The festival not only provides a lot of feedback from the diverse group, but the small size of the program harbors a sense of personal training for each performer, which is not common in New York, according to the singers.
“I’ve done many summer programs, but this is the best,” Dube said. “It’s a rare program where they respect the singers, and they make us feel comfortable.”
One reason the performers feel more respected is the faculty mold the experience for each singer to focus on their goals at the time, Dube said.
“If you just want to work on specific things, you can ask to just focus on coaching and techniques,” she said. “I asked not to [perform] too much, because of roles I will have in Tel Aviv performances.”
Ultimately, the participants are exercising and perfecting their technique to provide higher quality performances.
Holdsworth said the reason she performs is to give back to people, because without an audience, there would be no reason to do it. She said she has experienced a positive reaction from the audiences who have attended the shows in Blacksburg.
“The people here are so nice and encouraging,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people here come to our concerts, and they watch us and enjoy it and keep coming back.”
Perhaps she feels this way, since some audience members purchased the festival pass and travel from all parts of Virginia to attend the shows, according to Waalkes.
“We have people coming from Roanoke every night who bought tickets,” Waalkes said. “We’ve had people traveling from Richmond and even North Carolina.”
The Center for the Arts not only invites the visitors for the artistic experience, but it also encourages them to be active in the Blacksburg community while in town.
Waalkes said some local businesses donate something from their store or offer a special deal as part of a raffle done to promote activity in the area. Restaurant week is another initiative offered by the Blacksburg community to inspire guests to dive into downtown.
“It certainly has a positive affect on Blacksburg,” Waalkes said. “It really reinforces that this is a festival that is happening at Virginia Tech, but it affects the broader community.”
One of the most pressing questions surrounding the entire festival is its location: why Blacksburg?
According to Waalkes, one of the Institute’s founders, Joan Dornemann, made a connection with someone at Virginia Tech. At the time, the Institute’s board of directors wanted to have a program in the U.S. as a more central location.
“Because we have this really rapidly developing art initiative here at Virgnia Tech, it seemed like a nice opportunity to bring a group like that in and build around like what they had done in the other places,” Waalkes said.
She said a lot of the faculty and a number of the singers have attended the festival at Virginia Tech before and they feel it’s an ideal setting for this program.