The Effect of a University Education on the Joy of Singing

by adriafi1 on February 16, 2011

In my seven years as a university professor, I have seen singers come in filled with so much joy in performance. Their first auditions for us were out there and happy, joyful and absolutely natural. Yes, most of them were extremely nervous, but still the joy in what they did came through.

What strikes me as very sad is when jury time rolls around each semester and the joy is diminished and the fear increases. I have had freshman just out of high school tell me, “I used to love singing so much when I was in high school. Now I can’t seem to do anything right.” Yes, it is true. You go on to a new level, a place where there are new and more stringent, requirements. But we seem to forget that O Del mio dolce ardor is really the same as a rock song that says I want you so bad, I think I’m gonna die. Somehow, we communicate a mistaken idea that art song and Opera are to be preserved with mothballs.

Opera is one of the most complete art forms around. It combines Olympic level singing, dance, acting, musicianship, scenery, lighting, and a storyline sometimes improbable, but a storyline. Unless we revitalize this art form by bringing it to the masses in a form they can understand, it will die.

I’m working with a master student who has enormous regard and respect for German lied, for French art song, for Italian art song, and yet he’s so in awe of it, that he almost can’t perform it; it chokes him up completely.

Isn’t that sad? He has spent thousands and thousands of dollars to put an MS after his name and what happened is that the reverence for music has paralyzed his creativity. Yet when you ask him to sing a simple ditty in English – he’s very comfortable. No problems. He’s able to get into the character, deliver it well and get to the heart of the subject matter.

Wouldn’t it be fun to compare Italian art song to rock, jazz standards, hip-hop or some other form of music? It would make a great dissertation! We would see that in reality, they are all about the same thing.

Art has always reflected the society it’s writing about. Virginia Woolf said the artists are the antenna of the race, and we reflect what’s going on. So for us to keep these songs, these traditions alive, we have to understand the time and make a connection between then and now, a connection of essential truths, not time periods.

In the end, all great art is about life’s essentials, love, lust, jealousy, and in between those extremes, the everyday business of living.

Make your songs live, make opera a real moment in your life as a performer and you will engage your audience in a way that is totally yours, and leave your unique artistic imprint.

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