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.
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!