Spotlight on Vocal and Instrumental Music

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Instrumental Music

The frenetic chattering of Italian goldfinches as they flit above the ancient comune has been a cheerful daily fanfare as the students delve into their musical studies in Spoleto. The string students are strengthening their skills in the art of sight-reading — playing through a piece of music that is completely unknown to them. This is no easy task: it requires a musician to make lightning-fast decisions while “letting go” of any mistakes that may occur. It’s a similar process to becoming fluent in a foreign language in that confidence, not perfection, is the objective; the students are already showing improvement after just a few days!

The string students are also rehearsing a chamber piece by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák entitled Miniatures, a four-movement string trio for two violins and viola. They had a successful run-through of the first movement at Thursday evening’s performance class, where the entire Study Abroad program was in attendance. The students have been learning to elucidate abstract ideas on phrasing, dynamics (volume), articulation (the percussive attack and clarity of notes), matching colors and blending of individual sound, etc. The collaborative nature of chamber music can sometimes be challenging, as it requires several musicians to make collective decisions on the interpretation of a piece, as opposed to the solitary study of a solo work, such as a concerto.

In addition to chamber music, the instrumentalists continue to practice their solo repertoire, sing in the choir along with the voice students, and participate in movement and music history classes. It will be exciting to see how the coming weeks unfold.

-Sara

Vocal Music

In the first week together, the singers have been getting to know each other both personally and as musicians. Although each of the students receives private lessons, the bulk of our work together is collaborative, so this first week is an exciting time of discovery and growth.

Morning movement classes have been focus on connecting with the body and breath to free them as performers to communicate with one another and with the audience. Our afternoon work begins with choir rehearsal (with all of the music students), where we are working on music from a wide range of eras and developing some of the fundamentals of vocal technique. The rest of the afternoon is spent in individual and duet work. Each singer has three duets, some from the Italian operatic repertoire and some from Broadway musicals. This week, we have been solidifying the fundamentals of the duets (particularly Italian pronunciation) and thinking through the character work for each scene.

Two of the singers performed individual pieces on the first student showcase to share with students from other disciplines what they’ve been working on so far. The choir also performed a “work in progress” - an Alleluia canon by William Boyce. This has been a wonderful group of students so far, and we are looking forward to observing how far they will have come by the final performance!

-Laura

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The Marvelous Ville d'Este!

Today we travelled about two hours south to the city of Tivoli to take a tour given by Professor Lorenzo. Tivoli is a city located about 45 minutes outside of Rome, and it is home to the famous Ville d’Este. The Villa was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este in the early 16th Century. He was one of the wealthiest cardinals of all time, and you can recognized his wealth after taking a stroll through the Villa. The Villa is comprised of a lavish art collection and decorative walls, but the villa is most famous for its extravagant landscape, statues, and fountains.

The students had a great time taking in the breathtaking views and enjoying the beautiful landscapes. After Tivoli we made our way back to Spoleto, and had a lovely dinner outside of Hotel Clittuno. Here are some pictures of the trip to Tivoli! Hope you enjoy.

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Creative Writing Blog #1

In our first few days of class, the creative writing students got to know one another and the town

that will be hosting them.

We began the course on Sunday evening with an essay from Jhumpa Lahiri. In the introduction

to her recently published anthology Italian Short Stories, Lahiri recounts the journey that led her

to discovering first Italy, then the Italian language, and ultimately Italian literature. We used this

as a jumping off point to discuss the students’ own hopes for their time in Italy, some of whom

had never before left the United States.

On Monday, we began our module on craft with lessons on very fundamental principles of

language and storytelling. We read essays on the difference between representation and the thing

being represented, on the nature of words, symbols and icons, and how these acquire meaning.

We spoke about the realm of experience vs. the realm of storytelling: how some events and

objects bring baggage with them when transferred into writing or other media, while others leave

a piece of their significance and meaning behind when stripped of their real-world contexts.

Translation and intercultural exchange were central topics in these conversations. We spoke

about the ways that language and culture can pressure or influence the ways we think and write.

Meanwhile, multilingualism, translation and travel emerged as keys to seeing and writing about

the world differently. To this end, we will read stories from both American and Italian authors

throughout our 3 week class, in the hopes of discovering the ways in which representation,

aesthetic and even genre can vary across different languages and cultures.

The town of Spoleto has been invaluable as a living text supporting our daily lessons. A walk

around the centro storico on Monday revealed a myriad of symbols and icons that collectively

make up the vocabulary of daily life in an Umbrian hilltop town. A trip to the park on Tuesday

made us question the very nature of something so simple as trees, and all of the ideas and

feelings that we subconsciously attach to them.

Today’s lesson centers on characters and characterization, and a claim from author Charles

Baxter that writing is really an art of match-making. To help practice this essential art, students

will return to town this afternoon to observe and record some of the characters that populate the

background of their daily life in Spoleto.

All the while, I’ve been asking students to brainstorm ideas and notes toward their eventual final

project. Students will begin drafting these projects in earnest next week, and I look forward to

seeing what they’ve come up with!

- AJ

AJ and the creative writing students in the park of Spoleto

AJ and the creative writing students in the park of Spoleto

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A Beautiful Day in Siena

Today we left bright and early for our day trip to Siena! After a long drive, we headed into the center of the city for a tour led by Lorenzo. Our tour began in Piazza del Campo, a shell-shaped piazza at the center of Siena. Each year, this huge piazza turns into the site of the Palio, a horse race between representatives of the different neighborhoods of Siena (the contrade). Lorenzo then took us into the Palazzo Pubblico, the center of Siena’s government. This building is decorated with elaborate frescoes that depict themes of justice and the effects of good and bad government. 

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Next, students had free time to explore the city in smaller groups. They were challenged to take pictures with their contrade (for our Spoleto Study Abroad Palio, they’ve been divided into teams) in the neighborhood of their contrade. Many students enjoyed some of the local cuisine, gelato, and shopping.

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We came back together as a group to visit Siena’s Duomo, which is beautifully decorated outside with sculptures and inside with mosaics. The Duomo also includes a beautiful library full of chant manuscripts with ornate illustrations.

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Visual Arts with Professor Lynne Riding.

“First two days in the studio!

Students were asked initially to reflect and make notes of their observations and thoughts after their first 2 days experience in Spoleto, including an outing to Assisi. In response to these thoughts the students painted swatches of color, and using these started composing an abstract painting.

As a means to studying ways to portray form, depth and atmosphere while u sing local produce for observation, the class then moved onto contour line, tonal drawing and mark making methods.”

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A Full Day of Classes and Spotlight: Photography

Students experienced a regular weekday schedule of classes, which includes an hour of their discipline, Italian language, and Art & Architecture/Art and Ideas in the morning and three hours of their discipline in the evening.

Art & Architecture at the Duomo with Lorenzo

Art & Architecture at the Duomo with Lorenzo

Throughout the duration of the program students will be competing against one another in contrade (teams) in the Spoleto Palio.  Each contrada has a name and emblem based on Siena’s infamous contrade.  Tonight the contrade participated in a scavenger hunt around Spoleto!

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Since we would like to highlight each discipline, we are going to designate themes for each day’s update.

·      Monday: Photography

·      Tuesday: Visual Arts

·      Wednesday: Travel

·      Thursday:  Creative Writing

·      Friday: Vocal and Instrumental Music

·      Saturday: Travel

·      Sunday: Student Focus and Life in Spoleto

Spotlight: Photography

Sara Kerr, Photography Instructor:

“Photographers spent their first day of class getting to know each other and learning about the history of their medium. We talked about the origins of photography, about how photography developed, and about all of the amazing scientific experimentation that was needed to get us to where we are today: an era where we have digital cameras in our cell phones and millions of photographs are made and shared every minute. In our second class we got straight down to business. Students learned about the basic operations of their cameras and about the three essential components of an exposure: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. For their first assignment, students were tasked with learning to understand shutter speed. In pairs they explored Spoleto looking for interesting ways to use shutter speed to freeze and blur movement. Stay tuned for the results!”

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Assisi and First day of classes!

Buongiorno!

Now that almost everyone has arrived, we are beginning to get into the swing of things! Today, we had the great pleasure of visiting Assisi, the town St. Francis and St. Claire. Lorenzo took us on a wonderful tour throughout the town and into the church of St. Claire and the Basilica di San Francesco, allowing the students to continue to immerse themselves in Italian history.

This afternoon, classes begin! Ahead of us is an exciting evening of further getting to know each other- through our artistic disciplines! Today, we are taking a closer look into the creative writing side of Spoleto Study Abroad. I’ve asked our writing students to answer some fun questions in order for us to get to know each other a bit better!

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What is your favorite part about Spoleto?  Riley Kerr: “My favorite thing about Spoleto so far has been all of the views we’ve seen!”

What is your favorite part about Spoleto?

Riley Kerr: “My favorite thing about Spoleto so far has been all of the views we’ve seen!”

What has been your favorite meal at the Clitunno thus far?  Wickie Fort: "The tortellini because it was amazing!!!”

What has been your favorite meal at the Clitunno thus far?

Wickie Fort: "The tortellini because it was amazing!!!”

What are you most looking forward to this summer in Spoleto?  Ruby Sloan: “I’m really excited to get into my discipline, and get a feel for creative writing because I haven’t really gotten a chance to do that at home yet, and I’m so happy to be writing in Spoleto!”

What are you most looking forward to this summer in Spoleto?

Ruby Sloan: “I’m really excited to get into my discipline, and get a feel for creative writing because I haven’t really gotten a chance to do that at home yet, and I’m so happy to be writing in Spoleto!”

What is your favorite thing about Spoleto thus far?  Sasha Wagner: “My favorite thing about Spoleto is how pretty the town is, and I love all the alleys.”

What is your favorite thing about Spoleto thus far?

Sasha Wagner: “My favorite thing about Spoleto is how pretty the town is, and I love all the alleys.”

What are you most looking forward to this summer?  Maddie Grant: “Definitely Florence! I am really excited to see the statue of David!”

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Maddie Grant: “Definitely Florence! I am really excited to see the statue of David!”

What has been your favorite meal at the Clitunno so far?  Leo Balaban: “The tortellini because it tasted good!”

What has been your favorite meal at the Clitunno so far?

Leo Balaban: “The tortellini because it tasted good!”

What has been your favorite part of Spoleto so far?  Mai Ly Hagan: “I really loved the tour that Lorenzo gave us. He really knows what he’s talking about!”

What has been your favorite part of Spoleto so far?

Mai Ly Hagan: “I really loved the tour that Lorenzo gave us. He really knows what he’s talking about!”

What are you most looking forward to this summer?  Drew Seddelmeyer: "I am most looking forward to getting better at writing in general!”

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Drew Seddelmeyer: "I am most looking forward to getting better at writing in general!”

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A Tour through Spoleto!

This Saturday we spent the day getting our bearings of the city, Spoleto. In the morning we ate breakfast in the convent then took a stroll to Piazza Mercado. The students had a chance to talk with locals ordering cappuccinos and pastries, soaking in and tasting some the deliciousness that Spoleto has to offer. After the trip to the Piazza the class went to the grocery store to get some essentials for their dorms, such as snacks, toiletries, and refreshments.

Then lunch today we welcomed in our last 6 students from to the program! These ladies from Charleston SC had some tough luck getting here considering the weather and plane cancellations, but we are so happy to finally have them with us. Later this afternoon our Art & Architecture professor, Lorenzo, gave a brief educational tour of the city. We went back in history, 1st Century BC to be exact, and saw the Roman theatre, churches, aqueducts, and the main castle at the top of the mountain. It was a beautiful afternoon to say the least!

Here are some pictures of the students throughout the day! hope you enjoy.
-Brant

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Benvenuti a Spoleto!

Today marks the beginning of the student program for Spoleto Study Abroad 2019! We are happy to have our students and faculty join us in Spoleto, and we are looking forward to our group being completed when the final students arrive tomorrow and Monday.

Students are housed in different rooms around the convent, and each room is named after a fruit (in
Italian of course). The rooms are Mela (Apple), Pesca (Peach), Arancia (Orange), Ananas (Pineapple), Fragola (Strawberry), Limone (Lemon), Cocomero (Watermelon), and Lampone (Raspberry).

The garden side of the convent!

The garden side of the convent!

As soon as the students arrived we went straight to lunch at Hotel Clitunno, which houses Ristorante Lorenzo where students eat lunch and dinner each day. After lunch, students settled into their rooms, rested and met their roommates. There was a formal introduction of faculty and fellows and a brief overview of the program from Jill Muti. This was followed by icebreakers!

At the convent!

At the convent!

After our games and introductions, students were given a tour of Spoleto, and then they returned to the restaurant for dinner. Today was Raul’s birthday, which was celebrated with Italian pastries! Auguri, Raul!

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We are looking forward to exploring Spoleto tomorrow and going to Assisi on Sunday!

Final Exhibitions and Performances

It has been a bittersweet ending to our Spoleto Study Abroad Program. Today students showcased the culmination of their work over the last three weeks. In the morning, Creative Writing students read their short stories, and Screenwriting students had faculty and fellow students do a read through of their screenplays. Before lunch, Photography and Visual Arts students stood proudly next to their work and discussed their process.

Students had time after lunch to pack up and enjoy their final day in Spoleto. Following dinner, Vocal and Strings students gave their final performance.

Saturday in Spoleto

Happy Saturday! Typically Saturday is a travel day, however, today students spent the day preparing for their final performances tomorrow. All of the students have worked incredibly hard this summer!

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Voice students ran through their performance today in preparation for tomorrows final performance. Their teachers are impressed with their progress this summer. 

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After dinner, some students went to see a Ballet in the Roman Theater. 

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Spotlight: Vocal and Instrumental Music

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Spotlight: Music

All of our music students are making final preparations for Sunday's showcase. Each violinist will play a work with a local pianist in addition to performing with the choir. Above, you can see the SSA choir practicing choreography for "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair" from the musical South Pacific. They have done wonderful work learning a wide range of choral pieces, and this week they have been putting on the finishing touches. 

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The vocal music students are each singing one duet from Mozart's Opera Le Nozze di Figaro and one duet from a musical. Above, Elle and Adelaide are rehearsing the duet "Some Things Are Meant to Be" from Little Women. They are doing a wonderful job expressing their different characters and working together with their duet partners. Terry has been tweaking the blocking, and we will do our final dress rehearsal in the morning. Below, you can see the Via di Sant'Agata, and the columns on the left are the entrance to the church where we rehearse. 

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Today, we also had our first birthday of the program! We enjoyed a delicious spread of pastries in Zoe's honor after dinner, and she received a Ronaldo jersey as a gift!

Spotlight: Visual Arts...Plus a Pool Party!

Spotlight: Visual Arts

Claire Lerner

"During week three of the Visual Arts class, students are busy completing work on their two in depth projects; a self-portrait from life and street scene(s) of Spoleto. For these two projects students were encouraged to work in a variety of art media including mixed media, watercolor, oil, acrylic, charcoal, and pencil.  Students are excited and delighted to present their final works in an exhibition that will be held in the art room along with their fellow photography students on Saturday.

Completing any art piece can be a daunting and challenging task but these fantastic and talented students stayed on task and embraced all the challenges that were presented to them. They enjoyed and appreciated having sixteen hours a week completely devoted to art studio time. The finished artwork that will be presented in the student exhibition will reflect the concentrated hours spent in the art studio. Students were thrilled to have the opportunity to work so intensively in a variety of art media for the past three weeks!"

 

Pool Party!

After morning classes, we took a trip to the countryside to enjoy the pool, volleyball, and dinner. 

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We could see the castle of Spoleto off in the distance.

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A storm passed over us, but we made the best of it by playing cards and enjoying some lively conversation inside a covered tent.

After the rain passed, we enjoyed a beautiful evening.

We ended the evening with our final Palio competition. Each contrada participated in a relay race on the volleyball court. It was a fantastic night!

Travel Day: Orvieto

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Today we traveled to the beautiful hilltop town of Orvieto. It is also in Umbria, Spoleto’s region of Italy, so it was a closer drive than some of our other day trips. Our first adventure after arriving in Orvieto was the funicular ride from lower Orvieto (where the bus dropped us off) into the historic town.

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Once in Orvieto, we visited the well of St. Patrick, which served as the water supply for the whole town. The well has two very long spiral staircases – one for descending and one for ascending – so we enjoyed the changing views and temperatures as we made the hike all the way down and back up.

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Next, we walked along the beautiful street up to the Duomo, a cathedral which contrasts stunningly with the scale of the surrounding town. Because Orvieto was historically a residential site for the pope, it has an unusually elaborate cathedral for a smaller town. Inside the Duomo, we enjoyed seeing the unusual amber windows and the incredible chapel of San Brizio with a depiction of the last judgment by Signorelli (although the work was begun by Fra Angelico and Gozzoli).

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Next to the Duomo, we visited the Etruscan Museum containing artifacts from the Etruscan settlement in Orvieto, a civilization that flourished in the area until the 3rd century BCE. The Etruscans buried their dead in elaborate tombs below the town, and many of these were preserved until they were discovered in the modern era. After the museum, students had free time to explore the town, do some shopping, and enjoy the local cuisine.

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After a little time at the convent to relax, students had a chance to try some other Spoletino restaurants for faculty dinners. Students split into groups to have dinner with a pair of faculty members, so some dined with Niccolo/Andrea, some with AJ/John, and others with Sarah/Clare. Students and faculty alike enjoyed the chance to explore a bit more and get to know one another better.

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