The Con-squared experience Oberlin in Italy was exactly what I needed. I got more intensive study on the art form I want to pursue as a career, I learned a good deal of Italian, I made some faculty and artist connections, and I had a very good look at graduate school. One of the greatest lectures I attended was on graduate school. They gave some wonderful tips on how to get into great voice graduate programs and I’ve already started using them for furthering my studies. They also influenced my life in another way altogether. After witnessing so many graduate students at Oberlin in Italy looking so healthy – I’ve changed the treatment of my body for the better. Since the program ended I started a new diet and exercise plan and I have lost over twenty pounds. It changed my life. It also changed what I want to listen to as well. I’ve always had a good deal of opera and classical singing on my ipod, but would prefer to listen to other genres more. The gradual change of listening to more opera/classical singing started happening during my junior year, but it was accelerated so much more from Oberlin in Italy. After the program ended, I went to three operas in England and have watched countless more on the Internet. I’ve caught the opera bug and I will never let it go. The entire program was a wonderful leap forward for my career.
One of the craziest experiences I faced was being stranded in an Italian city for a night! I went with five of my friends to Cinque Terre, meaning 5 lands, a wonderful set of costal towns on the west coast of northern Italy. We woke up at 5:30 in the morning and took an early train ride. Once we arrived, we hiked from one of the towns to the other through a series of steep hills in a nationally protected forest filled with springs beautiful vegetation, springs, waterfalls, followed by a vineyard. When we arrived at the other town, we swam in the Mediterranean sea for a few hours, ate an incredible meal at a restaurant right on the water, then had some gelato before heading back. Needless to say, we were all incredibly tired by the end of the day when we needed to head back.
When we arrived at a train to take us back to Arezzo, we heard some sort of announcement in Italian; unfortunately everyone was so tired that we didn’t pick up on the change of plans for the train to head north into France instead of South. By the time we realized it was heading to France, we were approximately 45 minutes away from the French border. We immediately got off the train and switched to another train that was heading south and then to another one but all the trains were closed down by now. We were stuck in the city La Spezia for the night. We shared a room the six of us in a hotel, and then we got back the next day just in time for opera rehearsal. I missed a lesson, a scene staging, Italian class, and a voice/opera lecture that day, but at least I made it for the 3.5 hour staging rehearsal for the opera. It was a very strange experience and fortunately the voice faculty members were very forgiving and realize these things happen. They were just glad we were safe. I was lucky to make up almost all the classes I missed that day. Italian trains can sometimes be confusing.
Oberlin in Italy directly connects with my academic experience at Lawrence. I am in an intense vocal program that has high music demands, as well as a fantastic language immersion class. The differences are a stronger focus on the acting, and on opera in general as well as completely immersed in a new language and culture. At Lawrence there is a strong connection with all sorts of music: choral, musical theater, art song, early music, etc. Although Lawrence has some focus on opera, the Oberlin in Italy program feels completely dedicated to opera. All but one or two songs in every masterclass, (an opportunity where students witness other students perform and are coached by an accomplished artist in an open lesson) were opera arias, all the songs I worked on in lessons and coachings were either opera arias or opera recitative. It focused on one specific genre of the many genres that are presented in the Lawrence vocal department.
Halfway through my time at Oberlin in Italy I have learned so many new ideas about opera. In one lecture series we focused completely on the acting sequence of opera. The faculty here uses the term singing actor constantly and it definitely changed my perception of opera. The incorporation of acting and singing on a stage with the lighting, costumes, props, staging, an orchestra, and a set. When trying to comprehend everything that is going on, it is no wonder that such a powerful art form has survived the ages.
After having such an intensive study in opera, I had many difficulties to undertake, particularly when it came to staging. I have a very intense choral background and not as much in movement. I found it easier to not analyze my movements/acting as deeply at first and then gradually incorporate more layers of character as time went on. It is a fantastic process and I am so lucky I found something I love.
Agency softball: HY Connect has its very own softball team. The weekly games are a big event. Even those who can’t play (like me) join the cheering section. The first game I attended was on a perfect summer evening. I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. People from every department-Media, Creative, Client Services, had either donned jerseys or brought sideline snacks. We were annihilated by the other team (a rival ad agency) but no one seemed to mind.
The Summer Party: This year, the day-long event was picnic-themed. It was gloomy outside, but we more than compensated with cheery décor and sumptuous food. Checkered tablecloths, giant sunflowers and wicker baskets lent a homey charm to the minimalist lobby. After tucking into barbeque and pies, we locked the office and headed to the pub for part 2.
My internship at HYC has taught me the importance of corporate culture. Professional fulfillment includes more than just office duties. It’s important to break down the cubicle barriers every so often. The more you like your teammates, the better you’ll perform together.
My first full week was filled with Italian class every morning Monday through Friday from 9-12. My schedule changes from day to day after that with a chance for lunch either at a restaurant or I cook something in the apartment. The rest of my day consists of either coachings on scenes, individual coachings for Così or masterclasses. I have a lesson once each week in addition to the coachings and from the late afternoon to the evening there is staging for Così fan tutte. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work with so many different people from so many different operatic backgrounds and even after a week, I have learned a good deal of Italian, wonderful new approaches to my singing technique, how to better incorporate acting and singing., As well as witnessing a new director/conductor and how they stages opera/rehearse the cast.