After many tough moments, Susan has hit a turning point! She’s survived rejection and is thriving with inspiration from coachings. A special coach, Kaito, has reminded her of some very important music study techniques and now Susan is truly feeling powerful! Not to mention, Susan gets to visit her dream city of Munich in this week’s audition tour blog.
“I took the bus to Munich. It turned out to be a lot cheaper than taking the train (something like 150 euros vs. 40 euros), and it was going to take seven hours either way. So, the bus it was. Seven hours is a long time to be on public transit, but they did have a limited amount of free wifi which was nice. I also got to see some of the German countryside, parts of which were covered in snow already, so that was exciting for me!
There’s a vocal coach who I met on the West Coast when she was there briefly; she works in Munich most of the time. I’ve only worked with her once before, so I didn’t know her very well. I told her then about my plans to come to Germany. She told me to call her when I got here, which I forgot about until I was actually going to be in Munich where she’s based.
She’s a bit of an eccentric in that she does not own a computer, so if I wanted to get a hold of her, I had to call her. I called her up on my little German burner phone and we arranged to have a coaching the day I arrived in Munich. I know that sounds like a recipe for disaster after seven hours on a bus, but I was planning to be in town really briefly. I arrived Sunday afternoon, had an agency audition on Monday, and then scheduled to get back on the bus on Tuesday at 1:00 pm. In other words, it was kind of Sunday night or nothing, and we planned on that. Let’s call her Kaito (not her real name).
She came and picked me up at my hotel so I wouldn’t get lost on my way to the rehearsal space. We proceeded to have maybe the greatest coaching I’ve ever had in my life. I learned so much and I felt so empowered by her.
We worked on the Queen of the Night’s first aria. I’ve noticed that the people I work with the most successfully have this ability to slow me down a little bit. She has that in spades. Kaito is a great believer in what is on the page. If a rest is a 16th note, she does not want to hear it as an 8th note. We do not start this piece at mezzo forte because powerful people do not need to yell – ever. Even after this fanfare in the orchestra to announce your arrival, you wouldn’t yell, so don’t get sucked into their energy. We did a lot of analysis. This Eb is not the same as the Eb that comes right after it, because the harmony changes. With a harmony change, comes a color change, so you have to change your voice’s color as well.
‘When you come in after this fermata rest, I do not want to know when you’re going to start singing – do not broadcast what you’re about to do. This character is dangerous, part of what makes her scary is that we’re not sure what she might do. Why does this first Ab sound so dark and the Ab right after it sound so sad? Is it because the first phrase is about your daughter’s fear and the second one is about your helplessness? Make sure the color of your Abs both match the harmony beneath them.’ We mapped out all of the suspensions in this entire piece. We talked about phrasing and style – for example, when you have a few grace notes in a row, you emphasis the first one. That’s such a tiny thing, but it made a gigantic difference in how that phrase sounded.
The thing that is so special about Mozart is that it’s incredibly dense. There’s so much meaning on the page. His dramaturgy cannot be beat. That rest is a 16th and not an 8th note for a reason. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or come up with your own brilliant ideas. This music is a map and that map will take you to a truthful depiction of a powerful, dangerous woman. Why would anyone study anything else?
After about an hour, we weren’t nearly finished, so she asked if I wanted to keep going. I absolutely did. I went and asked the guy in the office if we could have some more time. We worked for two hours that night on just that one aria. After that, I was pretty much out of juice, vocally, but feeling so inspired. She made me feel like my insights were really smart and thoughtful and important. She said she heard so much potential in my voice and complimented me on how far I’d come in just this one session. She said she loved working with me.
As those of you who have been reading along here know, this has been a little bit of a discouraging time for me. There has been a lot of rejection and a lot of false starts. Sometimes, all you really need is someone to see the best in you. It can make all the difference in the world. She walked me back to my hotel, we made plans to get coffee the next afternoon after my audition, I went inside, and slept like the dead.
The next day, I got to the agency audition at noon as instructed. As you guys may or may not recall, this was one of the auditions that I went back and forth about taking, because the fee for the space/pianist was 80 euros, which seemed like a lot. In the end, I decided to take it because I’ve wanted to go to Munich since I was a little kid and this was an excuse to get there. Anyway, I checked in with the proctor at the door and he told me that they’d never heard from me whether I wanted to be in group one or group two, so I was on this third list of people they were just going to squeeze in wherever they could. Could I come back at like, 2:30 pm? Sure. This was kind of my fault, so sure, no problem. I guess coffee with Kaito isn’t happening, but that can be rescheduled.
I took a very long walk around Munich with myself, and wandered back in around 2:00 pm. I ran into a girl I’d gone to graduate school with, so that was fun. Nice to have somebody you know to wait around with. Guess what time I finally sang for these people? 5:30 pm. I was the last person of the day to get to sing. In a way, it was nice because I had a lot of time to sit and study the notes I’d taken in my coaching the day before, but I definitely came very close to just walking out of there with my 80 euros. At one point, I walked out of the building to go buy a water or something and when I came back the door to the hall was locked. I sat on the stairs and thought, “God, I need you to send me a sign. If I’m supposed to stay here or walk out of here, send me a sign.” At that moment, somebody opened the door. Ask and ye shall receive. I went back inside to wait some more.
When I finally got in there, I started with the Queen’s first aria and was able to execute maybe 85% of what Kaito and I had talked about the day before, which made me very proud. Full disclosure, I’ve done this role before, a couple of times, but in this audition was the first time I’ve ever felt powerful and dangerous while singing it – not for pretend, for real. Follow the map, ya know? It will take you where you’re trying to go.
They chatted with me about what I’m looking for, and other things I’ve performed, asked if they could hear Glitter and Be Gay from Candide by Leonard Bernstein (because I’ve portrayed Cunegonde before), but after hearing approximately 1000 times that nobody would be asking for anything in English, I didn’t have it in my binder. So – lesson learned. You never really know what they’ll want. I wound up singing Oscar for them instead. They were really nice and chatty and they said they’d be in touch.
The next day, I did some more wandering around Munich. Munich is super gorgeous, by the way. I found a shop full of beer steins and Cuckoo clocks. I saw the beginnings of what is sure to be a great Christkindel Markt. There is no Thanksgiving here, so Christmas stuff starts going up a few weeks after Halloween.
I wandered over to the Frauenkirche, which I have wanted to see since I learned about it in school as a kid. Construction of this church began in 1468, it was consecrated in 1494. It’s gothic and huge – capacity is 20,000 standing people. It suffered severe damage during WWII due to aerial raids by the Allied forces. The roof collapsed, one of the towers came down, much of the interior was destroyed. Practically not one stone left on top of another, was how my German teacher described it. After all of that damage – they rebuilt it! Starting after the war, and finally finishing in 1994, they rebuilt the Frauenkirche just as it had been. I didn’t get to attend mass or anything, since I just rolled up at like 10:00 am on a Tuesday, but I am Catholic, so seeing all the art and, “Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben,” on the wall was very meaningful to me. I paid $0.50 and lit a candle for all of my ladies.”
It’s such a simple concept, and yet it is so easy to forget. Sometimes, all we need to do is look at the music. REALLY study it, not just learn it and memorize it quickly. Composers like Mozart really did include everything you need to know. Even the silences have profound meaning. What a good reminder for all of us! Happy studying! If you have suggestions for auditions and tourist attractions for Susan, please comment! Also, share with your friends in need of a little inspiration.
Some words from Christine:
I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and I would like to express my deepest gratitude for ...well for what? There are so many things I could name: That you are doing music helping the world to become a better place by making people dreaming, laughing, relaxing and focusing on the good side of life when you sing. Grateful for your work on your personal growth that makes you a more satisfied person that can inspire the people around you.
Thank you for reading this blog, for coaching with us and for your help to grow GVAI that we can serve young singers on their journey to become a great artist and person.
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Most blog posts from June 2017 - June 2018 were written by GVAI's blogger Anikka Abbott who has just started her journalism studies. We already miss her. Learn more about her here or connect with her on Facebook.
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....