Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Summer at Camp: A Voice Teacher's Perspective

Mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell was asked to join the artistic faculty of the 2012 Sarasota Youth Opera Summer Camp just this past June.  Her primary responsibility was teaching voice.  Ms. Nicole, as the campers called her, has been both an apprentice artist and studio artist with Sarasota Opera and won critical acclaim for her performance of Tituba in the 2011 production of Robert Ward's The Crucible.
We asked her to write up what her experience was like and the challenges she faced working with such young singers.  Here is what she had to say: 

Mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell
When I was asked to be a part of Sarasota Opera's 2012 Youth Opera Summer Camp I have to say I was THRILLED!!!  As thrilled as I was though, I was also a bit nervous and perplexed at how I would be able to relay information on the process of singing to almost four dozen children- whose ages ranged from about seven to eighteen years old. Overall, I was excited at the opportunity to share what I've learned as a classically trained singer, but I was also excited to be on the receiving end of knowledge as well. Nothing hones a teacher's skills better than their students. 

Learning how to sing in the classical style is more than just learning how to sing a song without a microphone. It is about what one does physically, emotionally and mentally to prepare BEFORE using the vocal cords.  Teaching voice to a group is a challenge in that you must find the simplest way to convey knowledge to over forty minds about posture, good breathing technique, pitch accuracy, scales, diction and name a few, in a limited amount of time. 
Over the three-week period I saw the young singers, some with more abandon, others a little shyer, take chances in trying to do what was asked of them during different exercises.  It was great to see youthful courage, enthusiasm and imagination being used from the many. At times it was a bit daunting as they were asked to combine the information they'd received, not only from my instructions, but that of their other teachers as well. The art of an artist at any age is the effective merging of their talents with their acquired skills and techniques to make a performance look "easy".  
Members of the Sarasota Youth Opera perform a
selection from Little Nemo in Slumberland
on the last day of camp.

In the end, what I was most proud of for each student is that they stepped out of their comfort zones and tried and succeeded! They gave their ALL which is what great performers do. I was thoroughly impressed at their willingness to put their best creative selves forward. In the camp's final exhibition, the young artists sang, emoted and moved in character to tell the stories they were involved in from excerpts of Puccini's Turandot, Verdi's Macbeth and the upcoming children's opera Little Nemo in Slumberland by composer Daron Hagen. I was SO proud!!!

What I stressed most for the young artists during our three weeks together is that they try their best in all they do. Try, just try. You can't go wrong from there because you'll learn something new no matter what.  Now isn't that good advice for us all? It was good for me!

-- Nicole Mitchell

1 comment:

Nanette Almeter said...

Wonderful review, Ms. Nicole! The campers really enjoyed your classes and were amazed at your ability ~ thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and talents with them!