Theatre & Opera Magazine


Posted on the 13 June 2011 by Pinkall @pinkall
I had the great privilege of being the Administrative Director for the 33rd Summer Choral Institute this last week.    I have to say that it is absolutely one of the most incredible weeks of the year. What's even more exciting is how we are so lucky to witness so many young musicians discovering for themselves their true potential.  My responsibilities were to organize everything about the week - so I have been working for hundreds of hours throughout the year.  The counselors were incredible and equally passionate to give the students the time of their life.  Also, Dr. Julie Yu and Dr. Joshua Oppenheim, the conductors, are not only incredible teachers of music but of life as well.  Lastly, but not leastly, we all give our gratitude to The Master Teacher Institute for the Arts and Bob DeBruyn for their passion and donations so we can bring these students to the Institute on full scholarships.
The students this year were phenomenal.  They are all high school sophomores and juniors.  Now, I listen to a lot of music, and I do not say "phenomenal" very often.  But I just want to give you a clip of one of their recordings from this week.  Remember that they are high school students.
I was so impressed by the recording - the maturity of their voices are years ahead of most other kids their age.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy of their concert, please contact [email protected] - they are $10 each.
We had kids apply from many states and had several fly in from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Little Rock, and other locations as well.  Just to let you know a little bit more about it, SCI is primarily a choir camp, but it's main focus is leadership.  Some of the very best singers in this part of the country participate and perform a concert at the end of the week, but they grow as a person tremendously throughout the week.
The students must learn their music proficiently and pass a screening on the first day to attend.  We have had to send home kids the last couple of years because they did not know their music well enough.  During the week, they attend rehearsals, recitals, concerts, masterclasses, seminars on jazz and the Alexander Technique - but that's just the musical side of things.  They also participate in a high ropes course, go to an art museum, swim and surf at a water park, have a talent show, play games and bowl, and do many other things as well.  I think for most, it is the first time that they meet so many people their age that share the same passion as they do.  Everyone lets their guard down and spends their time finding new best friends and dreaming big dreams about the future.
Certainly the best feeling that I have is seeing the confidence of the students at the end of the week, perhaps living the life that they want to live for the first time.  Musicians are criticized all the time for being foolish or wasting their potential, by friends, family, and the world in general.  This can be really depressing and very damaging to someone's self worth.  We all have stories about it.  But I am very confident that after this week, these students won't let anything keep them from their dreams.  It's so exciting to see how excited they are about themselves.
On another note - I hope you listened to the lovely/horrific recording I posted last week.   I got to thinking a little bit and wanted to give a few more examples over the coming weeks on the art of singing.  As you know, operatic singing is the highest art of the solo voice.  Unfortunately many of your favorite pop singers aren't very good, when it comes to singing well.
Now, I don't believe in talent first of all - and neither do scientists - because the truth is that it is all about the time and work that you put into it.  Actually I feel it's kind of derogatory when people tell me I'm talented, because sometimes it comes off as if I didn't have to work at all for it - they are horribly mistaken.  Many pop stars just haven't put a lot of time into their voice, and they don't need to.  If they changed their voice, even for the better, they would probably lose money.  Part of it has to do with your physical make-up, but no one pops out of the womb singing Pagliacci - it takes lots and lots of work.  Believe it or not, many opera singers can virtually imitate any kind of singing you can think of almost perfectly - but good luck finding a country, pop, or rock singer who can sing well in the opera style.  The reason is that opera requires very little tension, and all the pop styles are filled with all kinds of weird tension.  So when an opera singer hears country, they add some tension to their voice and voila, it sounds like Garth Brooks.   The only thing is that we generally don't want to sing that way because it hurts - it's not very healthy - and singing is our profession and not a bar trick.
(climbing off my high horse)
Let's hear some examples of pop singers, even pop-opera singers, singing everyone's favorite aria, Nessun Dorma.  They may all sound pretty to you, and that's a good thing.  It just that the quality of their voices are vastly different, and that is what matters in the art of singing.  We want to hear maturity and depth, no straining, nasality, or breathiness.  To use a food analogy,  many people like McDonald's but it's obviously not as great as Grandma's secret family recipe that has been honed and perfected for years.
Finally, I am so excited to go to the US National Team soccer game tomorrow, here in Kansas City, at the brand spankin' new Livestrong Sporting Park.  I will also be singing the National Anthem there at a Sporting KC game as well as the Canadian National Anthem when they play the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 25th.  Let me know if you want to go, because I may be able to get some tickets....maybe...

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