French Ministry of Culture as an expert pedagogic consultant in 1983, he offered courses in voice pedagogy for teachers and students of the French national conservatory system, presented lectures and classes at the Paris Conservatoire Superieure, at the Marseilles National Opera School, and at Centre Polyphonique. In May, 1990, he was decorated Chevalier/Officier into the French Order of Arts and Letters at the hand of Madame Regine Crespin "in recognition of contributions to the art of vocalism in France and throughout the world." In 2006 Miller received the Voice Education Research Awareness Award from The Voice Foundation for his contribution to the field of voice communication. He was chief presenter at several international voice congresses. He was a frequent adjudicator, including Munich, Paris, Metropolitan Scholarship and National Association of Teachers of Singing Artist Award competitions. His students perform in major opera houses: Metropolitan Opera, New York State (City Center), San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Washington, Baltimore, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Welsh Opera, English National Opera, Montreal, Santiago, Trieste, Palermo, La Scala, Rome Opera, Paris Bastille, Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Salzburg, Vienna, and in numerous artist apprenticeship programs in America and Europe. Former students serve on faculties of major schools of music. He is the author of many standard books on voice pedagogy and performance, including: * English, French, German and Italian Techniques of Singing (Scarecrow, 1977, reissued 1997) * The Structure of Singing (Schirmer Books/Macmillan, 1986) (published by the French Ministry of Culture as La Structure du Chant, 1990) * Training Tenor Voices (Schirmer Books/Macmillan, 1993. Korean edition, 1994) * On the Art of Singing (Oxford University Press, 1996) * Singing Schumann: an Interpretive Guide for Performers (Oxford University Press, Summer, 1999) * Training Soprano Voices (Oxford University Press, Spring, 2000. Korean edition, 2004) * Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers (Oxford University Press, January, 2004) * Securing Baritone, Bass-Baritone, and Bass Voices (Oxford University Press, Spring 2007) * Singing in Western Civilization (at press) He is editor of Liszt: 25 French and Italian Songs for Voice and Piano, 15 Songs of Max Roger (International Music, 2002), and Liszt: 22 German Songs for Voice and Piano, in High and Low editions (International Music, 1998). Miller served as Wheeler Professor of Music Performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1964-2004. He holds the B. Mus., M. Mus. (University of Michigan), Artist Diploma (L'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome) and the L.H.D. (Doctor of Humanities), Gustavus Adolphus College, and was a 1952 Fulbright Scholar.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

See? I'm not the only one...

Another singer who sees the connection between yoga and singing! ...AND it seems y'all want to do it again, based on the poll results. Coming in the fall: another yoga session! Glad you enjoyed it.

Repertoire assignments

Hi folks, Following are your repertoire assignments. As always, I welcome requests! Remember, I reserve veto rights, but knowing what inte...