Studying Voice Abroad: Summer Programs in Europe

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Photo by Dale Morehouse via singeronthehoof.blogspot.com

Dale Morehouse of UMKC, my dear mentor and friend, has a witty and informative blog of his own, singeronthehoof.blogspot.com. When he posted about options for summer programs in Europe, I knew I had to share them here.

I believe that even in today’s global village, there is an irreplaceable value in going to the places where the greatest of western music was conceived and in absorbing all we can once we’re there. Language, architecture, cuisine, ethos, and lifestyle reveal music along with score study. Experiencing music’s masterpieces where they were created unstops our inexperienced ears.

And so, from our home in America – the land of air conditioning, ice cubes, free drink refills, and screens on our windows, I rise in praise of European study for today’s young classical musician. English-language programs flourish all over the continent now, each offering its own opportunities. Take care to find a program that matches your level of ability and interest, and you will grow beyond your imagination.

He has overviews of four great programs and who they work best for. Opera Viva in Verona, Italy; Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria; Orvieto Musica Chamber Music Festival in Orvieto, Italy; and American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria. Dale has taught and/or sung at all of them, so he has great insight into their workings. If you’re interested in options for summer study abroad, check them out.

“How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm?” – A Paean in Praise of European Study

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Using Music to Close the Academic Gap

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Stretto Youth Orchestra

There was an article in the Atlantic this week about several long-term studies on how music can impact academics for students in low income schools. While there have been many studies released recently on how music may impact the brain, most of these seem to be short-term studies of small groups in which the authors infer that music is making a difference in brain function based mostly on correlation. These newer studies are long term and the groups in the studies seem well balanced. The schools participating in the studies are seeing very good early results.

Though these studies are far from over, researchers, as well as the parents and teachers of the study subjects, are already noticing a change in the kids who are studying music. Preliminary results suggest that not only does school and community-based music instruction indeed have an impact on brain functioning, but that it could possibly make a significant difference in the academic trajectory of lower-income kids.

This is great news for those kids, and it’s also great news for music. These studies are showing scientifically that music is important for a well rounded education. I believe that music is important for cultural reasons — beyond helping students master other subjects, music is important in its own right. However, any study that reinforces the role of music in education is an excellent tool to help get funding and community support for maintaining excellent music programs in our schools.

You can read the article at the Atlantic.

How to Be Creative

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Off Book is a bi-weekly video series by PBS Digital Studios. Subjects range from technology to art to pop culture. While it isn’t specifically about music, this video, “How to Be Creative,” has some great insights to the creative process.

Creativity has always been essential for our cultural growth, but there are still many misconceptions about this elusive process. Not the left-brain/right-brain binary that we’ve come to believe, being creative is considerably more complex, and requires a nuanced understanding of ourself and others. Being a powerful creative person involves letting go of preconceived notions of what an artist is, and discovering and inventing new processes that yield great ideas. Most importantly, creators must push forward, whether the light bulb illuminates or not.

via PBS Arts

Shine on Harvest Moon

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“Shine on Harvest Moon” was first published in 1908 by performers Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth; although, apparently there is some controversy as to the actual composers. This song is one of many moon-themed songs of the era.

The song has enjoyed long-term popularity. In addition to being featured in many films, there are at least two movies with the same title as the song; a 1938 western starring Roy Rogers, and a 1944 bio pic about Bayes and Norworth. It has been recorded by many performers throughout the 20th century and continues to be a popular choice more than a century later.

I’m using sheet music from 1918 that includes chords for uke in D. Since I’m playing a soprano ukulele tuned in C and singing it in the original key, I’m ignoring the chord shapes and just reading the chord names. As with many songs of the tin-pan-alley era, the chorus is more well known than the verses, but I’ve decided to sing the first verse as well.

Here it is in honor of this week’s harvest moon, and the autumnal equinox. Enjoy!

More Advice on Practicing

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She plays

“Igraet / (She) plays” (1914) by Sergei Vinogradov. from Wikimedia Commons.

It’s the start of another school year and a good time to re-think practice routines. I’ve posted about practicing in the past, but I’m always on the lookout for more practicing strategies.

Deceptive Cadence (NPR’s classical music blog) has posted an article called 10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Music Practice. There are some great ideas for developing musicians, including:

Begin with the end in mind: have a goal for each practice session before you start playing. Just playing through your music isn’t the same thing as practicing. Before you start, think: What do I want to accomplish today?

Last year, they posted a series of articles called The Young Person’s Guide to Making Music, geared towards parents and students just starting out in music. The article that stands out among these is Getting Kids to Practice Music – Without Tears or Tantrums.

Regular practicing is a path towards self-discipline that goes way beyond music – it’s a skill that has hugely positive ramifications for personal fulfillment and lifetime success…. But the trick is that self-motivated discipline isn’t exactly first nature for most kids, so it’s up to families to help create positive, engaging and fun ways to practice as a path towards self-motivation.

The articles are full of great advice, so take a few minutes to go read them!

The Making of a Steinway

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This video is a fascinating look at the way a piano is built.

via The Presurfer

What Does an Opera Career Look Like?

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The College Audition Blog has a great article on how an operatic career gets going. There is a heavy emphasis on college degrees, although, I think some singers can opt out of these if they put together a comprehensive plan for themselves that includes studying with an excellent teacher, working with a great coach, studying foreign languages, and performing in community opera as a first step.

…so here is the cold, hard, dirty truth about the climb to the top.

Link

 

Sunset Piano Opus 2

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I stumbled upon a neat art installation/performance project this morning called “Sunset Piano Opus 2.” Mauro Ffortissimo is the artist behind the project to place twelve pianos along the San Mateo coast in Northern California for public performing. Dean Mermell is filming a documentary about the event that should be finished by December 2013.

From their Kickstarter page:

In early July, Mauro is planning to deploy twelve pianos at select locations along the beautiful San Mateo coastline. Anyone can come and play a piano by the sea, anytime. He’s inviting some incredible bay area musicians to join him in bringing attention to the fragile state of the world’s oceans, as well as the near extinction of the “personal” piano. Piano manufacturing has dwindled, and the neglect of acoustic pianos has caused thousands of them to end up in landfills. The “Twelve Pianos” project will focus the spotlight on two species with uncertain futures.

It occurred to me that Ffortissimo and Mermell do not directly address the environmental impact that this project may have on the coastline. However, the chosen spots seem to be in places where the public is already welcome and they profess that they are, “committed to doing everything in a totally environmentally responsible manner and to leave no trace.” It looks like a neat project – I wish I lived closer so that I could participate.

-via Laughing Squid

What Makes a Great Tenor

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This is a great documentary on tenors from the BBC. Roland Villazon is simultaneously charming and insightful. It’s interesting for those in the know and informative for those who aren’t. If you have 60 minutes to spare, you should watch it. Thanks to my former teacher Dale Morehouse for pointing the way.

The Evolution of the Treble Clef

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treble clef

Treble Clef via Wikimedia Commons

The Smithsonian has a nice article with an overview of the treble clef and how the symbol we know so well came to be.

…So, with apologies to the more musically inclined reader, I looked into the origin of the treble clef and the answer was quite simple. The treble clef, the top symbol you see in the photo above, is also known as the G-clef, which gives you the first clue to its origin.

For more, visit Smithsonian.com. Via a Facebook post by Lauri’s List