Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas friends! All the best for this holiday season and beyond.

Look for a continuation of the Undergraduate Programs in Canada posts starting January 5, 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University

If great public relations and gloss were the only indicator of a great music program, Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty to Music would hold the prize. Their website is a testament to well publicized school events and student accomplishments. For example, their current home page has 5 headlines (press releases) and of them, three of them outline what the voice program and its students are up to.

Laurier has always had a great reputation for performance. Its steady output of students of quality students hit the roof with the current success of alumni soprano Jane Archibald who is a fixture at the Vienna State Opera. Other alumni include Daniel Lichti (now on faculty), Theodore Baerg (on faculty at University of Western Ontario), soprano Kathleen Brett, Steven Horst, and tenor Keith Boldt. Recently under the guide of Canadian mezzo Kimberly Barber, Laurier is now showing itself as a place to learn not just the skills to be a singer but by example, how to promote oneself to the world.

One cannot have a successful voice program without a great vocal coach and Laurier has that with Leslie De'Ath. He is the go-to expert on Diction by serving as an Associate Editor for Language and Diction for the Journal of Singing published by NATS.

All teachers are involved with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) having recently hosted the Ontario General Meeting and Competition. Of the 23 Lauirer singers who competed, half finished in the top three of their respective classes...and out of 4 different voice studios. I would say they are doing something right!

Here is a quick link guide to the nuts and bolts of their program:

1. Faculty List
2. Bachelor of Music in Performance : a four year program with classes in diction, voice lessons and performance opportunities including studio classes and master classes.
3. Opera Diploma Program: a one year post-grad program focusing on continued voice training and stage craft in addition to increasing repertoire knowledge.
4. Intensive Studies in Voice Workshop: optional 9 week spring semester workshop run by the voice department and open to any undergraduate student who wishes to apply (that means from any other school of music!)
5. Audition Requirements: in addition to preparing 2 songs at a minimum of RCM Grade 8 level, those auditioning will write a theory entrance and do a piano proficiency exam.
6. And looks like there are at least 9 named scholarships for entering and current music students including a $2000 Victor Martens and David Falk Scholarship in Voice Performance entrance scholarship named for two of the longest standing voice teachers at Laurier. You can do a more detailed search on their database here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Canadian Opera Singer Adrianne Pieczonka named to the Order of Canada

This just in...Canadian Opera Singer extrodinaire Adrianne Pieczonka was named an office of the Order of Canada this week. I blogged Adrianne in September - check out the video clip and info here. Congratulations Adrianne!

Her she is singing the Song to the Moon:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Undergraduate Programs for Voice in Canada: Queens University

'Tis the season for university applications to be finalized and submitted. Over the next few months, students will continue to polish their audition repertoire in preparation for undergraduate program audition season! Lets take a look at the various programs in Canada...

I thought we could start with smaller schools first and of course, I have to feature my own place of employment!

The Queens University School of Music has recently launched a new website. Their opening message tells it all:

Our programs have earned a reputation for being both comprehensive and flexible, allowing students to explore many of their interests. You may pursue courses in one or a combination of the following areas: theory/composition, music education, musicology/ethnomusicology, music technology and performance. It is also possible to combine music and education degrees in the very successful concurrent education program.

Queens provides a boutique music experience - you can tailor your program to suit your interests and needs and at the same time be part of the long-standing traditional undergraduate campus experience.

The voice faculty includes area coordinator and long time faculty member Carol-Lynn Reifel, soprano Dianne Baird, soprano Ewelina Kwasniewska, baritone Bruce Kelly, baritone Gregory Brookes, and myself.
In addition to studying voice as a voice major, once can take lessons for credit regardless of their program of study. I have a number of non-music and non-voice majors in my studio and find their commitment to their study to be excellent! Non-majors as well as majors must fulfill the bi-weekly studio class requirement as well as the year end jury.
Additionally there is the performance option for all majors. Once must be recommended for performance at their jury and then compete with all music students to be selected. If selected, you have the opportunity to do a recital at the end of the year in lieu of a jury and graduate with a performance degree.
Other courses that are offered include second year Lyric Diction (soon to be mandatory) and Lyric Theatre Workshop through the Conservatory program.

Queens has a thriving student run Opera Club that produces at least one show per year. Entry is by audition with the whole program run by students for students. This year they are producing Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

Academically Queens only accepts students with a minimum high school average of 80%. Additionally once must do a successful audition for entry plus show keyboard and theory proficiency. The Concurrent Education Program is very difficult to get into with only an average of 10 spots per year (all instruments).

More information can be found on their website here or you can email me with direct voice questions at em47 (at) queensu (dot) ca.

Next program: Wilfred Laurier University

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things that make you go HMMM...

For those of you who read The Collaborative Piano Blog by Chris Foley, you will have not doubt seen his posting yesterday of French-Canadian Rufus Wainwright singing Berlioz' La Spectre de la Rose from the song cycle Les Nuits D'Ete.

Now, Rufus has a lovely tenor voice and comes from a line of musicians (his mother is Kate McGarrigle) and was recently awarded an opera commission from the MET (then later, it was taken away and the drama continues), BUT why would bother with Berlioz?

So, to counter the sounds of Rufus, I present Dame Janet Baker singing the same song with orchestra. What I adore about Dame Janet is her seamless breathing, the light attacks and the depth of her sound. Something else that is interesting for us pedagogy nerds is her use of her upper lip to dampen her sound particularly at the end of the song.

What do you think of this cross-genre theme? Have we gone too far?

Open your closed eyelid
Which is gently brushed by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of the rose
That you wore last night at the ball.
You took me when I was still sprinkled with pearls
Of silvery tears from the watering-can,
And, among the sparkling festivities,
You carried me the entire night.
O you, who caused my death:
Without the power to chase it away,
You will be visited every night by my ghost,
Which will dance at your bedside.
But fear nothing; I demand
Neither Mass nor De Profundis;
This mild perfume is my soul,
And I've come from Paradise.
My destiny is worthy of envy;
And to have a fate so fine,
More than one would give his life
For on your breast I have my tomb,
And on the alabaster where I rest,
A poet with a kiss
Wrote: "Here lies a rose,
Of which all kings may be jealous."

Translation by
Emily Ezust

Monday, November 24, 2008

Queen's University School of Music goes LIVE!

Check out the new website for the School of Music at Queen's University. More information, easier to browse and way better design! Way to go Queens!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beethoven Symohony #9 and more!

Calling all readers in Kingston! This weekend the Kingston Symphony performs Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Kingston Gospel Temple. Featuring the Kingston Choral Society and the Queens University Choral with mezzo Janice Cole, tenor Micheal Colvin, baritone Daniel Hambly and yours truly this should be a weekend of JOY!

Here is Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic with Karita Mattila, Violeta Urmana,Thomas Moser & Eike Wilm Schulte and the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ontario Student NATS Competition

If you are in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and are looking for something to do this weekend, check out the Ontario Chapter of NATS Student Auditions on Saturday, November 22 at the John Aird Center and Maureen Forrester Recital Hall of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All Diva all the time!

In the true spirit of Canada Music Week I thought I would keep us laughing and poke a little fun at myself. At the School of Music we only have one photocopy machine for staff and faculty. The other day I found myself in a mad rush to get something copied and ran into a collegue and theorist friend...actually I jumped the the photocopy line as he was sorting his papers. Here is part of his hilarious response on how to deal with a diva!

hmmm, just a second - I'm thumbing through my grad school survival guide, which had a section devoted to dealing with sopranos... Ah, here we go:

step 1: "when dealing with a soprano make sure to validate her need to be the centre of the universe"

Hail mighty diva of song, I, a lowly theorist, am humbled in your presence.

step 2: "acknowledge her inherent right to appropriate any communal resource"

It is with a sense of humility that I relinquish any right to use of the photocopier.

step 3: "every so gently try to encourage the soprano to entertain the notion that, while any communal resource is hers to use at all times, it would make her look magnanimous and add to her appeal as a singing luminary if she were to share the
resource with others"

People throughout the School of Music, while dazzled with the dulcet tones of your voice are even more in awe of your exeeding generosity as you share the photocopier with an inconsequential theorist.

step 4: "be prepared for the soprano to initially refuse this request (if she were to give in too quickly she might appear agreeable, which does not help sustain the mystique of the diva; however, after repeated attempts - a dozen is typical - she will eventually acquiesce because there is usually another shiny object that has tickled her fancy. Notwithstanding, ensure to lie prostrate and pledge your undying devotion whenever she comes to the photocopy room."

Hail mighty diva of song, thank you for allowing me, a miniscule theorist, to be allowed the highest privilege of being in your presence and sharing the photocopier. Unworthy as I am of such graces, I pledge my fealty to you and your golden voice. Hail might diva of song!"

It's a good thing I kept this guide and highlighted it - I have a feeling I will need it for years to come!

Friday, November 14, 2008

All I ever needed to know about the RING I learned from Anna Russell


Part One:

Part Two (listen to her Hojotoho's in chest voice at the 48 sec point):

Part Three (if you got this far, you might as well finish it!):

Who was Anna Russell you ask? Why she was the queen of opera parody. Today, we have Mary Lou Fallis! More on her later....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Kingston Kiwanis offers big prize money

In case you haven't heard, the Kingston Kiwanis Music Festival has introduced
new senior competitive scholarship classes this year that will award $1000 in
prize money in each of the areas of voice, piano, strings and winds/brass/percussion. The prize winners will be announced immediately following the competitive class. To find out more information about these classes, please go to the festival's website and download their syllabus.

Important Music Festival Dates:
Entry Deadline December 12, 2008
Festival Runs Feb 25 - Mar 6, 2009
Highlights Concert March 11, 2009


Special Senior Competitive Scholarships
Voice – Class 3618
Piano – Class 1507
Winds and Percussion – Class 0705
Strings – Class 0204
Prizes: 1st - $500 2nd - $300 3rd - $200

Monday, November 10, 2008

Canadians at the MET

As you may have read, there is much excitement at the MET over Canadian director Robert Lapage's new production of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust. Known in the opera circles for his Erwartung/Bluebeard's Castle double bill, Lepage is "practicing" for Wagner's Ring at the MET in 2011-2012.

Not to be overlooked is another great Canadian - bass baritone John Relyea singing the role of Méphistophélès opposite Susan Graham's Marguerite.

Relevant articles:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Keyboard Skills for Singers

I recently had a student who was having some difficulty practicing because she has poor piano skills. I doubt that I am the first teacher to encounter this issue (nor will I be the last!). Despite our best efforts, it is sometimes difficult to convey the importance of keyboard skills to young singers. Spending time in the lesson to improve practice habits is necessary but giving piano lessons on top of the voice lesson just doesn't seem practical.

Here is a tool that could be helpful for that beginning student in learning the piano via the internet (imagine!). LA based singer and teacher Ariella Vaccarino has created a number of products for singers but the most exciting (and free) product is her explanation of broken and solid chords and how to "warm up" at the piano.

Lesson 1 is the longest and outlines major chords:

Lesson 2 adds the octave:

Lesson 3 is an overview of 5 finger patterns:

Lesson 4 combines everything:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Why polish your "look"?

Every once in a while something comes along to get me all excited. Last week I read about Liz Parker launching her new public relations website and business and thought "cool". Then an onslaught of great facebook reminders, blog stuff, and messages started to bounce around the vitural world and voila, I was hooked by the PR buzz and all excited about October 31, the day of the launch.

Well, here it is: The website is everything it promised to be and more. Check out the stylings of soprano Laura Whalen (more to come on her soon!) and mezzo Lynne McMurtry. Not just about pictures, but writing a great bio, pulling the right press quotes and ultimately showing "who you are" to an audition panel or promoter. This is a shout out to all you singers - GET GLOSSED! It really is important.

Laura Whalen below, looks like the joyful person and singer that she is!

PR the Canadian way - congratulations Liz!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

2009 NATS Intern Program for Young Teachers of Singing

Cynthia Vaughn reminded me this week that The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) is currently accepting application for their NATS intern program.

"The NATS Intern Program is an exciting and innovative venture that seeks to pair experienced and recognized master teachers of voice with talented young members of NATS. Within a format designed to promote the dynamic exchange of ideas and techniques, the goal is to improve substantially the studio teaching skills of these promising young teachers."
When? June 9-19, 2009
Where? Shorter College, Rome, GA

Get the application here.

I would love to hear from former NATS Interns - what was your experience like and how has it changed your teaching?
September 1 update: As of March last year, I was the first alternate for this program but told that I probably wouldn't have the opportunity to attend. Then on June 8 (the day before it started), I got a call that someone had to pull out at the last minute and could I attend? Alas, I was unable to get on a flight to Georgia that night(is there a song in that?) ...just goes to show you that YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN!

A NEW Young Artist Training Program is Launched in Canada

When one joins a department of music at the university level, one is subject to a great number of marketing materials. Most of the program information that comes through my university mail box is not appropriate for the undergraduate level singer. However, once in a while I find something interesting.

The Canadian Operatic Arts Academy sent me an incredible brochure and application first through my email as a NATS member then through my university snail mail. I love slick marketing materials and this was fabulous! Then I noticed that the content was equal to their gloss.

Started by the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario, the COAA promised to provide:

...the participants with invaluable insight into the multifaceted world of opera
– its preparation, performance, and business. Topics include role preparation, performance practice, dramatic exercises and study, audition training, promotion, management, and vocal and physical health. Primary focus will be placed on stage technique: character development, stage deportment, and character interaction. Participants also have the opportunity to engage in a wide array of forums with leading professionals in the operatic field. The workshop culminates in a public performance through which participants will have the opportunity to delve deeply into the experience of role preparation, both its musical and dramatic considerations. Participants completing the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy will leave better prepared for obtaining, realizing, and sustaining a prolific and rewarding career in the operatic profession.

Thanks UWO and Dr. Sophie Roland for putting together this great program...I would love to hear reports from singers that participate this summer!

Canadian Chamber Choir takes on Saskatoon

A choir of soloists seems to be an oxymoron. As choral conductors and singing teachers continue to battle for supreme authority on the voice of each of their students, along comes a choir that celebrates, supports and understands the solo voice. The Canadian Chamber Choir, led by Dr. Julie Davids recently wrapped their Saskatoon residency and looks forward a trip to Nova Scotia in the winter. Their website states that the CCC is
a national choral ensemble that provides a professional choral environment for Canadian singers, conductors and composers. The CCC has a mandate to perform new and existing Canadian choral works, apprentice choral conductors, and facilitate workshops in all sizes of Canadian communities.
How do 17 singers from all over the country come together?
The CCC organizes short 'projects' in different locations around the country. Usually 7-10 days in length, the choir will convene in the province of choice and spend 3-4 days in rehearsal; singers will have received their music in the mail and learned it prior to arrival. During the rehearsal period, a local school, choir, or community group will host the CCC's residency, and in turn the CCC gives workshops to local choirs in the community. The CCC then hits the road on a mini-tour, giving a combination of concerts and workshops throughout the province.
For me, I get excited by a leader that is a singer and understands the voice - when to round the lips to unify the sound, when to allow the full range of vocal colours to show and how to keep singers healthy.

I know these comments can open a whole can of worms....what are your thoughts? What have been your choral experiences? How are all of us supporting our singers as soloists and members of an ensemble?

Monday, October 27, 2008

YAP Tracker takes care of the details

Finally a website to keep us all organized! Yap Tracker is:
the ultimate resource for young artists and emerging professionals. Your online audition manager will keep you up-to-date and in-the-know about programs, competitions, workshops and main stage auditions to help you get ahead in the ever competitive classical performance market. Our sophisticated tracking system will keep you apprised of upcoming applications and auditions so you will never again miss a deadline or opportunities.
I have been using it for less than a month and have found numerous auditions, competitions and grant listings that are great not just for my personal career but that of my students.
Leave me a comment with your email to get a $5 off voucher on your $50 US membership!
Happy Yapping!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The REAL life of a working singer/teacher/mom

I haven't shared much personal information on this blog however; today I am going to change that!

Being a working musician is a challenging and fulfilling life. I am fortunate to have people in my life who are completely supportive, encouraging and willing to step in to help at any given moment to help. That support network is imperative and I include my husband, my parents, my siblings and their families and my close friends. There are days that are easy...and then there are days like today where real life wakes one up from the dream of being a musician.

Right now there are a cacophony of sounds and happenings in my house (where I work most days) including:
- a piano being tuned
- my youngest child throwing up in the toilet
- my husband discussing our finances
- fabric waiting to be turned into Halloween costumes for the school party TONIGHT
- my husband's many office projects that I still manage
...and then the normal house stuff including laundry, dishes, groceries, dusting, cleaning, gardening, and bills to be paid.

This is real life and the person that chooses family and singing is one that must build their support network, learn prioritizing skills and ultimately be as in-love with their family as they are with their singing.

Classical Singer Magazine did a great job of looking at being a parent and working singer in their March 2008 issue. There are also a number of great websites including OperaMom which is the definitive source of information and support for singing professionals with children.

How do you manage your career and family? Is it different for men than women (and there is a whole NEW can of worms :-) If you are just starting out, what choices have you made and where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Canadian Works for Voice and Piano

In the age of social conscious purchasing (think buying locally owned and from field to table programs) how many of us singers out there have applied this to our vocal repertoire? As teachers it is sometimes difficult to find the time (and, lets be honest, the energy!) to source new and local music that is appropriate for our students. As performers are we performing new works? Are we collaborating beyond our pianist with composers? Librettists? Music stores? Music organizations? to find new, interesting, local and socially relevant material?

Recently I discovered a great number of composers doing just that - collaborating and marketing their music directly to US the singing teacher/performer. The Toronto chapter of ORMTA held a composers forum last Sunday, October 19 at the Music Gallery. For those of us fortunate to have stumbled into the theatre, there was much to be found!

Find #1: Martha Hill Duncan

Kingston composer Martha Hill Duncan is an expat-Texan living in Kingston teaching piano and composing all sorts of interesting and relevant material. She has published 2 volumes of songs for voice and piano entitled "Singing in the Northlands". Volume 1 is a collection of songs appropriate for the beginning singer (think Royal Conservatory Grades 2-5). Volume 2 is more advanced with songs that challenge rhythm (think 4/4 over a 12/8 accompaniment) and tonality while remaining romantic in nature and very lyrical!

Find #2: Maria Molinari

Toronto composer Maria Molinari presented her compositions with a bang! She played a recording of an incredible song cycle to poetry by William Blake. Soaring, lyrical and challenging for the undergraduate singer, I was blown away! A graduate of the University of Toronto in composition and the University of Southern California (USC) in Film Scoring, one can "hear the picture" in her vocal works. My favourite piece is a prizewinner from the 2002 Stratford Festival Song Competition Contest for Young Composers winner "Willow Song". Simple, direct and middle voice tessitura, this song challenges the dramatic instinct of a singer in delivering a Shakespearean text.

Both composers have their music available on their websites and through the Canadian Music Centre. I encourage you to check them out.

Share your favourite Canadian composer so we can continue the dialogue!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Celebrating Canadian Baritone Russell Braun

With a stream of accolades, it is difficult to say something new about Canadian baritone Russell Braun. Currently receiving rave reviews as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in the Canadian Opera Company's new production of War and Peace, Russell is a baritone that creates a light attack and an incredibly smooth legato while maintaining a big, round baritone sound.

In addition to his busy performing schedule, he is serving on the faculty of the University of Toronto with his wife pianist Carolyn Maule. Their long affiliation with the faculty there first as students and now as teachers and mentors, has touched many young Canadian singers.

Recently Russell and Carolyn joined forces with Micheal Schade in a recital at Roy Thompson Hall in their hometown of Toronto. CBC radio is providing it streamed here.

Finally, check out his incredible delivery of Mercutio's aria from Romeo et Juliette from the 2008 Salzburg Festival:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Music Schools for Undergraduate and Graduate level study

I recently received information from the Eastman School of Music about their upcoming annual College Music Fair for the region of Upstate New York. The event takes place on Wednesday, October 22 in the evening and will host over 70 music schools from across the US and Canada. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to audit various Eastman student rehearsal and attend a Wind Ensemble concert.

Check out the link here for more information. This site includes a list of all the schools attending with links to their webpages.

Singers of the Future - Operalia 2008

Operalia 2008 was a fantastic survey of up and coming singers on the world stage. Have a listen to the concert that was broadcast live by CBC Radio 2 from Montreal, Quebec last week. You can stream the finals here.

You can read more about the competition here.

Notice that we had a Canadian in the finals - bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus. Stephen holds a Master of Music in Opera from the University of Toronto. He is a member of Atelier lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal and has pursued further studies at the Banff Centre, the Britten-Pears Programme in Aldeburgh, England, and at the Centre for Opera in Sulmona, Italy. The 2008 recipient of the Herbert Cohen award for second place at the 32nd annual Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Solo Competition hosted by the Oratorio Society of New York, Stephen will make his Carnegie Hall debut in 2009 singing Bach’s Mass in B-minor with the Oratorio Society of New York.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

More Canadian Culture with the Wrecking Ball

Artists have an incredible way of mobilizing and uniting.

"This October 6, the Wrecking Ball goes NATIONAL. That means there will be live events in major cities across Canada: All at Once, All on the Same Day, All Political, All New, All Written Expressly FOR the Federal Election. All thrown up by 100% Canadian actors, writers, directors and technicians in their gala niches from coast to coast."

Check out what Wajdi Mouawad had to say at a political rally in Ottawa on September 24:

"Today, our duty is to speak together, as one, to make ourselves heard. Not to defend grants, but to stand up for what we believe in, not only for ourselves but for everyone."

And that ladies and gentlemen, says it all.

Canadian Arts and Culture Week: Celebrating Tenor Micheal Schade

I have to admit that Michael Schade is one of my favourite tenors. Not just because he is Canadian, has an incredible voice and loves hockey, but mostly because he is a great supporter of young singers.

Michael was Idomeneo in the 2001 Canadian opera Company production where I made my last minute debut as Elettra. I wasn’t supposed to sing it at all only understudy the role. But one thing led to another and I ended up on stage, 8 months pregnant doing the full run. What a ride for a young singer and how frustrating for the regular cast (read a review here). Despite the chaos that surrounded that production, Michael was fantastic. One night he found me in the big rehearsal hall vocalizing before a performance and his advice was “don’t leave it in the practice room”. Clear, concise and to the point – just like his voice.

Michael is one of Canada’s true operatic superstars. The go-to tenor for Mozart all over the world he is now imparting his years of experience and wisdom to young singers as the Co-Director, along with Barbara Bonney, of the new Salzburg Young Artists Project.

You can hear Michael this season in the Met HD broadcast of a new production of Thais with Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson on December 20th and then back at home in Toronto with the Canadian Opera Company singing the Prince in Rusalka.

Have a listen to a 1999 production of Don Giovanni with Michael singing “Il mio tesoro”:

Up next, baritone Russell Braun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Vote for Canadian Culture

Cast your vote for Canadian Culture today! Visit I VOTE FOR CULTURE today to let your voice be heard.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Canadian Arts and Culture Week: Celebrating Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka

In honour of our current Canadian election campaign issue of CULTURE, I thought it appropriate to focus on Canadian singers. I could go on about how Mr. Harper of the Conservative party has dismissed culture as not something ordinary working people are into and discuss who and what we are as Canadians but I won't since I’m sure I'm preaching to the choir.

Instead, lets celebrate the greatness of our national and international opera stars starting with soprano Adrianne Pieczonka.

Originally from Brampton, ON Pieczonka studied with noted teacher Mary Morrison. It was Mary who told me while I was her student that Pieczonka was originally a member of the Canadian Opera Company Chorus but decided that she wanted to be a soloist so she went to Germany to work. It was there that she developed her remarkable technique and dramatic stage presences and learned the major roles. In typical Canadian fashion, she only returned to sing in Canada after she had been a European success. Her Mimi with the COC in 1994 was some of the most stunning singing I have heard (I went back twice to hear her!).

Today, Pieczonka makes Toronto her home but as you can read on her web page, she is singing all over the world including the Met, Covent Garden, and Munich to name a few.

Check out this clip of her singing Donna Anna's "Or sai chi l'onore" from Don Giovanni. Also note that Canadian tenor Michael Shade is her Don Ottavio!

Next up, tenor Micheal Shade!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Young Singers on the Rise - Joseph Kaiser

Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser is one singer to watch. Now singing all over the world, it is so surprising to hear he was a baritone in his days with the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio.

Listen to the way he uses the appoggio in his upper voice - it seems without effort. As well, his consonants are pretty loose so his voice rings with some pretty stunning vowels!

Check out his Lensky below:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Young Singers on the Rise - Measha Brueggergosman

In an age of instant information and massive everything (think Super-Size Me), packaging, image and BRAND IDENTITY have become the benchmark of a “quality” product. The opera world has even jumped on board to educate and inspire their audiences and attempt to squeeze out a share of the market.

So too have opera singers and no one more so than Canadian opera singer Measha Brueggergosman. With a solid brand, great (new) packaging and a marketing engine behind her that also promotes the likes of Madonna, Measha is one to watch.

Not content with a traditional opera career path, Measha has created life performances unique to her personality and talent. Thank goodness she has the vocal chops to carry it all. Check out her hair, her expression and most of all her voice….

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Young Singers on the Rise - Nicole Cabell

Here is a great introduction to soprano Nicole Cabell who was the Cardiff Singer of the World in 2005. Nicole is a fellow Eastman grad who studied with John Malloy (also Renee Fleming's teacher). What is so great about Nicole is her commitment to the drama and the incredible legato line she creates.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Day of School

Its the first day of school around here...actually it's been a week of first days! I love the promise of a fresh start with new music, new pencils and new students.

How do we get started again as singers? After a summer of playing with my kids and not doing a whole lot of singing on my own, I'm looking to get back into shape and at the same time, get my students into shape. Some of my favourite, go-easy vocal exercises include the following (scale degress are in numbers with IPA below):



(yayeyaye etc)

Keep it easy and no louder than mf and drill these 3 or 4 different times per day. As Paul Kiesgen said this summer at his "Training Soprano Voices" at Indiana University, "the most important part of your practice is the beginning and the end therfore, schedule many short practices throughout the day for success".

What are your favourtie warm ups? Drop me a comment and i'll post them next week.

Happy first day of school!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Queens Conservatory is up and active!

I'm thrilled to announce that the Queens University Conservatory of Music has a new website that is live! Check out their programs for this year including their instructor list. I will be accepting a limited number of students through the conservatory so email me here if you are interested.

Let me know what you think of the website and our programs. Suggestions are always helpful!

Happy long weekend....Elizabeth

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The calm before the storm

It's that time of year again. New books (or scores in my case), new shoes, new clothes and a fresh outlook on another academic year about to start. I checked in at Queens yesterday and the halls were empty but clean. The bulletin boards had new signs and empty sign up sheets just waiting for someone to put themselves out there for an audition or a class. The pianos quiet as do the practice rooms. It all had the feeling of WAITING.

Well, I for one can't wait to get started! Let's get singing and inspired! Let me know how you get ready for the start of something - school, new singing job, new role or prepping a recital.

Happy first day of school!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Collaborative Piano Blog#links

Here is an excellent Blog by Chris Foley of the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music and fellow Eastman alumni on collaborative piano issues. See the 2008 Forum for thoughts on the singer/pianist relationship.

The Collaborative Piano Blog#links

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Quinte Rotary Music Festival

Last week was the 40th Anniversary of the Quinte Rotary Music Festival. Every year at the end of the week is the final Silver Competition which is the best of the singers, pianists, string players from the week competing for the top award in their category. I remember when I was in high school I competed in the Rose Bowl Competition and....lost. I will never forget that night. Nor will I forget the same night 6 years later when I was awarded the William Gardner Connor Scholarship for advanced vocal studies. The wait was worth it!

This year I had the privilege once again of performing on that fateful Friday night of the festival - now as a guest not to be judged but to strictly entertain and inspire. The strange thing was that I experienced the same butterflies and the same sick-to-my-stomach feeling I had over 10 years ago as a student. It was a revelation that no matter how far you get in your career, a return to the place that started it all can relive feelings and sensations you thought you had gotten over. It just proves that we never “get over” anything but change the form of how we experience it in our bodies and minds.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The end of the year...

As I reflect on the completion of my first year of teaching at the university level, a few observations have come time mind:

1. The bigger your vision, the greater the speed at which you can make change.

2. The greater your clarity of vision, the easier it is to deal with the obstacles.

3. The voice develops slowly and with patience and care. Big voices require more time and even more patience!

4. We hear with our eyes first, then we open our ears to the sound.

5. Our hearing is defined by who we are, what we have done and what our ultimate goals in life are.

None of these observations will change the world or the way someone sings but they may get you thinking. I know I'm already to get started on next year!

From the voice of....