Just finished reading “The Inner Voice” by Renee Fleming, the famous opera soprano. By finished, I actually mean I scanned the last 3-4 chapters because she started rambling about things she had already mentioned…and I can’t handle that. However, there were a lot of things that she said that I loved, so I will share!
Given the fact that most classical musicians are not household names or faces recognizable from television, it’s interesting to speculate about why people so often turn to a classically trained musician, and most often a singer, in times of national conflict or grief…I think the answer lies in two places. First, the tradition of music grounds us and connects us to one another through a sort of universal appreciation that transcends taste, particularly in songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless American.” Second, a trained voice has a kind of innate authority that transmits a sense of strength.
I find it so interesting that music is always a part of national events, such as the inauguration, to even times in grief, such as September 11. I guess when emotions are high and words won’t do, music is comforting and speaks for us. I think it’s even more powerful when we are presented with live vocal music, especially when the performer is able to convey and connect to what the audience is feeling.
A young student might come in with only a kernel of sound that’s interesting—maybe an octave or even just a fifth that shows some promise—and it’s the teacher’s job to take that kernel and develop it, to stretch the range into something both wide and deep and then fill it with texture and light…The student has to feel cared for, because singing is such an exercise in vulnerability.
I look back at myself at six, sixteen, and twenty-six, and I reflect on how much of my identity was tied to my relationships with my teachers.
He gave me inspiration, which is what great conductors can offer to singers, and in turn I trusted him.
I really loved hearing her talk about her teachers. Mostly because I know exactly how she feels. I’m still in contact with my high school choir and orchestra teachers, 3 years after graduating, and I still go to them for advice in my *hopeful* music career. Like Fleming said, the student has to feel cared for, and I definitely was during high school, and continue to feel that way now. I truly believe they will be my lifelong friends, after all, I’ll hopefully be working their line of work one day! This past year has also been a demonstration of poor conductors and teachers…and made me realize how much I value a music teacher who promotes honest music, and who believes in challenging an ensemble in hopes to achieve growth. That’s what I want to be…so bad.
One of my favorite things about the work I do is that it presents so many opportunities to grow.
Naturally, this is also one of the reasons why I love being a musician. There is always something to learn, either about your instrument, about the music, about expression, or even if you’re lucky…about life!
We are first and foremost entertainers…We need to spread the passion for music that makes some people such enthusiastic concert- and opera goers…It’s our responsibility to learn how to speak to an audience that is less informed about music, to give it a reason to want to come and see us instead of going to the movies. For me and for the rest of the industry, it’s going to take hard work and a lot of creative thinking. But then, thinking creatively is our business.
This is something I think a lot of ensembles struggle with, mainly choirs. It’s hard to get the entire ensemble on the same emotional page. If the audience wanted to hear good music, then they could have easily bought a cd. The audience comes to listen AND see a performance…so the ensembles should perform as necessary. I’m not saying choirs need to be theatrical…because they definitely do not. The ensemble AND the conductor need to agree on the emotions and message being conveyed and not only deliver it by musicianship, but with performance.
Overall, a good read…but not so life changing or greatly inspiring like everything else I’ve read. Oh well! I’ve got the whole summer ahead of me to find something else to rock my world….and hopefully a job.
Until next time…!