Follow a GVAI alumna on her way to sing for theaters and agents in Germany.
Well folks, we have an extremely exciting new voice to add to our GVAI blog! We have a former GVAI singer who is going on her first audition tour to Germany. To give completely honest and thorough feedback, she has decided to remain anonymous. So, let’s call her Susan! Susan is a post-grad singer with aspirations of becoming an international opera star. Thus, Susan is embarking on a 12 week trip to Germany where she will be auditioning for opera companies and agents. If time permits, Susan may be able to send weekly updates to our GVAI blog! If you are interested in flying to Germany for auditions, you’ll definitely want to keep checking in to read up on her adventure and get the raw details - good and bad. Without further ado, I present to you Susan as she prepares for her trip.
"I’m going to Germany. In about four days, I am going to Germany. Next Sunday, I am getting on a plane which will take me to Berlin, where I will stay for nearly three months. I'll be blogging about it anonymously on the GVAI website. It is my goal to be really honest about my experience; anonymity will help with that, I think. I have a Masters Degree, I live in the US, and I am a soprano. Those are all the identifying details you get! So, let's talk about preparation.
My voice teacher has been my cheerleader and my brother-in-arms and my best friend. I go to her house on Wednesdays for my lesson. I’ve done that since I graduated. At some point, she started cooking dinner for me beforehand, and we’ve done that for years now – just me, my teacher, and her husband. I live several hours away from my family. Over time, my teacher and her husband became part of my chosen family. When I told her my plans, she started texting me in German. She gifted me a gorgeous audition dress. We picked out rep and started an operetta piece (“Germans love operetta!” she says). The first agent I reached out to was her old agent in Austria (he is dead now, but his agency lives on and it seemed lucky). I’m nervous to go, but I’m sure I would be much more nervous if she hadn’t looked at me in a lesson recently and said, “You’re ready.”
I stumbled across the German Vocal Arts Institute Summer Opera Program in Seattle and it looked perfect. I studied the German language in school from age 11 until age 17 and then again for another year in Graduate School, but I was nervous about being surrounded by native speakers and sounding obviously American. I learned so much in such a short amount of time in Seattle – there really is no substitute for working with native speakers. We talked with agents and singers and coaches who are working in Germany now and it was invaluable to be able to gather all of that information for myself. On the last day of the program, Christine, the founder and director of the program who is a native German said, “Let me know if you need anything.” I thought she was just saying that to be nice. Since then, she’s helped me put together my German resumé, my German bio, and my German rep list. She’s gone above and beyond to help me to not look like an idiot and I really appreciate it. It was so serendipitous to do this program this summer and to meet her.
The first logistical thing I did was book my flight. I knew that booking my flight would make this all feel more real to me, so I started there. October 1st until December 22nd, then home to my parents’ house for a week for Christmas, then back to where I live. Next, I needed a place to stay. I know some people who are singing and working in Germany, but none who I know so well that I could sleep on their couch for nearly three months. A friend of mine told me about this website, HomeAway, which is kind of like Air BnB but for more long term arrangements. I found a tiny studio in an outskirt of Berlin for $30/night and booked it. Where I live, $1080 per month is what passes as a normal amount of rent to pay so I felt good about this price point. Next, I bought a winter coat. Germany gets cold, particularly during the months when I will be there. I went on the Lands End website and bought the longest, heaviest looking thing I could find. This coat is like walking around wearing a sleeping bag; I love it. Next, I quit my jobs (mostly). I’ve had the same day job and church job for years. I’m a receptionist in an office and I cantor at a Church on the weekends. At my office job, I make slightly more than minimum wage and I get three weeks of paid vacation a year, which I use for auditions and Christmas. I have never loved this job, but it has kept me fed and safe. So it was with some trepidation that I quit. My very sweet and generous bosses offered to keep me on the health insurance until I’m back stateside. They’re going to try and hire me back in January when I'm back in the states, though of course they can’t promise me that. Am I nervous about three months with no income? Yes. I’ve got about $3000 saved and I have a credit card in case of emergencies. I’m still nervous. I arranged a sub for my church gig so I’ll definitely still have that job when I get back here in January. I’m trying to plan for the best but prepare for the worst.
I am the Queen of Duolingo. I Duolingo on the train. I Duolingo on my lunch hour. Sometimes I Duolingo in the bathroom. Duolingo says I am 28% fluent in German. I took the test on the website for the Goethe Institute – they say I’m a level B1 or 2 (near as I can tell, A is a beginner, C is fluent, B is conversational). Will that be enough? I won’t really know until I get there. I’m not anxious about ordering coffee or asking where the bathroom is, but I am anxious about being given a directive in a professional setting and not understanding it. The first audition I have set up is the NYIOPs, with ten agents in the room to watch my audition just a few days after I get there. I am having a lot of anxiety dreams lately, but no matter what, being there will help me improve my German. They do say immersion is the fastest way to learn.
I’m going to Germany. In about four days, I am going to Germany. Next Sunday, I am getting on a plane to Berlin, where I will stay for nearly three months. Here goes nothing.
Are you curious, how Susan's story will go on? Make sure to check back here next week and share this blog with your singer friend's and teachers.
And the winner is...
A few weeks ago we asked you what opera you would like to study in our summer opera program. Thank you all for submitting your wishes. The winner of a free 60 minutes online German diction voice coaching that we draw from all the responses is Karolina Kierlanczyk. Congratulations!
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