For many students, summer is a time of relaxation, vacationing, and spending time with friends and family. Yet, young musicians know that in order to build a successful career in music, it is necessary to continue practicing by programming recitals, booking gigs, and participating in festivals and workshops. Music students gather from all parts of the globe to forge personal and professional connections that will take them to the next level of their craft.
This was the case for twelve SFCM students who decided to journey all the way to Europe for their summer experiences. The countries they explored were diverse—Ellie Antici (’19, horn) toured Spain with the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and recent graduate Natasha Czajka (’17, voice) performed in Weimar, Germany as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.
Esther Tonea (’18, voice) studied voice at the three-week-long Operavision Academy in Busseto, Italy. “We trained with daily coachings and master classes given by Aprile Millo, Mary-Lou Vetere, maestro Richard Bonynge, as well as Metropolitan Opera coach Gildo DiNunzio and Teatro alla Scala stage director Marco Gandini,” she says. “We were given the privilege of performing in different cities across northern Italy, having a backstage tour of La Scala, and visiting the homes, museums, and burial sites of Verdi, Puccini, and Tebaldi.” Tonea heaped praise on the program, calling it “truly life-changing!”
Czajka and Tonea were not the only SFCM Opera students to perform abroad this summer; four singers earned roles in Berlin Opera Academy productions such as Ariadne auf Naxos, The Magic Flute, and The Marriage of Figaro. Taylor Haines (’18, voice) sung the role of Countess in Figaro. “It was exactly what I was looking for,” Haines explains. “A role in a fully staged main opera, and Germany was my first choice because I studied there in undergrad and was dying to go back. I learned a ton about preparing a role and the process of developing a character—things you can only learn onstage.”
Five additional students received specialized training in German Language and Lieder at the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) summer program in Graz, Austria. Rachel Spund, a graduate of the class of 2017, attended AIMS in order to study music while improving her German language skills. She also wanted an introduction to the European agent and Fach system, a method of classifying opera singers according to the range, weight, and color of their voices. Spund says the program “included biweekly voice lessons and coachings, weekly studio classes, acting classes, poetry classes, German language classes, stage presence classes, and a multitude of concerts, some that I performed in and many that I attended.”
The AIMS Graz program also included SFCM opera faculty pianist Darryl Cooper, as well as master classes by voice faculty Deborah Voigt and Patricia Craig. Rachel Spund was more than satisfied with the education she received: “I went into AIMS with absolutely no expectations and had the best summer of my life. I would highly recommend the program to any of my colleagues and can't say enough good things about it!”