Saturday, August 13, 2011

Session 2-Mozarteum Summer Academy

Well, I said goodbye to my husband who went home to relieve the grandparents. I moved into a new apartment and felt like I was starting all over again with this second session. These past two weeks I feel that I've undergone a transformation emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It's hard to describe how certain periods of your life can be both aggravating and enlightening at the same time. But I'm sure that many can understand what I mean. For it is through the struggles that we see the most growth in ourselves.

I have learned not to place expectations on anything that hasn't happened yet. I am learning to allow life to flow more freely rather than try to force or prod unnaturally. I have learned that sometimes when we approach life with too much force and intensity we can look beyond the mark and find ourselves far way from our target. It can go the other way as well. If we are too timid and live our lives in constant fear, we fall short of our target. Finding a balance is truly the key. I have found tremendous comfort in my relationship with God and his son Jesus Christ. Living the single life these past weeks has given me time to reflect and nourish the relationship with them and myself. I have been blessed to witness small miracles these past two weeks. Not only in myself but with others. This has testified to me that there is a God in heaven that loves and is mindful of each and every one of us.

I am filled with gratitude that God has blessed me with the gift of song. It brings me so much joy and it never ceases to amaze me the sounds that the body is capable of producing. I have enjoyed the tremendous talent of those around me as well. I have made some wonderful friends that I hope to be in contact with in the future and perhaps collaborate with professionally. I have been so blessed to have worked with such wonderful talent and brilliant individuals such as Piernay and Anna Tomowa-Sintow. Anna is truly amazing as she still sings amazingly well for a woman in her 70's. She is extremely alert and incredibly knowledgeable. Her ability to vocally demonstrate difficult passages to illustrate what she wants a singer to do is really quite amazing. I found Piernay to be the same. Absolutely brilliant! Most singers their age no longer have any voice. I feel that my voice has gone up yet another level even since Prof. Piernay. I should tell people that I actually went to "finishing" school this summer. For that is how I truly feel! I feel that this experience is giving me the finishing touches that will prepare me to be successful in the professional world. When I approach the audition circuit this fall, I will feel completely ready and confident.

The first week of this second session was very rough. I found myself with a very bad attitude as the week progressed. I suppose Piernay left me spoiled with the amount of time he worked with me. Ms. Tomowa-Sintow auditioned us on Tuesday and didn't start class until Thursday. We only had 3 1/2 hrs per day with 14 singers to share that time. In the end I only got 4 lessons of about 20-25 min. each. It was difficult to communicate with her because her english is not good and my german and italian is even worse. I felt like I didn't connect with her as I did with Piernay or other teachers in the past because of the language barrier. So, I was very irritated the first week. It's not really like me to be so negative but it was really eating at me. And to make matters worse, I really don't appreciate diva behavior. It doesn't matter how famous a person is, it's not all about them! So, you get the picture that I had a really bad attitude! In spite of that, I made sure to be prepared and I sang well for her and really tried to apply what she was teaching me. I make it a regular habit to steer clear of negative thinking. So, I made a sincere effort to get off my high horse and really focus on the small amount of time I did have with her. When I changed my approach, my level of performance improved immensely when I became teachable. I'm so grateful I did because now I can walk away from this experience with no regrets. I owe it to myself and all those that made it possible for me to be here to make the most of this experience.
Part of the stress also came from me putting pressure on myself to get noticed while I am here. The past two sessions, I have felt somewhat overlooked since I was not considered for the academy concerts where they choose individuals to participate in the culminating competition that will happen at the end of August. I have been getting attention from many but it seemed that the person that makes the final decision, has not had an opportunity to hear me sing. I really want to get some positive exposure while I am here that can open some doors for me professionally. I eventually came to the conclusion that if I do my best, than what is meant to happen will happen. I've always felt that God had a purpose for my voice. He's ultimately in charge and I can't try to force things.
Although, I was very proud of myself because yesterday, I made some really good networking contacts. One particular individual has noticed me throughout the weeks and has some influence with the director of the summer academy. I basically asked her what I needed to do to be considered for the final concert/competition. She said that I was not on the prior concerts because they were aware that I was here on scholarship and could not be considered for the stipend prize that was being given away. She agreed that because of that, the Director of the Summer Academy had not had an opportunity to hear me as a result. She has agreed to speak with him and to find a way for me to sing for him. We also discussed other possibilites of working with each other in the future. I'm not typically very good at self promoting, but the opportunity presented itself and I was proud of myself for taking advantage of it!
I realize that all I can do is continue to work hard and sing well every time I have a chance to perform. And that's what I intend to do.

Now, for a few details on Anna Tomowa-Sintow's teaching style. Her main focus was for all of us to begin singing a Mozart piece. She says "Mozart is very eemportant for za pozition" in her lovely bulgarian accent. What she means is that Mozart helps the singer find the right alignment in the voice which then prepares them for the rest of the operatic repertoire. She really focused on getting every singer to keep the voice in line throughout the scale without changing vocal position. She taught mostly by demonstration and images. She was very efficient and really got incredible results in all of the singers in a very short period of time. She had a very intense diva energy about her that was a bit interesting. But her approach with the student was loving and encouraging yet strict. During our final class concert this evening, she was very mother-henish with everyone, which I find a bit intrusive at times.( But that's just me). She went around to everyone and gave them their pep talk. Then when each person sang, she was in the wings mouthing the words and making faces or commenting about the tempo being too slow or fast. Then afterwards, she had words of wisdom for each individual. I'm sure she said something nice to me because she was smiling, but it was in Italian and I didn't understand a word. I think she might have said something about contining with the freedom of sound. The only words I picked out were "continuomo" and "Libera". I really need to brush up on my language skills! Ah well,...perhaps that will be my next project.

Now I must tell you about my new friend Giovanni Ceto. He is this wonderful crazy Italian that kind of scared me at first. After my audition for this session, he made the point to congratulate me on my beautiful instrument. Then he proceeded to tell me that my Italian pronunciation stinks! I didn't quite know how to respond to that because no one has ever told me that! But of course coming from a native Italian, I'm sure it seems pretty bad. Anyway, I sort of forgot about him and went about my week. We'll one day, I am standing outside of the old Mozarteum building and here is this man hanging out the window flagging me down, motioning for me to come to him in his office. I went, apprehensively because he was kind of intense. I find out that he is actually a professor/teacher of Italian pronunciation who coaches singers and has studied with all kinds of famous people in the business. He asked me why I never came to him for lessons after he talked to me that day. I proceeded to tell him that I had no money to pay him for his services. He said that he came to me and would like to help me. He has been coaching me on the side out of the goodness of his heart. In the short time I have worked with him, my Italian pronunciation has improved immensely and it has really transformed my singing and my approach to learning music. In the past, I have been more prone to learn the notes and rhythms first then the words and then the translation. When you approach the music from the text first, it completely changes things. I almost feel silly that I didn't know this sooner! Better late than never I say!Although I have known him only a short while, I think I have found a friend for life as I will always be grateful for his gift and generosity.

I'm loving my Yoga class as well. I'm becoming very zen these days. I love the whole philosophy and it makes such a difference in my singing technique and my approach to the psychological aspect of performing. I'm seriously considering becoming certified in Yoga. I feel it would be a tremendous supplement to my performing.

So, all in all, I have had a lovely experience this second session. I have grown so much in many aspects. I'm starting to feel like a regular citizen now. I know the city well and still marvel at it's beauty. The food is absolutely marvelous! Especially the bread and cheese. There are quaint little cafe's and bakeries around every corner. I'm trying to stick to the groceries in my little refrigerator so that I don't come home bigger than when I left! the public transportation is extremely convenient and always on time. I also haven't been too homesick as I have seen how happy and well taken care of my children have been. My in-laws did an incredible job of taking care of them! I will be forever grateful to them! I'm so happy that my children had that bonding time with them. I found that my biggest fears of this experience have not been an issue at all. And I really owe that to my in-laws. My favorite words that I receive in a text message often is Palmer says, "skype Mommy!". That's when I know I have a skype date that evening. I have pictures but will not be able to post them until I get home because the memory card in my camera only fits my husband's computer. Perhaps I will do a slide show of my summer when I get home for all to see.

Well, on to the 3rd and last session! Stay tuned!