Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The final session

Well, this wonderful experience has come to a close and I find myself back home again wondering if the last 6 weeks were just a dream. I honestly still can't believe that I had this opportunity! This experience has made a deep impact on me that will affect the rest of my career and journey in music. I will forever be grateful to dear Charlotte Shedd and the Austrian American Society of Wilmington, DE. I am also deeply grateful for all of my wonderful friends and family that either donated money or time to help me take care of my children while I was gone. With that said, I suppose I'd better give you an update!

Originally, I was signed up for Barbara Bonney's Masterclass. I didn't realize at the time of enrollment that she would only be available for one week of the last two week session. During the second session I received some valuable information that led me to change professors. I changed to Kurt Widmer's Masterclass and will forever be grateful for that decision! The things I learned from Prof. Widmer made such an impact on me in so many more ways than just my singing technique. He reminded me of the reason I do what I do! And that is to communicate with others and hopefully make a positive lasting impact. He taught me to give myself permission to get out of my head and tap into my heart. When working with him, I became free from the pursuit of perfection and was able to allow my soul to lead. Ironically, by just letting go it was amazing to see the difference in the quality of my sound. It was a magical experience that is really hard to describe unless you had been there. I literally witness miracles every day I went to class. I observed students from all ages and abilities completely blossom under his touch. It was quite moving actually. I'll never forget the tears coming down the cheeks of one of his students after one of my sessions. I felt the same watching him work with others. I've never seen a teacher of singing with such patience, gentleness, and genuine love and caring for people. He worked tirelessly to make sure each student had his fair share of time with him. A difficult feat with 24 students!

Kurt Widmer's approach is completely revolutionary! Besides his obvious love for his students and teaching, he has created an approach to teaching technique that gets to the very heart of what making music is all about. Rather than focusing on mistakes and correcting them, he provides an environment in which the student can allow the sound to come organically. He believes that if a student is too caught up in perfection, he/she will be too much in the head thus becoming more tense and not able to access the maximum beauty of sound. Since he spoke very little English, my German skills were put to the test and I had to work extra hard at listening and watching in order to understand his philosophy. If one were to come and observe a session without knowing anything about him, they would think his approach a bit silly at times. He will go through great lengths using various props and physical actions to keep the student flowing freely within his/her body. As I observed other students I began to see a pattern with the props he used and realized that he had this method down to a complete science. He knew just what each student needed in order to get them singing freely. I hope the pictures I've posted gives a bit of an idea of what I was doing.

There was one particular session that really made an impact on me. He had me singing Csardas with one leg sticking out behind me balancing on my right foot. With my left hand on the table for stability, he had me articulate the rhythms on the table with my right hand using a wide range of space on the table. I was sweating profusely as it was really difficult. Periodically he would push my leg up higher into the air with out warning. Obviously, I wouldn't be doing these crazy antics while I'm actually performing, but it forced me to be completely free in my whole body while adding the necessary energy. I was really amazed at how differently my body felt when singing this way. The sound was much more brilliant yet I could hardly feel a thing in my larynx/jaw/mouth. It was almost like an out of body experience where I was sitting across the room watching myself and marveling at the sounds coming out of me. I remember thinking to myself, "I didn't know you could do that!". At first I found myself fighting against him as I didn't trust that my voice would speak while doing all these crazy things. But as soon as I had the courage to let go and do something different, I experience a complete transformation. Little did he know that one of my biggest struggles in life was learning out to let go and let God. I can be a bit of a control freak and and inhibit myself in the process. When I say that his work with me touched me on many levels, I mean that I could apply what he was teaching me to how I approach my whole life. Again, it's a bit difficult to explain.

I was able to sing in another Academy concert on Monday night the 24th. I sang really well and felt that I was able to apply my work with Prof. Widmer. It as also fun to have a large crowd of friends in the audience cheering me on. Brian Stone, one of the judges of this year's competition, happened to be in Salzburg on a scholarship of his own from and Austrian American Society in New York. He was able to attend both concerts of mine this summer and attended several of my masterclasses. It was very nice to have someone from home for support. I also had several people that I had become friends with at the church in Salzburg come to my concerts.
For this last session, Prof. Widmer had given me a P which meant that he was recommending me for the final prize concert. Unfortunately, I did not make it to the concert. At first I was upset but in the end remembered that all things happen for a reason. Widmer made a point to pull me aside and told me I have perfect technique and am a beautiful singer but that my age may have been a problem. It was sweet of him to say. I mostly felt bad because I wanted to make the Society proud and bring an accomplishment home with me. What I have gained from this experience is far more valuable then singing on any prize concert or competition. I don't know what my future holds in the professional world, but I know that this experience has been instrumental in preparing me for whatever lies ahead.

I was able to continue my work with Giovanni Ceto. He was so generous with his time and did not charge me a penny for our work. He took me under his wing and completely transformed my Italian pronunciation. My work with him has definitely taken me to the next level. It was a blessing that I wasn't at all expecting. He will always be a dear friend and I was very sad to say goodbye to him.

Here are some final thoughts on my experience in Salzburg:
I love the food especially the chocolate, bread, and cheeses. I love the beauty and richness of culture and history in that little city. I love the legacy that Mozart left for the entire world that will last until the end of time. I'm amazed how one man could make such a lasting impact on the world. I want to be like that! I love all of the lovely people that I met and will hopefully remain friends with. I loved the exposure to so many cultures and languages under one roof. Image this, a Bulgarian Soprano talking to a Venezuelan in German, who would then translate the information into English for the Taiwanese Student at the piano! Totally amazing! I love the discoveries and changes I made in my voice and in my spirit. I come home to my family a new and improved version of myself. Forever changed for the better. I'm looking forward to seeing the members of the Austrian American Society again and performing the "Danke" concert this Fall. Stay tuned for a slide show of pictures!


Karina said...

What a lucky girl you are!

J and M said...

Excellent. (marni)