Grad School Auditions: Check

I am officially finished with grad school auditions!  I feel so content, almost relaxed, now that they are all done.  Although there are many big things to be working on now – not the least of which is my pre-recital hearing next week – none of it seems to compare to the preparation and nervousness of the last few weeks.

I had two auditions this weekend: one at UNC Greensboro and the other at UNC School of the Arts.  Luckily, my friend Emma lives in Charlotte, so I imposed on her family’s hospitality and gratefully accepted the offer to stay at their house for the weekend.  From there, it was a manageable hour to an hour and a half traveling to Greensboro and Winston-Salem for my auditions.  Being around people I knew and not having to deal with the extra burden of finding a hotel to stay in was a relief.  After everything else that I was dealing with in those two days, it helped me relax quite a bit knowing where I was going to sleep, and having familiar faces around.

So, the big question now, I suppose is: “How did it go?”

One of my great challenges: the runs in "Parto, parto" from Mozart's 'La Clemenza di Tito'

Well, I had a good experience at both locations: I liked both campuses (and found them easily, thanks to my friend Rachel’s GPS that I borrowed!), the judges and other facilitators were friendly, and I sang well.  It’s a satisfying feeling to walk away from an audition and know that I couldn’t have done much better.  The aria that I was most worried about (Mozart’s “Parto, parto” from La Clemenza di Tito) turned out to be a personal best performance!  I never sang those long, complicated runs as well as I did on Sunday, and I am so proud of that.  I also did my sight-reading perfectly and easily on Saturday, which boosted my confidence.

I think the only small mishap involved my preoccupation in driving to UNCSA on Sunday – I was so absorbed in my thoughts, running lyrics, and warming up that I didn’t notice my gas tank quickly emptying.  Finally, my gas light went on about a minute before I reached the campus, startling me and causing me to make a detour through Winston-Salem to find a gas station.  After driving for a few minutes through the city and not finding one, it finally occurred to me that I had a GPS, which has the capabilities to find something like, say, the nearest few gas stations.  After trying the first three that came up on the GPS (all of which were closed or non-existent), I happened upon one and breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled in to fill up.  This small crisis certainly didn’t help my nerves, but it is easy enough to laugh at it now.

 

The music building at UNC Greensboro - my second possible home next year. (from their website: performingarts.uncg.edu/music)

After everything, I am left with one definite rejection, one probable acceptance, and one totally ambiguous.  UNCSA had call-backs last night, which I wasn’t asked to stay for, but I’m okay with this.  For one thing, it is nice to know for sure, even though the result is negative.  Plus, it was a great experience to get a little bit of a feel for a conservatory, and to be in the presence of so many talented, aspiring opera singers who share my passion.  So now I’m waiting for word from Converse and UNCG; the former seemed quite positive when I auditioned, and I have no idea what the latter thought.  Regardless, now I just have to sit back and wait, and do more of that simple thing called “schoolwork”. . . piece of cake, after three grad school auditions in two consecutive weekends.

The Wise Men come to Erskine

Last week was the busiest first week of J-term that I have ever had.  From the first day, moving back in on Sunday, the rehearsals began.  Every evening we rehearsed the opera at least once, every day adding something new, from the chorus to props to costumes.  On top of all these rehearsals I had all the planning and practice for my J-term project… but that is a topic for another blog.

Usually we prepare and present an opera in one semester, but this year we decided to perform first thing in January because of the Christmas theme.  Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors is set as part of the journey of the Magi on the way to visit the newborn Christ, and our Friday and Saturday night performances fell, appropriately, on the Feast of the Epiphany.  I enjoyed this timing, performing at the end of the twelve days of Christmas, because sometimes it is difficult to remember that season lasts that long.  It seems that many celebrate only through December 25, or until New Year’s.  Being part of Amahlkept me in the Christmas mindset, reminding me that those twelve days are not just part of a (slightly irritating) song, but a continuation of the celebration.

The cast of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" after our final performance.

It was nice for us to have a break before this performance, also, after all the concerts and singing that we do in the last weeks of the fall semester.  After resting our voices over Christmas, we came back and polished it up in a week.  I was a little worried that the singers (including myself) would forget some of what we did before the long break and have to scramble to re-learn some of it when we got back, but we were pleasantly surprised at how well-prepared everyone was.  By the end of the week we were ready and excited to put it before an audience, and had two nights of great performances by the cast, and two good-sized, appreciative audiences.

We had one slight mishap at the end of the second performance when our door frame began to tip over as the kings left, but the one standing below thought quickly and calmly pushed it upright again before it got too far down.  It was a good save!  It is always nerve-wracking when those unforeseen problems occur during the middle of the action onstage.  Depending on what happens, there is usually a mixture of hilarity and panic among those on stage, but no matter the outcome, it certainly makes it more entertaining for the audience!

If you would like to read a little more about our performance, here is a Net News article about the opera: http://news.erskine.edu/?p=1181

What’s Opera, Doc?

"We saved this youth from certain death!"  My first role - Third Lady, attendant to the Queen of the Night.

"We saved this youth from certain death!" from The Magic Flute - Third Lady, attendant to the Queen of the Night.

Contrary to popular belief, opera is not a stiff, boring, antiquated art form.  In fact, even though it has been around for a few hundred years, opera is still a very entertaining form of music, as the audience found out last weekend here at Erskine.  Through the combined work of about a dozen music students here, a piano accompaniment, and a voice professor’s direction, the music department presented “Mad About Mozart” on Friday and Saturday, highlighting scenes from three of Mozart’s operas: The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and The Marriage of Figaro.

The program was short, not even an hour, but the program featured various ensemble sizes, experience levels, and dramatic styles.  Last year the department performed Dido and Aeneas, a complete hour-long opera, with a full cast of singers and Sinfonia, our orchestral group.  This year we decided to do scenes from larger works to feature more solos and ensembles, because our department is a bit too small to do a full-scale, 3-4 hour long opera.  It worked out well, because it encouraged some less experienced singers to try something that they had never done before, without having to commit to a huge role.

"Die, thou perfidious one - death here we swear thee!" Role two - Zerlina, new bride and pretty angry at Don Giovanni.

"Die, thou perfidious one - death here we swear thee!" from Don Giovanni - Zerlina, new bride and pretty angry at Don Giovanni.

We performed all of the music in the English translation, to make the music more accessible to the audience – most of the audience was probably was inexperienced in attending an opera performance as many of the cast were in performing it!  I especially enjoyed getting to play three different characters, one in each scene; first, I was one of three lady attendants to the queen of the night, then a new bride with a score to settle, and, finally, a flirtatious page boy. . . yep, I played a boy.  The latter is called a “pants role”, which is a role in an opera written specifically for a woman to play a male character, usually a young boy or adolescent.  I have to say, I actually thoroughly enjoyed this role – it was certainly a challenge to master some masculine mannerisms, but I liked the acting challenge.  How often will I ever get to play a boy on stage?

"Love's tender secret, share it with me.  Ladies, I beg you. . ."  And finally, me as a page boy, singing to woo the ladies.

"Love's tender secret, share it with me. Ladies, I beg you. . ." Finally, from The Marriage of Figaro, me as the page boy Cherubino, singing to woo the ladies.

This morning in my lesson my voice teacher – also the professor who directed the opera – and I were already talking about possibilities for the opera workshop next year, so who knows what we will decide?  It’s funny to think, sometimes, that I have ended up singing opera, and so much classical music, because even a few years ago I never would have even thought about doing that sort of music.  I did plenty of musical theater, show choir, and choral singing in high school, but it was not until I got to college and started taking voice lessons that I found out that I have a more “classical” voice; before studying music I also had no idea how much work and training that it takes to sing opera, which I can appreciate now.  I suppose that it just shows, once again, how much college opens up new opportunities and allows you to change and mature, sometimes in ways that you didn’t expect.

For me, life IS a musical.

Wow, I just realized that I haven’t written a blog in a week and a half. . . the time must be passing quicker than I realize!  Although I am content with my schedule this semester, the fact that 80% of it is music classes can be sort of overwhelming sometimes.  Allow me illustrate.

Besides my one General Education class (Math) and my Spanish-American Civilization class, I have two music history classes – I’m not sure yet if this is an entirely crazy idea or just a good challenge.  Only looking at that, four traditional classes sounds like not too bad of a semester, right?  I’ve always had my voice lessons and a couple of ensembles added to the mix, so I thought that wouldn’t be too bad to handle.  This semester, though, is much more involved than usual, which sort of came as a surprise, though I should have known this was coming.

So, as a music major concentrating in vocal performance, as well as just a passionate musician, I tend to give a hearty “sure!” to every opportunity to sing.  I think this semester I may have reached (though not exceeded yet, I hope) my maximum capacity for the amount of music I can take in at a time.  First, I am part of Choraleers and Chamber Singers, so we have many new pieces that we are all working diligently on, but I also have several extra pieces to learn because of my absence last semester.  This is a good amount of music. . . but wait, there’s more!  I am also part of the opera workshop, so I am learning selections from three different Mozart operas, I am preparing five pieces for a vocal competition two weeks from tomorrow, and to top everything off, my junior recital is five weeks away.

Oh my.

Sorry to bore you with my list (or complaining), but goodness, it just goes to show you how quickly you can get busy at Erskine!  Granted, this is the area that I choose to spend most of my time and energy in because I enjoy it and I am (God willing!) going to graduate with a degree in music next year.  Somehow it is mildly amusing to me when I think about how excited I was to get back into music, after being away for a semester, because even though I knew I would be very busy as usual, I still did not realize that I would be this busy.  But, I can’t complain too much, because I chose it all; regardless of how overwhelmed I feel at the end of some days, I know that when it comes down to it, I am going to enjoy it all and not regret any of it.

Oh, and by the way, if you like music events and want to see some of these wonderful concerts, recitals, opera performances, or other exciting music events, check out http://www.erskine.edu/academics/music/events.shtml – there are lots of great things going on in the department this semester!