If you are a young professional singer, you may be headed off to a summer program or two to learn more about singing. OR you might be taking the summer off and planning to apply next year. Either way, it pays to do your research on summer programs before you pick the right one. If you are wanting to attend a summer opera program that has a focus in a specific language, you especially want to make sure it’s a good fit for your needs. For our purposes, we are going to consider German summer programs.
Diction, diction, diction! As a singer, this is probably the main reason you want to attend a German summer program - to get better at your German diction. Especially if you haven’t taken German as a language, touching up on your diction is always a good idea. The goal as a singer is to sound to audiences like you are a native speaker. You don’t want to sound like you are singing with an accent. That’s awkward. If you are singing German in Germany, you want the audience to think that you are a local. Therefore, check to see that your summer program offers diction coachings or diction classes. If the instructor is from a German-speaking country, that’s even better. A German instructor will be able to catch all of the tiny nuances in your diction.
German language. Perhaps you want more than diction. Perhaps you actually want to speak German. You may want this for a number of reasons - you may want to actually go live or sing in Germany in the future. Chances are that fewer summer opera programs have a full-scale language learning class. They may have a class for learning essential German phrases, especially phrases that pertain to singing. You may want to actually look into an accelerated summer language program instead of a summer opera program to fulfill this need.
German culture. Maybe you are looking at singing in Germany and want to attend a summer program that will provide you with information, not just singing experience. Check to see what programs have educational classes in place about German customs. Through courses like this, you can learn a little about German history, German art, German music, and everyday life in Germany. These types of classes will help you in feeling comfortable with a decision to go live abroad in Germany.
German professional connections. Also, if you are planning on going into the music business in Germany, it helps to learn from professionals actually working there. Does the summer program have a visiting German professional as a clinician? Have they arranged an interview with someone currently working over there? Does one of the course instructors have German ties and can guide you towards professionals in Germany to ask your questions? This can be a very important thing to consider depending on the direction you want to go with your schooling or career.
German Music. This is probably the most important consideration. Does the summer program have a focus in German art song, German opera, or both? Will you be performing an opera or in a recital setting? Will you have time to work on your diction of the opera or your performance pieces? Do the instructors help you with understanding your word-for-word translation of your music? How will this program help you in your actual performance of German repertoire?
Location. Do you want to learn about singing in Germany while you are closer to home or do you want to dive right in and do a program in Germany itself? Closer to home, you’ll be speaking your native language and won’t have as many things to consider such as passports, visas, understanding day-to-day things, and expensive flights. However, in Germany, you would be totally immersed in the culture and language. That’s a super quick way to learn! Determine what you are comfortable with before you apply.
A couple years back, I was thinking about the possibility of going to sing in Germany - either for graduate school or for a fest contract. Hence, I was searching for a German summer program with the main goals of improving my diction, learning about singing in Germany, and putting another opera role on my resume. My voice teacher and I stumbled upon one in our very own backyard of Seattle - the GVAI program! The GVAI program would fulfill all of these goals. I applied and was accepted!
For me, I found the most valuable part of the program to be the information I received about singing or working professionally in Germany. Christine had set up four interviews with German professionals. We spoke with everyone ranging from professional singers to opera agents in Germany. After each person spoke about their profession in Germany, we as a group were able to ask our questions related to their field. I really don’t think there is any better way to learn about working abroad than hearing it straight from the people who are currently doing it.
Christine, as a native German speaker/singer, was also an excellent source for improving my (at the time, poor) German diction. Leaving the program, I felt much stronger singing and interpreting my German repertoire. I was ready to take on the world! Or rather, I was ready to hop on a plane for Germany… if you are interested in the summer program, you may want to attend one of our performances in August!
And lastly, we have come to the place where I have to tell you that this is my second to last GVAI blog. I’m headed back to school next year! No, I’m not headed back for opera, though that is the question people ask me most often. I’m also not headed to Germany after all. I’ll be going to grad school for Broadcast Journalism. (What? That’s a twist!) I know, I know. I have decided to pursue broadcasting for a variety of reasons, including financial and career reasons, but that doesn’t diminish my love for opera and music. I still plan to keep singing, just maybe not relying on it for income!
If you want more info on that, or want to keep up with me while I’m in school and beyond, check out my blogs posts How a singer turned into a speaker and A new direction. Yes, I have a blog of my own! (Once the blogger bug bites you, there’s no going back…)
Okay, enough shameless self-promotion. Music is and always will be important to me. As singers, we all recognize that this is a tough business. Bless anyone who tries to become a professional singer. This is a hard road and I certainly will never judge anyone for either trying to become a professional singer or conversely for leaving the music business. Life is too hard and too short to judge each other’s career choices!
If you are reading this blog, give us a shoutout in the comments with your music website or blog so we can check it out. Tell us about any summer programs you participated in and why you loved them. We at GVAI would love to hear from you.
Postscript: Farewell to Anikka
Anikka is leaving the GVAI blog to start another exciting phase of her life! We are very happy for her and we are looking forward to hear and read more from her while she is studying to become a broadcast journalist!
Yes, we are sad that she will not write for us anymore. We will miss her very informative, funny, witty, and engaging blog posts. Thank you so much, Anikka, for having been part of GVAI and for helping young singers to find their way towards their dream of becoming a professional opera singer. And now we wish you all the best and good luck to get closer to your dream of becoming a professional journalist!
With deep gratitude,
It's all about great singing!
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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....