On Saturday, April 15, my student soprano Kelly Collins, a senior at the Derryfield School in Manchester, NH, won second place in the state-wide NATS High School Festival Competition. Kelly has studied voice regularly with me since her sophomore year, and her vocal technique, knowledge of repertoire and language, and – most important – her expressiveness and dramatic delivery, have improved tremendously.
That said, this was Kelly’s first vocal competition. As some of you may know, this organization has exacting requirements for young singers, and only recently were high school participants allowed to sing arias. As we all know, that term has a very broad definition. As I understand it, the teacher is expected to use discretion in terms of the young singer’s ability and vocal gifts.
I was very glad to learn about this rule change because I realized that “Laurie’s Song” from Copland’s The Tender Land would be a perfect fit for her beautiful lyric soprano, not to mention for a young woman about to graduate from high school.
This competition, held at the Manchester Community Music School, was sponsored by the Granite State chapter. I have been the treasurer of Granite State NATS along with a number of very dedicated teachers in this state who volunteer their time, expertise, and energy to sponsor two or more annual state-wide competitions. I am very proud to be a member of this worthwhile organization.
To Kelly I say, CONGRATULATIONS! I couldn’t be more proud.
Speaking of pride, here is a Maxwell McGrath update.
Tenor Max McGrath has been making impressive strides in his vocal technique as well as professional marketing efforts in the northern New England area. One of the most important steps a young singer can take is to audition for vocal competitions, which can offer monetary prizes and/or the opportunity to perform with a professional orchestra or opera company.
In February, Max entered the Portsmouth Symphony Youth Competition. We learned in mid-March that he had won first prize, an opportunity to sing with the PSO at their June 11 concert. Maestro John Page also invited Max to participate in a master class on March 28 at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center.
Of the four arias that Max submitted for consideration, Maestro Page selected a short but intense aria by Verdi, “Ah, la paterna mano” from his opera Macbeth.
Max was coached on this aria by John Page, accompanied by Mary Towse-Beck. For those of you who are not familiar with the master class format, here is a good description from Wikipedia:
The difference between a normal class and a master class is typically the setup. In a master class, all the students (and often spectators) watch and listen as the master takes one student at a time. The student (typically intermediate or advanced, depending on the status of the master) usually performs a single piece which they have prepared, and the master will give them advice on how to play it, often including anecdotes about the composer, demonstrations of how to play certain passages, and admonitions of common technical errors. The student is then usually expected to play the piece again, in light of the master’s comments, and the student may be asked to play a passage repeatedly to attain perfection. Master classes for musical instruments tend to focus on the finer details of attack, tone, phrasing, and overall shape, and the student is expected to have complete control of more basic elements such as rhythm and pitch. The value of the master class setup is that all students can benefit from the master’s comments on each piece.
I attended this master class and very much enjoyed hearing and observing Max work with another musician/teacher. Max responded beautifully and we both felt that he gained a lot by singing this, one of his signature arias, for “another pair of ears.” I can’t wait to hear Max sing this with a full orchestra.
Please see the PSO website for information about the June 11 concert at the Music Hall in Portsmouth.
Max – break a leg!