First year experience being a vocal performance major
College is a wonderful, engaging, and exciting, yet challenging adventure. But, what is it like to be a vocal performance major? To be honest, the beginning was difficult. Knowing that everyone is talented, hardworking, and motivated, it is hard not to compare yourself to others. Although it took me an entire year to understand this, I have realized that it is almost impossible and not beneficial to compare yourself to others in this field, or any field of study for that matter. Each student in the voice department has different strengths and weaknesses. For some, learning new languages such as Italian or German may come naturally, while for others, singing in solfege is effortless or building French augmented sixth chords in Harmony is a piece of cake. Learning to take pride in one's abilities and identifying weaknesses is one of the most rewarding aspects to grasp and has helped me tremendously in my first year in college.
This year was packed with 17 classes ranging from traditional music classes such as Harmony, language classes such as Italian, all the way to the infamous Interpretation and Argument. Though it was stressful at times, I found that I would not want to be anywhere else except this school. The year has challenged me, pushed me way beyond where I thought my limits were, and began building the foundation of my upcoming career. My passion for music has grown out of the love that my teachers have to pass their knowledge to their students. My desire for singing has grown continuously, because everyday my classmates challenge and push me to become the best performer that I can be.
Part of being a vocal performance major is the performances. While first years and sophomores are unable to participate in the staged operas, there are surprisingly more opportunities to perform than I originally thought. For example, each year, everyone performs in four seminars, two juries (exceptions are juniors and seniors), and multiple choral performances. The seminar is essentially when vocalists can try out pieces to perform, while dressing up as if they were auditioning. The seminars take place in front of the entire vocal performance department, students and teachers alike. While intimidating at first, I realized just how incredibly supportive the community I was learning in really was. The upperclassmen especially made me feel welcomed into the voice community. This is special because a lot of times there is a disconnect between the upperclassmen and the first years and sophomores. Knowing that the people you look up to also have your back and want you to succeed at everything is the best feeling in the world. Juries are a whole different level. There are two per year with upperclassman as an exception, and you sing a couple of pieces in front of the entire voice faculty for grades. It can be an intimidating process, but it is a great time to showcase your skills in front of the faculty.
But, what are the most important things that I learned after my first year in college? I compiled a list of specific things to consider as a first-year vocal major:
1. Understand that music itself is hard. Music is a complex art form that takes a lot of patience and willingness to work hard at the craft. Aspects of the art form may not come as easily as you think and may in fact take a whole year to start to understand.
2. You will have moments of self doubt. These moments are there to remind you to take a step back and reflect on why you selected music and why it is so important to you to pursue as a career.
3. Competition is part of the everyday routine of singers. Regardless of comparison, competition for roles, mock auditions, and more, are included with daily practice and class work. It is how one composes oneself in order to perform to the best of their abilities. Healthy competition in the classroom setting is necessary in appreciating that this career is difficult to be good at.
4. You have to learn to embrace failure. Being a perfectionist myself, this was certainly not easy and still is not. Perfection is emphasized in society today, through media and other platforms. However, the thing to recognize is that perfection is not the quality that will get you the furthest, but embracing failure is. With failure also comes success. You can’t have one or the other. In order to build, you need failure. It is what will push you to try harder, practice a little bit more, and achieve the goals you set for yourself.
5. But, perhaps the most valuable thing that I learned this year, was that confidence was and still is essential. Having confidence in myself and my abilities was the key to success throughout this academic school year.
Overall, the year has been a successful one with many valuable lessons. I have learned so much about myself as a singer and performer. And, at the end of the day, I could not picture myself being anywhere but in the Carnegie Mellon School of Music.