On Italian Language
This semester, more than ever before, I am learning to test the boundaries of myself.
There are some people who throw caution to the wind when it comes to learning foreign languages. You know the type. They pick up a few grammatical rules quickly, and with a little vocabulary under their belt they march – full speed ahead – into conversation. You may be one of these people. I am not. I like to have sentences entirely planned before I say them. That way, when I speak (if I speak) I make no errors. That way is what’s most comfortable for me. However, this semester I’m learning that my most comfortable courses of action are not always in my best interest.
For example: imagine you’re little-old-introverted me and you’ve only been in Italy for a couple of weeks. You find yourself standing in a line at a train station to buy tickets for a weekend trip. And now imagine the Italian man behind the counter is telling you he doesn’t speak any English. In a situation like this, you have to do something you aren’t used to doing. You have to call on the vocabulary you just made flash cards of. You have to remember the conjugations you learned little over a week ago. You have to dive head-first into a language you barely know. And, chances are, that’s exactly what you most need to do.
Finally, imagine how accomplished – and maybe even a little shocked – you would feel walking away from the train station, tickets in hand.
– Bryce McClendon, Voice
On Music History
For music students at the Academia, most of our work is divided between three areas: Italian language class, academic music classes (conducting and music history) and private music lessons. I’d like to talk briefly about our music history class.
Every morning at 10 o’clock we head to our classroom to begin Music History. Or we would, if we hadn’t already been in the same room for two hours before doing Italian! I kid of course; it is a bit difficult to concentrate over three hours but not impossible. The bulk of the class consists of Dr. Gary Malvern, our teacher, lecturing to us about the history and development of classical music. What I find fascinating about the class is learning about the historical and cultural context of the music we play and love. It’s one thing to know a piece from playing it, but knowing why it was written (and why it was written that particular way) gives one an infinitely more informed view of the music. In addition to lecture we also discuss what we are learning. For example, the other day we were discussing the many things that made Beethoven a revolutionary figure in music. I believe we comprehend more when we do this, as we are able to give our viewpoint and receive immediate feedback. Apart from the daily classes, the other main part of the class is our end of term research paper. In it we must discuss a significant event or thing from musical history and offer a new perspective on it. Not only do we need musical knowledge, we also need to be able to effectively communicate that knowledge to an audience. These two skills are what makes this class so important, as they are critical in the life of a professional musician.
– James Massanotti, Violin
On Private Lessons
It’s already been two months since my first lesson with Jill in September. I remember being a little worried and nervous at first but within minutes I was enjoying my lesson with Jill. She made me sing “Eeeeehhhh-Eeehhhhhh” until I reached the highest note I could sing while stepping forward and swinging my arm as if to throw a big ball across the room. But I threw all my worries away instead. It is amazing how she can pinpoint all my problems and tell me what I need to work on so quickly just from hearing me sing. Every lesson, we work on exercises that help fix bad singing habits and help me get used to singing a certain way to improve my singing. Some of the things we’ve worked on were dancing while singing, swinging arms around while singing, bending the knees, etc. After all the voice students finish lessons with Jill on the same day, we all sing in front of each other at the end in a studio class to show each other our working progress. I remember being nervous again in the first studio class about having to sing in front of other voice students that had never heard me sing before. But every studio class, I find myself getting more and more used to singing in front of everyone. In one studio class, I sang a piece while swinging my body left to right and dancing in front of everyone because that was what Jill and I worked on in our lesson that day. From all of these experiences, I learned to be comfortable with my own singing and not to judge my own singing too much but to let things go. Now, I feel that I am having fun while singing instead of thinking and getting overwhelmed by all the techniques. We also work closely with our piano accompanist, Marta. I have coaching with her right after my lesson. She fixes my Italian pronunciation and I practice pieces that I am working on with her beautiful piano accompaniment. I also learn a lot from other voice students here. We sometimes sit through each other’s lessons and watch. I learn a lot from watching their lessons as well. I’ve been working on many new things here since September and I’ve learned so much in just these past two months. I am very glad to have this great opportunity of working with such an amazing, understanding and talented group of people and to learn many things from them.
– Maya Belgrade, Voice
On Cultural Assimilation
When we first arrived at the Academia, one of the things Scott, the director of the entire program, told us was that 3 months is not enough time to learn about Italian culture. Instead he said that, more than anything, we would walk away from this program having learned more about ourselves. The past month and a half has been a road of self discovery and understanding that I will apply not just in life, but also directly to my academic studies. Being in a foreign country with a dozen of your peers (at least in the music program) forces you to learn from your peers and to work together like nothing before. Back at a college in the United States sometimes it is too easy to act in a way that is only beneficial to ourselves. Part of the beauty of this Italy experience is that to get the most out of your time here the group has to work together, play together, and create a group dynamic that they want to live in. To me, this is what college is all about! One of the students over here recently told me that one of his teachers used to tell him ‘keep your head where your feet are’ meaning always operate mentally in the here and now. I find myself applying this concept more and more to the way I am living over here, which in turn has caused me to not only enjoy my time more, but also discover those things that are the most important to me- friendship, character, and optimism. After my time here at the Academia thus far, I think the true importance of a college education is what you learn about yourself, not how many facts you can memorize from the pages of a textbook.
– Caley Howland, Clarinet