Classes, Coachings, and More Coachings

Time works in very odd ways at this program. On one side of things, it feels like we've been here for like a month and a half already, but on the other side, I told myself I was going to make a blog post on Tuesday and now all the sudden it's Thursday. Also, sorry for the lack of pictures in this post, there will be tons for this weekend's post I'm sure!

So we begin with Monday morning's masterclass with Alan Smith, head of both the collaborative piano and composition departments at USC, and also a judge at the Met National Council Auditions. This masterclass was only for studio artist performers and had no specific theme to it, so after the very busy weekend that the program had, the turnout from the older students was sparse. However, it was their loss - the class was really excellent. Smith had all of the performers speak the text of their song in the native language, and then recite the poetry in English, before actually singing the song. That really got the performers into the gear of storytelling, and enticed the audience to listen to the words, rather than just the voice. I was one of the performers, singing "Der Mond" by Mendelssohn. The recording of my run-through before he worked with me is to the side. 

Speaking of private coachings, I'm star-struck and boggled by the opportunities I've gotten in the past two days. On Wednesday, I had a coaching on a song called "Litany" by John Musto, one of the foremost American composers of song alive today. I was coached by Amy Burton, who is on faculty at Mannes in New York City, and her husband... wait for it... John Musto. Oh my goodness, what an experience it was to sing a famous song with the guy who wrote that famous song at the piano. They both had amazing things to offer about the piece, but one of the coolest things was when Musto said that the key to singing this heartbreaking song is to be completely emotionally detached. I'll never forget that, and I can't wait to perform this song in a concert here on Saturday with that and all of the other pearls of wisdom he gave me. I would put up a recording of one of our run-throughs, but since it is the composer playing, he may not want it on the internet. But still, for what it's worth, I have two recordings of me singing Litany with John Musto playing for me, and that's pretty darn cool. 

And oh yeah, later that day I had a coaching with the extremely well-known Juilliard coach Margo Garrett where I swear she taught me proper French legato in a half hour. I sang Chanson Triste by DuParc, a song that she said she's been in love with for more than fifty years, so she was able to work very efficiently. For me, it was roughly "Okay, this song is full of hope, pretend you're watching your wife make dinner, and stay on the front end of the beat," and BOOM, the sentiment of the piece was there. She's also just the most delightful woman, and I really wish I could work with her again.

Wednesday night, Karen Holvik, head of the voice department at New England Conservatory, treated the studio artists to a lecture/Q&A session about grad school. I'll never forget her saying that in our audition the goal is to "Make them put down their pencils." To me, that makes a lot of sense. Part of our profession is being able to grab people's attention and really engage their audience, so if you can entice the faculty to the point that they forget to write, that can only bode very well for you.

Today, I had a coaching with Holvik, and another with Sanford Sylvan, and another with the accomplished tenor Anthony Dean Griffey. Three very, very different opinions, but all very useful in their own ways. That's part of the huge draw of this program - you can get tons of really credible opinions from all of the teachers here. The student-teacher ratio here is about 3:1, which is absolutely ridiculous, especially since the caliber of all of the teachers is so high. I'm really loving this program, and can't wait for my first concert in a couple of days followed by the company day off on Sunday, which is going to be our opportunity for the beach! 


Sam KrauszComment