Coming into this program, I was not sure what changes to expect in my musical perspective. I knew I would become more “cultured,” have more time to practice horn, and eat some incredible food (the bomboloni will always have a special place in my heart), but I didn’t know if I would have a musical breakthrough or something of that sort. At Furman, I am pursuing a BA degree in music and I am on the pre-medical track. With this, I am planning to attend dental school after graduation. Although I love music and the horn, I am pursuing dentistry as my career. Music serves as my creative outlet and I get as much out of it as I put in. I am very involved in the music department at Furman, but my musical involvement has grown exponentially since being a student at the ADA. Most of my classes and almost all of my activities somehow revolve around music. In my most recent lesson, I had a conversation with my horn teacher about music in schools in the US versus Italy. In the US, I have the opportunity to study two different fields—music, because I love it, and dentistry, because I also love teeth. Music teaches me so many valuable lessons that I cannot learn only through science classes, such as methods of expression and communicating without language. My teacher said that the option to study music on a collegiate level in addition to studying another subject is very rare in Italy. He said that he wishes that more people could study music, too, because it is such a good “teacher” for other subjects. I feel so lucky that I am able to do this and be here, studying music in Italy, while still having my other passion waiting for me at home. So, my change in perspective has been in my gratitude for my art! I have always enjoyed and loved horn, but this experience has allowed me to put more focus on it and truly appreciate its importance and special place in my life.
Side note: for those of you who may be wondering, Italy has the most friendly and beautiful cats in the world.
– Ivy White
One reason I have enjoyed the experience of studying music here in Italy so much is the focus I am able to give to my practice time. I was definitely stressed last semester at Furman leading up to my sophomore performance jury, so it is a welcomed time to have concentrated performance training here without the everyday stress of typical Furman life. Also, hearing Roberto Cominati perform in Florence reminded me again of my passion for piano and sharing that passion with others through my music. It is far too easy to get discouraged in the musical world with all of the stress and expectations thrown upon us. However, it is thanks to opportunities like this that I can reaffirm my passion for my instrument and love for music in general.
Being a part of such a talented yet small community of musicians and artists has been immensely important in changing my perspective on my voice. Your voice is a very personal part of who you are, especially for a vocalist. Although vocalists are able to develop their sound, improve their technique, diction, and musicality, you cannot change the raw materials. I can work to achieve the extent of my voice’s capabilities, but I cannot change them. At a competitive school such as Furman, this is a hard fact to face. Surrounded by incredibly talented singers with fantastic voices, it has been difficult to appreciate my own. Being in Arezzo, however, my perspective has begun to change. Between my lessons with Jill, my coachings with Marta, solo practice, down time spent with the Academia community, and studio class with the other Furman vocalists I have discovered a new appreciation for my voice.
Voice lessons with Jill have been focused on finding my sound and singing healthily. Often at Furman, I get caught up in trying to find “The Sound:” this sound that I have been trying to create is a preconceived notion I have of how my voice should sound. Jill has helped me to move my focus away from this preconceived notion. Coachings with Marta have also important for my change of perspective. Coachings are time spent focusing on the music itself, improving and understanding notes, style, and diction. The time I spend with Marta allows me to focus on the music and not how my voice sounds. In other words, it is a chance to get a away from listening and critiquing my voice. My solo rehearsal time has also been important. Solo practice at the Academia is far more relaxed, done more for pleasure than a sense of obligation. The time I spend alone in the practice rooms have allowed me to examine and appreciate how my voice has grown. The smaller community also means there is almost always a practice room open.
The small community is helpful for more than just the availability of practice rooms. There is a never ending amount of support from theater and music students alike. Whether it is after warming up in the practice room beside the main area or singing musical theater in our down time, my peers are always giving words of encouragement and praise. In the smaller community, it is easier for each one of us to have our own identity, in our personality and in our voice. This fact is most evident during studio class. Studio class has been the biggest proponent in me changing my perspective. Studio consists of the six vocalists coming together after a full day of voice lessons to perform for one another. Studio gives us the opportunity to hear more repertoire, critiques from Jill, and most importantly, voices different than our own. Not only has studio helped me to develop a new appreciation for my own voice, but also for the beautiful and unique voices of my peers. I am now able to appreciate voices of all tone and color without comparing them to a preconceived notion of how all voices should sound, because each voice is different and there is no certain way all voices should sound. My new perception of my voice has given me a greater confidence, a greater love of vocal music, and a new love for my voice.
– Mary-Elizabeth Dixon