A (hectic) Monday In the life of an Aussie in NYC:

I’m back in Starbucks continuing my ongoing experiment. So far my findings are that 1) bad coffee does not help you make words good, 2) most people are just here for the free Wifi, and 3) it takes 20 minutes to heat a pastry for some strange reason…I suspect that this may be my last visit.

Starbucks isn’t my typical daily coffee joint, I’m much more of a Darling Coffee or Joe kind of guy (make sure you look both of them up if you’re in NYC!). But to be honest, there’s nothing really typical about any of my days. New York isn’t exactly your ‘typical’ place. Still, I’ll do my best to give you a picture of what a Monday in the life of a Mannes Masters candidate looks like. Buckle up.

 7:00 – Wake up

 I find it’s usually the safest way to start the day. I like to leave myself time to potter around in my dressing gown, scroll up and down my twitter feed, and stare pensively out of my ground floor window. But trust me, I know plenty of people who wake up 30 minutes before their first class at 10am, although I don’t know how they survive their day without the pottering…

 9:00 – Subway

I’m lucky, I can pretty much fall out of our front door into the subway stop at 175th St. My commute is about 30 minutes on an express train, from 175th to West 4th. The Subway is an…interesting…place. If you’re lucky you’ll have a seat, and maybe you see a cute dog in a purse. If you’re unlucky you’ll have to stand up, squashed against someone’s sweaty armpit, and see someone holding a python. I could tell you a million subway stories, but instead let me give you a couple of tips:

  • If a subway car is empty, it’s usually empty for a reason…
  • If you see a mariachi band get in your subway car, pray that you have noise cancelling headphones.
  • No matter how dire the situation is, NEVER use the public restrooms in subway stations.
  • If a hobo fight breaks out in front of you, just continue playing candy crush and pretend nothing is happening. It’ll feel odd, but just go with it.

9:30 – Coffee

As you can tell, I like coffee. Luckily for me, so does pretty much everyone in NYC. This means there are always at least 10 places to get coffee between your subway stop and your destination. I love getting a large coffee from Joe and parking myself on a chair outside, and watching the city go about beginning its day.




One of the more weird and wonderful sights while sitting outside with my Joe coffee!




9:50 – Warm up

At Mannes I have to sing in the majority of my classes – French / German / Italian Diction, Song Repertoire, Aural etc. I usually spend 10 minutes before my day begins gently warming up so that I don’t wreck my voice, which I’m told is generally bad for singing. See, come study a masters in NYC and you learn all sorts of fun facts!

 10:00 – Classes

I remember sitting in Music in high school and thinking how amazing it would be if all I had to do was take music classes. At 10am on a Monday I don’t have that same adolescent excitement. But yes, all of the classes I’ve taken at Mannes have been incredible and inspiring (save for maybe Introduction to Graduate Studies…bibliography writing for dummies). There are so many different classes offered to masters candidates, in every subject you can conceive of (within the realm of music and opera). It’s awesome. Classes occur anywhere between 9am and 8pm, but today I’m in at 10am learning about 5th species counterpoint.

 13:00 – Practice

 You can book rooms at Mannes for an hour at a time, and I usually find that does the trick for me for the day. In my first semester I was so overwhelmed by the standard of singing here that I think I practiced for 3 hrs a day…needless to say I was exhausted. I wouldn’t recommend it.

 14:00 – My date with Nico Castel

Between repertoire classes, diction classes, opera class, and my own arias there is ALWAYS something that needs translating. So, I have a standing date with our mate, the Nico Castel books, most days. And if I have nothing to translate you can bet that I have something to photocopy, which will then need translating. It’s a vicious cycle.

 15:00 – Coaching

Coachings work similarly to voice lessons – they happen once a week, with the aim of getting you to sing well! Coaches and teachers both want the same thing, but they approach the singing from two different directions and meet in the middle. Teachers put you together technically, and coaches, well, coach you on the music and language. And, like the vocal faulty, there are numerous coaches that you can have the choice of working with. If you are in the Young Artist Program you often have an extra coaching a week with your class coach to work on opera scenes repertoire.


16:00 – Young Artist Opera Class

The Young Artist Program meets for 2 hrs a week on

Mondays. You are given large chunks of operas to prepare, and then present in class, which culminates in a concert at the end of the year. For example, this semester I worked on a trio from Entführung aus den serail, the L’Aumônier scene from Carmelites, some Monteverdi L’Orfeo, Act 1 of Rossini’s Elisabetta (rare, but awesome!), and La Rondine.

(Picture: As Romeo in Gounud’s Romeo et Juliette in our 2015 Opera Scenes Concert)


As Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi

18:30 – Opera rehearsals

The operas are cast from the Young Artists, and if you are cast then rehearsals are Monday and Wednesday evenings, and Saturday during the day. In my first semester I was involved in Gianni Schicchi, and this coming semester Little Women. But more on that later this Vocal Voyages series…



21:30 – Finally, home time!

…and maybe I swing past Benny’s Burritos for a ‘Bulldog’ depending on how the day went!


Bulldog: half margarita, half beer, all delicious.


Richard x


Written by Richard Symons