In my last post I wrote about some popular ways in which we university age folk spend our summers, and the absolute cruciality of spending your summer with your instrument. While a summer of non-stop work and practicing is ill-advised, in the formative training years it is essential to dedicate at least part of your summer to your growth and development as a musician. This, however, is not limited to time in a practice room; but I will leave my philosophies on being a person first and a musician second to a later blog post. Today, I want to talk about summer programs.
This summer I have the unfathomable privilege of attending The Banff Centre's Opera in the 21st Century program. It is a hub of opportunity, inspiration, and the loveliest and most supportive peers and mentors in the country. Do not pass up an opportunity to audition for this program.
There are a growing number of summer programs for singers. From fully staged operas or musicals, scenes programs, language and culture classes (especially for programs overseas), dance, pilates or yoga classes, masterclasses, poetry analysis; the gamut of selling points of any one summer program is often quite varied. Typically, the more that is being offered by a particular program, the grander the price tag. So before booking your flight, arranging accommodations and coaching your role, get as much information about the program that you can. You don't always get what you pay for. Some programs cost a LOT of money (think $3000+, not including flight, room & board etc) for a very limited amount of experience. As young singers, were often pressured into accepting offers because we're inexperienced and want to feel included. I get that, and I've felt this pressure many times. But never forget: your money and time are valuable. Even if it is not your own money that you are spending to go to a summer program, there is value attached to it. The moment that you treat a summer program as anything less than an opportunity to grow as an artist, you are devaluing the program, yourself and the art form. Every experience you have to create music in a supportive, respectful environment is nothing short of miraculous in our current social climate. This is a two way street. You deserve respect as a young artist, especially when you are paying to participate, but you must act professionally to be treated professionally.
In April I had the chance to sit down with the lovely Jessica Lane of The Irrelevant Diva to talk about a myriad of vocal issues, especially for dramatic voices. We got talking about summer programs. Jess and I agree that as a dramatic voice, applying for summer programs can be a bit of a a crap shoot; depending on their programming there's not always a huge chance you will be picked, but you need to put yourself out there so that you are heard. "I wish that there was a teacher at a summer program who is familiar with big voices. And often programs cast so early in the year for shows that are a very long away. There is so much growth and development that can happen in any voice between the audition in October and the show in July!!" I really couldn't agree more.
So before you go applying for every summer program under the sun, ask yourself the following questions: Is this program offering me a new or irreplaceable experience? Can I afford it? (side note-Never feel guilty asking for financial aid if you really and truly need it) What do my peers who have participated in this program have to say about it? What do my teacher/coach/mentors have to say about it? For international programs: Are there any immigration steps needed? And most importantly: Will I leave this program as a better artist and global citizen?
I'm sure this is part 2 of about 10, but for now I have to go to a fitting for Crush (hint; think Hansel and Gretel.)
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