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News :: Intro to Opera: Estes foundation Young Artists perform, teach in area schools
· 10:11pm April 22nd, 2012
Vinton-Shellsburg High School Chamber Choir members, along with dozens of area residents, sat in the auditorium Saturday evening, listening as a young man who had sung very little while in high school stood alone in front of a piano, without a microphone, filling the entire room with his baritone voice.
Opera singer Joshua Markley is one of two Young Artists sponsored by the Simon Estes Foundation. He and Shelby VanNordstrand spent two days in the area, teaching music students at Vinton-Shellsburg and Benton Community. They also rehearsed with the VSHS Chamber Choir, which performed a few songs with Markley and VanNordstrand during a concert Saturday evening.
On Saturday afternoon, the singers, along with their pianist, Jodi Goble, and Simon Estes Foundation Executive Director Paul Ferrone, discussed the goals of the Young Artist program.
"We want students to understand more about the career opportunities that exist for them in music," said Ferrone. "Our young artists also serve as role models. We are trying to bridge the gap between music education and music as a career."
The program, he says, is mutually beneficial to the Young Artists and the students they teach. The students learn from singers just a few years and a step or two ahead of them, while the artists have more career opportunites than they otherwise would have without it.
Goble, who is also on the Iowa State University Music Department faculty, said that in order to be selected as Young Artists, the singers have to be more than great performers.
"They have to be multi-taskers, engaging their audiences when they teach," said Goble. "It's not enough to be great performers. They also have to be able to explain what they are doing and why those things are important."
Markley and VanNordstrand performed at VSHS as well as Benton Community. They also held question and answer sessions with the students.
One student asked the Young Artists to list the top three things that those who aspire to have a career in music need to know.
Together, they offered this list:
1. Learn to play the piano.
2. Take Theory of Music classes in college.
3. Be willing to approach a career with hard work and determination.
"None of us said that raw talent was the most important thing," said Ferrone. "Drive and determination gets people to where they want to be."
Markley said he did not sing that much in high school. Ferrone said it's common for men to develop as opera singers later than female singers.
Markley said that some of the young men in the choir asked for advice about how to project their voice to sing more loudly, especially when hitting the low notes.
During the interview with Vinton Today, Ferrone and the Young Artists discussed the opportunities and challenges of introducing opera music to people who have only heard caricatures of opera singing during commercials.
"Opera is an acquired taste," said Goble, "but it does not take long to acquire it."
Many people, said Ferrone, think of Opera singing as very loud, singing in a foreign language by people wearing costumes. He said Iowa audiences are surprised by the contrast in the singing, the variety of notes that the singers can reach.
At times, during the concert, the audience laughed out loud at the lyrics and the acting that is part of opera-style singing.
About the Young Artists Program
One of the challenges for young artists of any art form, including musicians and singers, is the difficulty in bridging the gap from art student to full-time musician.
"Music is my first career," explains VanNordstrand. "I moonlight doing other things to make money, but my full-time job is practicing, looking for auditions, and going to auditions."
While a Young Artist could perform and teach with the Estes Foundation for up to three years, Ferrone said the ideal situation is that before those three years are up, the Young Artist receives a full-time job offer. He said that a recent Young Artist has recently joined a start-up opera company.
See more about the Young Artists program of the Simon Estes Foundation, and the biographies of the performers, HERE.
See more about the Young Artists program of the Simon Estes Foundation, and the biographies of the Young Artists, HERE.
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