Friday, October 30, 2009

Olympic Torchbearers and Opera: Connection?

The list of Olympic Torchbearers for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was announced yesterday on the CNW Group website. Slated to start Sunday, November 1 in Victoria, BC, the goal of the relay is to "captivate new international audiences to see a trip to Canada in their future plans" when they broadcast each leg of the trip to the native countries of the Torchbearers.

Now I am a HUGE fan of the Olympics and am thrilled that Canada is on the world's stage again so why would I want to be a dissenting voice?

Because when you look at the list of international athletes it highlights the best of the best (figure skaters Katarina Witt and Philippe Candeloro, speed skaters Chun Lee-Kyung and Yang Yang to name a few) but when they decided to pull the arts into the list, they came up with German cross over soprano Anna Maria Kaufmann.

Am I a musical snob? Maybe, but that isn't the point.

The thrill and power of the human voice and specifically for opera singers is their ability to sing UN AMPLIFIED to an audience of thousands. That is the feat to be celebrated. Instead of highlighting this along side the equally incredible ability for figure skaters to do 3 1/2 rotations in the air over ice on tiny blades, or skate faster than any human has in the history of the world, they have elected to celebrate a singer who has crossed over to music that is amplified and over-produced and thus losing the thrill of the abilities of the human voice.

Am I a lone voice in the wilderness?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canwest Cabaret Festival starts today!

Just received an email reminder from Patricia O'Callahan, Canadian singer and recording artist who I have blogged here before, reminding me that the Canwest Cabaret Festival starts today and runs until Sunday, November 1.

Featuring some of my favourite Canadian singing artists including Adi Braun, Molly Johnson, Heather Bambrick and O'Callahan singing the works of Stevi Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Rogers and Hart. Every evening hosts at least 8 concerts...what a line up!

Concerts are located at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the uber-hip Distillery district of Toronto. Its a perfect way to spend your weekend!

Monday, October 26, 2009

CD Launch - Free wine!

If you are in Toronto on Wednesday night and want to mix wine, opera and some laughs, check out the CD Launch of Fallis and Tiefenbach: More or Less Live @ the Gould

The details:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
5pm - 7pm
Lobby of Glenn Gould Studio
250 Front Street West
CBC Broadcasting Centre
First 100 people get free glass of wine!
Come and hear "bits" at 5:45pm.

I had the good fortune of not only being in the audience for the recording but also being part of the P&T Choral ...alas the song Nebraska will forever be stuck in my head.

Check out Mary Lou's new website and have a glass of wine for me!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Voice Teacher vs. Vocal Coach

For young singers and their parents, it is easy to be confused between the voice teacher and the voice coach. There has been much written and blogged about with regards to this issue but ultimately it comes down to the area of expertise.

The voice teacher (aka: singing teacher, voice pedagogue) is the person who deals with the technique of singing. A singing teacher will guide the voice through a series of exercises dealing with issues of breath, resonance, vowel placement, and tone among other things. The goal of the voice teacher is to establish a balanced, healthy sound appropriate to the age and experience of the singer.

The voice teacher will also deal with repertoire issues. They will assign songs that are appropriate for the technical level and maturity of the singer. Their overall focus is on tone production in addition to the musical, language and dramatic demands.

Finally, the voice teacher is someone who has had training as a singer, has taken vocal pedagogy courses and has had or currently is pursing a singing career.

The voice coach (aka: collaborative pianist) is the person who deals with the musical, language and dramatic demands of the vocal repertoire. They are pianists who have done training in diction, repertoire, collaborative piano and opera. The goal of the vocal coach is to serve as the other half of the music (piano part or orchestra reduction) and help the singing put everything together. They expect a singer to arrive with notes learned, language translated, and an idea about how the song should be presented. From there the coach is the musical "mirror" for the singer and reflects back what they hear and makes suggestions on how to make any necessary changes.

Check out Chris Foley's post on the Collaborative Piano Blog for his definitions as he sees it from the other side of the piano bench!

October 26 update: Chris Foley linked this post and received many great comments. Check out the posting here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deadlines: Canadian Operatic Arts Academy

Deadlines are fast approaching for the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario!

Their first year was a huge success! This year auditions will be in conjunction with the L'Atelier Lyrique training studio from the Montreal Opera.

Highlights of the Program

  • Intensive scenes program covering the breadth of operatic repertoire

  • Internationally recognized faculty from such celebrated institutions as the
    Julliard School, Teatro alla Scala and the Houston Grand

  • Masterclasses with highly acclaimed vocal coaches

  • Classes in role preparation, performance practice, drama, movement, dance,
    stage combat, career development

  • Final performance of fully staged scenes

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making the Cut: Definitive Question and Answer Section

Below is the ultimate, uncut Q&A about everything you need to know and more about entrance auditions to a BMus program at the University level (including what NOT to wear!). Please find the question in bold with answers after the respective school that responded.

How important is the letter of recommendation?
UofT: They are read; we are looking to see if they are honest depictions of what we hear
Ottawa: We weigh them against what we hear - musicality, technical development, language skills - as this letter can cooberate what is display. Ultimately, they are not going to save a bad audition.
Western: The applied teacher that writes a letter can be biased so we look at what other people wrote letters.
Laurier: We give this the least weight in the portfolio. The Grade 12 makes and audition are the most important.

How important is the high school grade average? and what is the minimum you accept?
RCM: mid 70%'s; weighted less than the auditions
Brock: mid 70%'s
Ottawa: mid 70%'s; audition is the most important
Western: 83% was the cut-off last year
UfoT: No mark was given but it was stated that high marks receive a $5000 scholarship and a lower than "normal" average will be monitored in the first year under academic probation.
Cambrian: Grade not important, we will take anyone.

What are the RCM Grade levels for piano and theory?
RCM: Grade 3 Harmony but we will help you get there
Brock: Grade 8 voice, Grade 2 theory, Grade 6 piano (but Grade 4 accepted)
Western: Grade 8-ARCT Voice, Grade 3 theory to be comfortable, Grade 6 piano but will take courses to get you there
Ottawa: Grade 8 minimum voice, placement theory tests

What would you like sings to wear for auditions?
York: This is a job interview and somewhat formal, dress appropriately - NO jeans, flip flops, t-shirts
Ottawa: We won't mark you down if you are casual
RCM: Ladies, please wear skirts below the knees!

REMEMBER: before you are ever heard, you are seen!

How much do you weigh the interview portion?
Western: Heavily! This gives a sense of background; we see it as a two-way conversation and a way to observe communication ability
Laurier: This broadens the picture of who you are; ho you present as a person.
Ottawa: What is motivating you to study voice? Have you thought this through? Can you articulate this?
Brock: Weeds out the students who don't really want to study classical music
York: Go to concerts before you do an audition because we ask "what have you heard lately?" to check your level of interest and commitment.

Do you take the best singers or do you accept a balance of voice types and do you have a cap?
RCM: Try to balance but will take a voice we want
Ottawa: Male with pants will get in...:-)
Western: We guarantee residence space for all first years to our numbers need to be precise- this year we accepted 46 women and 8 men
Laurier: No set number; generally average around 18-21 incoming singers but this year they accepted 32 singers of which, 7 were men.

What is the Language requirement for entrance and how does the school handle it for the degree?
Laurier: 2 contrasting pieces, 1 in English; all first years take intro to International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
York: 2 contrasting pieces; first years take English and Italian diction and only have to sing in those 2 languages. In second year we add French and German diction
Western: Audition must demonstrate singing in English and 2 other languages; All first years take IPA (part of core curriculum) in Lyric Diction; first year jury must demonstrate 3 languages, second year must demonstrate 4 languages
Ottawa: sing 4 songs for the audition including baroque, German lied, french melody and own choice; We offer baroque classes, lieder, melody and 20th C with vocal skills covered in IPA for French German and English diction.; we are a bilingual university so french is very important.
Brock: 3 pieces with 1 in English
RCM: 7 pieces including French Melodie, English, Oratorio, Opera and German Lied; we offer diction in French and German each year and English and Italian in alternate years
UofT: weekly classes for Italian diction, German Lied and French Melodie in first and second year; optional 3rd and 4th levels for all languages.

How many singers auditions for your school?
Cambrian: 40 auditions, 15 accepted, 8 registered
UfoT: 200 auditions, 35-40 accepted into all programs (BMus, MM, DMA etc) for a total of 100 singers
York: 50 auditions, 18-20 accepted; 50 singers in the program
Laurier: 120-140 auditions, 18-21 accepted; 70 singers in the programs
Western: 200 auditions, 60 accepted; 200 singers in the program
Ottawa: 80-90 auditions; 20-25 accepted; 50 singers in the program
RCM: 40-50 auditions, 3-5 accepted

Are students required to take other non-music courses?
All programs require electives to complete the degree. Each program differs in what they can take.

As always, make sure you check with each school to confirm the information shared above.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making the Cut: Cambrian College

Monica Zerbe from Cambrian College was the final presenter. She outlined the following highlights of the Cambrian program:
  1. Their niche is to prepare you to enter your "dream program" if you aren't ready just yet.
  2. They offer a three year college program that includes courses in theory, history, performance, voice lessons, business and community outreach.
  3. they are looking for passionate students for their program!
  4. Sudbury is not far from Ottawa and Toronto.
  5. Their tuition is half the price of university and their courses transfer into 2nd and 3rd year programs at the university level.

You can also check out Monica's personal web page here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Making the Cut: University of Toronto

Dr. Darryl Edwards from the University of Toronto was on hand to discuss the Uof T program. Here are the points of interest as presented:

  1. The Faculty of Music provides a diverse program second to none in this country.

  2. There are courses dedicated to Italian song (1st and 2nd year), Oratorio (3rd and 4th year), French Melodie (3rd and 4th year), Lieder (2nd, 3rd, and 4th year) and Piano Vocal collaborative issues.

  3. There are over 30 recitals open to student participation

  4. The opera school produces 4 shows per year with this year seeing Haydn's World on the the Moon in the fall and Bernstein's Candide in the spring wit small productions of Carmen and Eugene Onegin.

  5. There are 8-10 performance classes per year in addition to studio classes

  6. The Faculty has been around for a long time so they have continued to renew, inspect and upgrade the program.

  7. The Faculty if close to the Canadian Opera Company and the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

  8. UofT boasts wonderful teachers who are also great artists.

  9. The level of graduates from UofT who are performing on the world's stages speaks volumes for the program!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Young Canadians in Vermont

Check out the lovely review of MANY young Canadian singers participating at the Vermont Opera Theater's Fall Foliage Arts Song Master Classes.

(You will notice that most of them have come out of the University of Ottawa program...there must be a link there!)

Something for all young singers to check out!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making the Cut: York University

"If you are a man, I will pay you to come to York!"

So stated Canadian mezzo extraordinaire Catherine Robbin, director of classical vocal studies at York University. Here is a list of what makes York different as presented:

  1. As a musician you are part of the Faculty of Fine arts which boasts six departments (dance, design, film, theatre, visual arts and music). This is one of the largest departments in North America and the only one in Ontario!
  2. They offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or and Honours BFA and can tailor your degree to meet your interests. As part of the program, you are required to take other classes from the different departments and thus, receive a broad perspective of the role of arts and culture.
  3. There are many performance opportunities for those specializing in classical voice including recitals, studio classes and master classes with guest artists. This year the guests include Colin Ainsworth, Daniel Lichti, Suzie LeBlanc, Bruce Ubekata and Brett Polegatto.
  4. There are 6 voice teachers, brand new facilities for music with large studios, a recital hall and rehearsal space - this is all part of a warm and supportive environment.
  5. York offers a concurrent education program (BFA & BEd in music) but you apply during your first year and start in second year. Once part of this stream, your third year is strictly music and your fourth and fifth year are both music and education.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Making the Cut: Wilfrid Laurier University

Wilfrid Laurier Faculty of Music Voice Coordinator Kimberly Barber is on sabbatical this year so we had the pleasure of hearing from Daniel Lichti, acting coordinator, offer the following highlights:
  1. Wilfrid Laurier has been experiencing modest growth in the past few years with approximately 75 singers. Of those 75 singers, most of them are in the undergraduate program.
  2. Laurier offers a BMus and a one year Opera Diploma. This opera program performs excerpts in the fall and a full production in the spring.
  3. Along with the opportunities presented with the opera program, singers are able to perform at least twice a semester in the Noon Recital series as well as in weekly master classes with Daniel Lichti and in guest master classes.
  4. Laurier is unique in that it offers professional accompanists for studio and lessons - no other university pays for this feature!
  5. The Kitchener-Waterloo community hosts a number of professional music groups including the K-W Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Series and semi-professional choirs.
  6. The ultimate showcase for the Faculty is their Laurier Day (this year it will be held on Friday November 6) where all voice studios are open, there will be open Master Classes, open regular classes, an opportunity to meet current students, hang out in the building and get a sense of the community and finally, for any potential incoming singer, a mock Master Class and trial lessons with teachers of your choice. This is a FANTASTIC opportunity to see a music program in action and Laurier was the only school present to offer this in a formal way!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Making the Cut: University of Western Ontario

The Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario was represented by Vocal Coordinator and the President of the Ontario Chapter of NATS, tenor Torin Chiles. Torin is an eloquent speaker and outlined the following features of the Western program:
  1. There are over 200 singers at Western; 40 of which are graduate students. This number will increase in 2010-11 when they roll out their new Doctorate program (DMA). This makes them the largest Faculty of Music in Ontario (and in the country I believe).

  2. The undergraduate experience aims to nurture and challenge their singers in a safe environment. Students are encouraged to discover and evolve as musicians and human beings.

  3. Their faculty features many well known Canadian performing artists including mezzo Anita Kraus (currently at the COC in Butterfly), baritone Ted Baerg, mezzo Sophie Roland (who, with her husband Todd Wieczorek bring DMA degrees from Indiana University) and recently hired soprano Laura Whalen.

  4. They provide numerous master classes with visiting artists including Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka.

  5. Last summer they launched a summer program aimed at the emerging artist called Canadian Operatic Arts Academy (COAA) (check out their brochure - auditions for 2010 are in November!)

  6. Their opera program has the benefit of a new facility with 3 productions for 2009-10. The operas are based on open auditions for undergrads and graduate students so everyone has a chance to learn a major role.

  7. Their education stream is very strong with a Faculty of Education at UWO making a convenient transition after 4th year. Part of the strength of this program are the 5 choirs that provide training in choral singing and conducting.

  8. UWO doesn't provide big scholarships as they chose to distribute their money evenly among students based on academic achievement as they feel this is a large indicator for success. You can be guaranteed $2000 if you enter with a 90% or higher and $1500 with an 85%!
In short, UWO is a big school and with that comes big opportunity, a plethora of experiences and of course, a lovely campus!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Making the Cut: University of Ottawa

It is always a party when Ingemar Korjus from the University of Ottawa is in the room! His ultra-resonant bass-baritone voice announced that UofO was a small but MIGHTY music school (while donning the Wagner helmet with horns)! Here are the highlights of the program as presented:
  1. 1. Sandra Graham (his wife) is on faculty teaching Opera Workshop. Sandra is a mezzo that sang in Germany for years and brings a wealth of knowledge to her teaching.
  2. They encourage the onus of study to be on the student asking "what do I (the student) have to offer as a musician?"
  3. Singers outnumber the rest of the musicians at UofO. With a focus on helping students feel safe, they can take the risks necessary to learn more and get to the next level.
  4. Opera Workshop is a major part of the program involving both undergrads and graduate students. In the past they have performed the Medium, Cosi fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Carmen and this year will do Le Nozze di Figaro with orchestra.
  5. There is a wealth of musical happenings in Ottawa and when major singers come to sing with the NAC Orchestra, UofO has them present master classes. Last year they hosted Russel Braun, Dalton Baldwin (pianist) and Edith Weins. Students also receive free tickets to many concerts.
Ingemar finished with a passionate speech encouraging young singers to "follow your heart and you will not go wrong".

From the voice of....