“The Grand Finale: Russian-French Connections,” on Friday in the Haymarket Theatre, will conclude the United States portion of the Vocal Arts and Music Festival hosted by Virginia Tech’s Center for the Arts.
The festival is a program for young opera professionals and musicians to work closely with legendary coaches and also showcase their work in public performances.
The program is offered in three locations: Tel Aviv, Montreal and Blacksburg, Virginia.
This is the second year the Center of the Arts has partnered with the International Vocal Arts Institute to present the festival in the U.S. Before the Center of the Arts, Tech’s Outreach for International Affairs was responsible for it.
Susan Bland, Virginia Tech’s Center of the Arts Communication Manager, said the singers take part in this festival to strengthen their voices and learn diction. She said they are performers that one will see singing at the Metropolitan Opera in five to 10 years.
The three-week festival hosts singers, musicians and coaches from all over the world. The performers audition for and are selected by the Vocal Arts Institute in New York. Some performers attend the program in one location, while others travel with the program to the other countries. The faculty, however, remains the same throughout.
In Blacksburg, there are 42 singers residing on campus who may start their day with breakfast at D2, then attend courses in the Squires Student Center or on the Henderson Lawn throughout the day. Each night, various sized groups of singers are asked to perform in a show open to the public. Master classes are also open to the public during the festival, so the audience can experience the type of training the performers are enduring.
The singers receive their schedules daily through an email, including whether or not they will perform the following night. Though it is a hectic schedule, the singers persist through the rigorous training that is offered through this program, because they want to.
One singer, Bryn Holdsworth from Stewartsville, New Jersey, said performers attend the summer program to continue to work on their voice, prepare for the upcoming year and expand their knowledge of what they will need in the future.
“We’re ultimately here to work on ourselves, because this is our career,” she said. “I want this as a career. Pretty much all of us do.
“If you’re here, you want to do this for your life.”
According to Holdsworth and fellow singer Marie-Eve Dube of Montreal, Canada, the coaches are not the only ones teaching and advising in the festival.
Dube said that a good aspect of the program is the Institute invites performers that are at different steps of their career and on various skill levels.
“I think it’s very good, because we can learn from each other,” Dube said.
Holdsworth said the more experienced singers have good advice to offer the younger aspiring performers.
“I gain a lot of knowledge and wisdom from the other singers, because I’m not there yet,” she said. “But, that is what I will be doing when I’m a little bit older.”
The mix of performers is no mistake, according to Ruth Waalkes, Executive Director of Tech’s Center for the arts.
During auditions, the International Vocal Arts Institute organizes the groups of singers so they would have the most rewarding experience individually, as well as a performing ensemble.
“They’re trying to put good groups of singers together, so they can create a rich experience,” Waalkes said. “They’re looking at the individual talent, but also, how they would perform as a group.”
This diversity of both singers and coaches has made an impact on Holdsworth in her time here in Blacksburg.
“You have so many different coaches here, so you have so many different opinions, different ways of looking at your pieces,” she said. “You use all of these different people to find these interpretations to make you a better performer.
“I’ve gone through a million breakthroughs in my technique, since I’ve been here.”