Mock Auditions and the Guilty Pleasure Class

Martin Katz works with Matthew Hernandez, Tenor

Monday morning we got back to work with a masterclass just for the studio artists led by Anthony Dean Griffey. I did not sing, but learning from those who sang is worth a lot, and we all thought that Griffey's approach was truly unique, as he started with each new performer by asking "What do you love about singing?" Then Tuesday morning, a new face came to town - someone everyone had been talking about and were equally excited and nervous for. Widely regarded as the most intense, you-better-know-everything-or-get-torn-apart vocal coach in the country, Martin Katz arrived from Ann Arbor, MI to give his first masterclass. And to my and probably everyone's surprise, he was.... delightful. He really is incredibly knowledgable, but he conveys his information in very tender and polite terms as long as he trusts that you know all there is to know about what you're singing (because he WILL know anything you don't know). That morning masterclass was the first of four incredible masterclasses I had to attend on Tuesday. One with Martin Katz, one with Mannes's Amy Burton, one with Juilliard's Margo Garrett, and one with NEC's Karen Holvik.

The Holvik masterclass was actually a mock audition workshop held in Colburn's large rehearsal hall. Eight studio artist singers were chosen to almost fully imitate a live audition with the actual head of the New England Conservatory voice faculty, which is a really cool opportunity in my opinion. Each of the singers exited the room before their audition, made an entrance, handed their carefully crafted résumé to Ms. Holvik, exchanged formalities, gave their music to the pianist, briefly went over tempos, and then announced their first piece and sang, to no applause afterward. The only difference between a real audition and this mock audition was that in a real audition the singer brings five pieces, chooses their first, and then the adjudicator picks one of the other four to be heard. In this situation, we only brought two songs, and therefore knew what song we would sing second. We finally clapped for each auditionee after they exited the room and returned, and then Ms. Holvik critiqued them and offered suggestions to improve. I was one of the singers who performed - I sang "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from L'Elisir D'Amore by Donizetti and "Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind" by Roger Quilter. Recordings can be found to the side, and I have to say, something about the formality of the mock audition gave me the nervousness I needed to get the high notes out at the end. That, and I think Bill McGraw has helped me improve my technique a lot since I've been here. 

Page Michels dazzles at the Colburn Fellows concert

Wednesday was the first day of the entire program besides our day off that I didn't have to sing! How relaxing! I even took a nap! But I also saw a great morning masterclass by John Musto and his wife Amy Burton where all of the performers sang songs by John Musto. Then at noon, this year's Colburn fellows (that is, four young artists here that were given full tuition scholarships for the program) gave a concert in Thayer hall. One of the fellows was my classmate at CCM, Page Michels, who closed out the concert with Debussy's "Apparition", which she made me absolutely fall in love with. I have to hand it to her, Page is incredibly advanced and has a gorgeous, rich voice with the stage presence to match. She truly represented CCM well. That night, a much bigger concert was performed in a much bigger space. Seven of the professional artist students at the program presented a fully staged production of Eisler's Hollywood Songbook, directed by Edwin Cahill. The performance was the first of only two of SongFest's concerts in Zipper Hall, which is Colburn's largest space used primarily for orchestral performances. The production was abstract and curious, a series of white drapes dominating the stage with a simple bed set up across from the piano. All elements of the show worked wonderfully, from the staging to the singing to the costumes to the lighting, and we all celebrated a wonderful show afterward and said our goodbyes to Edwin Cahill, who flew to Germany the next day.

The LA Opera

Thursday morning was quite an experience. The chairman of the LA Opera (and a huge donor to SongFest) decided on Wednesday that he wanted to come to our morning masterclass on Thursday, and requested that instead of art song, which is what the entire program is for, we would sing a class of opera arias. The repertoire included all of the most well-known stuff: "O Mio Babbino Caro" from Gianni Schicchi, "En Fermant les Yeux" from Manon, "Una Furtiva Lagrima" and more. A recent Juilliard grad's "Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle" from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette was especially brilliant I thought. Truth be told, everyone who performed was amazing, and it was really cool for us all to hear music that we secretly or not-so-secretly obsessed over. In fact, it was so much fun, and so far away from our usual focus, that we all felt like we were indulging in our guilty pleasures. And it's not like this was just a concert, we actually learned things thanks to Martin Katz giving another incredible masterclass on this material. It might not have been song, but it was the most fun I've had in a morning masterclass so far. 

Sam KrauszComment