This Sunday, John Oliver held another outstanding session in his series of Master Classes for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. But in addition to the notes I captured from the class, I wanted to jot down my personal reactions as well.
The singers were all super impressive, in one of two ways:
1) Many of them introduced themselves as juniors or seniors attending Boston Conservatory, or New England Conservatory, and majoring in vocal performance, or pedagogy, or somesuch super-impressive on-the-way-up music-is-my-life dedicated studies, such that I wanted to slink out of the room and never come back. It’s not that they were bragging about it; all of them were quite humble, almost embarrassed, to put forth the claim. It’s just that, as I joked with some fellow alumni after the class, the “MIT Conservatory” didn’t exactly have that level of study available — and even if it had, I doubt I would have qualified for it. And even if I had qualified for it, I doubt I would have pursued it.
These are people who are going deep where I’ve gone broad. They are experts where I’m Just Another Bass, a dabbler happy to be merely near the same stage as them. This is not intended as false humility or humble-bragging on my part. What’s the saying? “A novice practices until he gets it right. A master practices until he can’t get it wrong.” Or the other old piece of wisdom, that as you study a subject, eventually you learn enough to recognize how much you don’t know. I can see these singers know a lot that I don’t know, and may never truly know.
2) The ones who did NOT introduce themselves as vocal students were impressive, too — precisely because they did not slink out of the room! They were all clearly a little uncomfortable since they were new to singing, or majored in psychology and history, or were otherwise not in the same place in their musical journey as the others. But what courage it takes! For them to ALSO pull together the confidence to stand up in front of ~75 fellow singers and daringly bare their throats to our potential fangs.
And that was my big takeaway. I’m not going to be auditioning for an opera lead role any time soon. But it was encouraging to hear others still at the start of their journey. I was able to take away pointers from their lessons just as much as I picked up snippets of awesomeness from John’s advice to those who call it their craft. And that made the experience truly rewarding.