Whilst PIG might not be the nicest acronym for a Performance Institute Graduate, it’s better than being a PIS (Sorry, students). I do hope that the previous blogs on The Tools and Tricks to the Trade: What I Wish I’d Had in First Year and Going to a Performance Institution (and how to Survive!) have made this journey as a PIS easier for you…
There are many ways that a person may fall in love with Classical Voice. Maybe you’re an instrumentalist who stumbled upon voice by incident, perhaps one of your teachers suggested you start learning some classical voice, or possibly you might be one of those musical theatre performers who began studying classical voice because you didn’t know what the next step was in musical theatre? Whoever you may be and whatever your story may hold, this blog was designed to hand down some advice for those that may wish to study classical voice or for those who have studied/are studying and might feel a little lost.
- Know what you want to DO in Classical Voice.
There are many roads that may be travelled when someone says the words ‘Classical Voice’. Perhaps you wish to grace the stage as an opera singer? Or become a professional chorister? Do you wish to be a lieder singer? Did you even know that some of these professions existed? Classical Voice degrees are created with the all purpose idea of training you for all the above and to help you gain a basic technique to lead you in the right journey. It helps to know where your passions lie so that you might seek the best training possible for that niche… Prepare to be flexible and study everything else along the way too!
- Don’t know what you want to do? That’s okay too!
What makes studying Classical Voice so funny is that we enter with little understanding of what we’re actually going to do. If you were training in musical theatre, you would know that training would include singing, dancing, acting… However, most classical voice students enter university knowing very little of what will actually be expected of them. We usually enter this Bachelor straight out of high school, with a serious lack of “amateur opera” or “amateur classical voice” under our belt. The first two years of your Bachelor of Classical Voice might just be spent singing Aria Antiche, Lieder and working on vocal technique: and that’s okay! Spend that time listening to recordings of everything from Dietrich Fischer Dieskau singing Schubert to Diana Damrau singing Queen of the Night, Handel’s Coronation Mass, Jonas Kaufmann singing Werther, and Cecelia Bartoli singing Baroque Opera. Discover what YOU love to sing and what you love to listen to and start looking at the options of how to pursue that work professionally and whether your voice is capable of that. Many people will quit their training in the first two years as it’s slow, tedious and not what they expected: your first two years of training is immersing yourself in listening to this music and gaining the best technique you possibly can. All you’ll want to do is sing Puccini, Wagner, Verdi, Rossini, but just be patient young Padawan! Once you’ve discovered what you want to do, you can begin taking the right steps forward with your teacher guiding your way…
- Find the best teacher for YOU!!!
“I want to learn from the Head of Department, as she’s quite obviously the best…” So many times people wanted to learn from someone just because of their status in the department, or the comments from their students… You have to find the right teacher for you! Talk to people in your degree and discuss who they have as a teacher and their personal opinions, have consultation lessons with teachers – do your research! Singing is so personal: You need to have a teacher who you trust is going to do the right thing and knows what they’re doing with your voice. This might not be the teacher that everyone is having lessons with: It might be someone who’s teaching only a few of you! You need to feel comfortable whilst singing, but you need to be encouraged into doing works/music that you might’ve thought impossible before. Remember as well: A good teacher will only work if YOU’RE doing the practice outside of the classroom!
- Don’t know how to read music? Learn!
It’s important whilst doing classical music to have a basic understanding of music theory. Whilst I’m not saying you can’t do Classical Voice if you don’t know how to read music, you’re going to find it very very difficult. Learning how to read and understand music will be something that you’ll never regret. Choral scores and opera scores can be some of the hardest music you will learn and it can be near impossible to learn this music properly without a physical score in front of you to direct you along the way. Without music theory/aural training, you’ll find yourself miles behind some of the students in the course and in this career. Do yourself a favour and go get some music theory lessons – preferably from someone who has studied the course that you’re looking at as they will know exactly what is expected from you.
- Be open to Feedback
The biggest mistake I saw throughout my Bachelor was people receiving their performance marks and then never taking the time to read the feedback given to them on that performance. Either they were so ecstatic over their mark or so miserable about it that they never took the opportunity to read what was actually being said about them. It is so important when doing a performance degree to be constantly open to feedback. Feedback from your teachers, feedback from guest artists and even feedback from your peers: They see you the most and know you the best. Don’t immediately shoot down something because of the person telling you that advice: Think it through and ask yourself if that information has any truth to it. Don’t go through your Bachelor of Voice thinking that you don’t need advice or feedback: Keep your eyes and ears open and don’t be afraid to ask people for feedback on performances and challenges.
- Start Saving Money…. NOW!
If you’re serious about studying classical music – start saving money for this career NOW! Right now before you’ve even begun! You’ll thank yourself once you reach your Post Graduate Level! This career is NOT CHEAP – you have to pay your way through a lot of it and going overseas to do something such as a Masters in Opera or even a Young Artist Program is going to cost you money… Lots of money! Prepare yourself now financially and you’ll thank yourself later – trust me! Save up thousands of dollars… Just keep saving!
- Finally… Just be patient.
I am an incredibly enthusiastic human being and I have always just wanted things NOW. Right now! However, in a career such as opera, lieder or choral music… Time is on your side. You have SO MUCH TIME. I don’t mean to lounge around not doing any work: But you do have time to study, do languages, learn how to sing properly and live your own life outside of this career!!! It is a long and winding road and each person is on his or her own individual path…. Don’t just follow in the path of others: Take the time to figure out exactly what it is you want and then do that incredibly well! Create your realistic 1 year, 5 year, 10 year goals and then begin taking the baby steps towards them, allowing them to be flexible and altering them as your journey changes along the way. Don’t forget as well… To talk to people who have done this journey before you! Learn from listening!
Whilst reading this back, I realise that this blog may come across as terrifyingly daunting! Let’s not forget that every journey is unique and you have to just ride this big performing wave! The journey to Classical Voice is long and you will lose peers along the way as you go. Many will find something they’re more passionate about or just discover that classical voice is not for them… and that’s okay! But if you are one of those people who continue to aspire towards this career, don’t forget to be true to yourself, make good and loyal friends, and never forget why you studied this in the first place: To constantly fall in love and do justice to this incredible music.
Written by Katherine Goyder