In being invited to do a Master Class, whether it is here in the USA or Europe, I am almost always surprised by how unprepared the singer/performer can be. What is the purpose of a Master Class? It’s an opportunity to let the Master Teacher see, hear and feel, where you are right this minute vocally, interpretively, artistically, language wise, and dramatically. It’s putting what you do and how you do it on the line right now with focus and purpose. Anyone giving a Master Class knows our job is to help the performer better understand all the components of presenting oneself in a supportive and caring way. We want you to succeed and be able to take away perhaps some new techniques, ideas and thoughts to then make your own as you put them into what you do and how you do it. It’s not about “trying” to impress the Master, because that is impossible. You impress them by being present, prepared, focused, and willing to fall on your face, fail, and make mistakes as you work through what is being suggested by the Master teacher.
If you have questions along the way, ask them. Get it clear in your own mind what the Master teacher wants from you. Get involved right away. Don’t care what others think because that just doesn’t matters. You will always find those that just don’t like you or agree with you, so stay true to the learning process and use the opportunity to get better and more refined at what you do, rather than worrying about what others are thinking about you.
Let me share some food for thought on how to better prepare yourself for this kind of opportunity. First I want to say, I teach all of my own students to not only task themselves with having a specific agenda when they practice and go to their lessons and coachings, but also when they perform. That is the only way to truly get better at all aspects of what is required as a performer. I didn’t say it was easy, but it does help build confidence because you are able to focus and be present.
Here’s what I suggest.
- Be as vocally prepared as possible. Be honest with yourself in evaluating where you were, were you are now and where you want to eventually be. And be happy with that. Having the skills and tools to become a consummate performer is a life long journey because you are always learning as you grow and change.
- Double check that you are singing the exact notation the composer wrote. It’s easy to get a bit sloppy and singing what is on the page is half of the artistic battle.
- Know exactly what each word means. That means boring time spent with the appropriate language dictionaries. Write them in just above the staff so your eye can see the translation as you sing the foreign language.
- Find a piece of music you know well enough vocally, musically, artistically to present. This will allow you to be more present to absorb and carry out what the Master teacher is suggesting. Sure you might fail at first but the more you take it on without the fear of failure, the quicker you are able to experience the change and decide if it is something you want to incorporate as part of your piece.
- Do the background check, the research work on the composer, librettist, and time line for when the piece was written, and when it actually took place. Fill out a character chart for the individual you will be portraying. If an aria, how does it fit into the opera; what happened before and after you are done singing the aria. If an art song, is it from a cycle and how does your character take that journey through the whole thing. Or perhaps it is a stand – alone piece with a beginning, middle and end. There is still a character to figure out.
- Sing through your piece as often as you can with an accompanist, until you would feel comfortable being awakened at 2am and asked to stand and sing through your piece and could do it with all the bells and whistles you had worked on by yourself. This always builds confidence.
Know that everyone is a bit inhibited in the beginning of the performance process. But it’s your job to feel the fear and do it anyway. And don’t allow yourself not to be really prepared. No one can make you do it, but if you want to perform with confidence and panache it’s just one step, one mistake, one failure at a time that propels you forward if you take the time to learn the lesson that’s included in there.
Avanti! Now you know what I think. Let me hear your thoughts on this subject.
Ciao until next time. Carol