as a lot of you know, last week I flew from Seattle to Chicago to represent GVAI at the Classical Singer Music Convention. I want to thank all of you who came to our booth, invited me to their auditions, and of course, those who came to my class A Singer's Career in Germany and German Diction. I had lots of fun working with you on the challenges in vowels on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and your German already sounded so much better at the end of the class! The quiz about the opera business in Germany was fun, too! Congratulations to Gwen Paker who won the free online German diction voice coaching by having the most correct answers for the quiz questions! How wonderful it was to meet two singers from last year’s GVAI Summer Opera Program and to learn how they are growing their career.
The competition and convention was really worth the trip.
The singers who advanced in the semi-final and final rounds were phenomenal, the others did their best and are improving to advance further next year. The judges were knowledgeable. The exhibits were informative. The classes were inspiring. I went to a class by Jennifer Trost: The German Lied - Text and Technique. Professor Trost is from Penn State University and she sang for many years in Germany. It was wonderful to see her working with young singers on a deeper understanding of the text of the songs and the music suddenly became alive. Singing in German is challenging at the beginning and is often criticized in auditions. It takes a lot of work to really get into the poems and work on the diction to be able to paint with the language. But it is definitely worth it. I never heard “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” sung so well by a very young singer. Aaron Crouch, the winner of the Classical University Intermediate division sang this song like a pro and touched everybody in the audience. He won his prize for a reason!
I could write so much more about my experience at the convention, but the best is to go there yourself and see. Take the chance to choose from over 100 classes, talk with incredible people from all aspects of the opera field and get all your questions answered. It’s truly an atmosphere of music, learning, inspiration, and positivity. For more information on next year’s convention, you can visit: https://www.classicalsinger.com/convention or just follow our blog and we will let you know.
Having praised the convention, I also wanted to share some insights with you that I gained while listening to singers in the auditions and talking with adjudicators. I hope these insights will help you to reach an even higher level at your next concert or audition. Anikka was so kind to summarize them for you.
8 Lessons Learned
1.Choose the right arias for YOU. It is far better to sing something easier that has been ‘worked into your body’ than to sing something new or more difficult. The judges want to hear what you can sing very well, not where your weaknesses are. You need to know the piece so well that you could sing it backwards and forwards in your sleep. Your muscle memory needs to be so good that even if you got off a 10 hour plane trip after getting 2 hours of sleep, your body would still automatically remember how to sing the piece well. Never choose a piece that you are iffy on. If something can go wrong, like memory slips, it will! The judges can tell and they don’t want to feel nervous for you. Also, for the love of all things opera, please choose a piece in your fach. Don’t sing something that is clearly out of your range or voice type. A Papagena should also not be a Brünnhilde.
2. Choose audition songs in different styles. Yeah, yeah, you know the drill. Organizations and companies will usually ask for X number of arias in contrasting styles. Yet, this point is so often overlooked. At conventions and competitions like the CS Competition, it is easy to see why they ask for this! Judges want to see different characters. They want to see your versatility. If they can’t see any differences in the interpretation of your pieces, you haven’t chosen enough range (OR you need acting classes.) Otherwise, you become generic and boring. Of all things anyone can say about you, the last thing you want them to say is that you were boring.
3. If possible, choose short arias. If you choose pieces short enough, judges may ask you for an additional piece. Of course, some competitions have requirements for length and you should of course follow those rules. But, when allowed, you want to sing short to mid-length arias. It would be much better to sing 2 contrasting shorter arias than 1 long piece. This will better show off your abilities technically and artistically.
4. Be an artist. Technique is great. Technique will get you through any performance. However, technique will not get you the role or win you the competition. Those singers who have both technique AND artistry will win the role. Many of the singers in the first and second round of the competition did the “Park and Bark.” They did not act, they weren’t artistic, and so they didn’t move on to the next round. It’s too bad because many of them had lovely voices! Record yourself and watch it. Artists entertain and tell a story that moves the audience. This is what we pay for.
5. Choose your clothes wisely! A lot of singers at the convention were dressed very professional. Only a few ladies wore dresses very skin-tight. Ladies… tight clothes are fashionable and beautiful, but can be hard to sing in. If you are even an iota self-conscious in a tight dress, it can distract you from singing your best. Likewise, if we can see the outline of your belly button in your dress, we are going to be distracted by your belly button, no matter how beautiful your voice is. Also, keep accessories minimal. Unless for religious purposes, hats are extremely distracting! (I mean, let’s face it, if you are going to wear a fancy hat, you WANT it to be amazing and distracting. So, it’s probably not your best audition item.) The same can be said for jewelry.
6. Clean up your resume. Make sure that your resume only has what is necessary. Do not put every single thing you have ever done in your resume and try to fit it on one page in 8 point font! Nobody will read it! For young singers, it is okay to have a shorter resume. Only put what is important and relevant. Don’t worry about it being short and sweet. Your judge doesn’t want to know you were in your local opera company’s children’s chorus in 6th grade. This tells them nothing about you or your abilities. They want to know what you have done most recently.
7. Mind your manners! Be responsive when someone is talking to you. Be engaged and listen to what they say. Be kind. People may not remember anything you said to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. If you leave everyone you talk with feeling positive, this will serve you well in the future. You never know when someone you talked with will contact you in 5 years to sing at their opera company.
8. Have a website. Be find-able. As a singer, you want audience members to be able to look you up so they can support you at your future engagements. Create a simple website. If you don’t want to spend money on a website, create a free Facebook fan page. These are easy fixes so that you ca8. n create an online business presence. Additionally, it would be even better to have a business card or slip of paper with your website or Facebook page address on them. You can hand these out in a pinch without relying on finding a clean napkin to write it on for fans. It is much easier for someone to look you up and follow you! (Not in a stalker-ish way…)
If you have questions about these points, please ask in the comments.
To see photos of GVAI at the convention and learn about the winner of the IPA-Composer- Memory, please visit our Facebook page. If you liked our class and the interaction with us at the booth, please write a short review there to tell other singers what you like about GVAI.
Thank you so much!
Christine and Anikka
Heather draws the winner of our IPA - Composer- Game
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Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....
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