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Katie Kelley is a singer in the Concert Studio for AIMS in Graz 2014. We are excited to have her blog about her summer experiences!

July 17, 2014

Two of the biggest events of the AIMS program have come and gone! First is what we have all been calling “AIMS Prom”, the Governors Reception that took place in the unbelievable Hall of the Planets in Eggenberg Palace. We all got dressed to the nines, chased peacocks around the castle grounds, heard some magnificent music from members of the AIMS Orchestra and from the chorus, and mingled with each other and the faculty over wine and the most magnificent open faced finger sandwiches I have ever encountered.  The Hall of the Planets was spectacular, and apparently this was one of only a few events a year allowed to be held in this historic place. Ornate walls with dark paintings of superhuman scenes, low hanging crystal chandeliers, everything lit up by candles. The wind quintet actually played by candlelight, which seemed so romantic and curious. The evening was full of good conversation. I think maybe it’s impossible to talk about anything mundane when you are sipping red wine in a legitimate palace while wearing a formal gown.  The whole thing felt a little bit ridiculous actually and I honestly thought the dishes were going to suddenly develop cognition, jump out of our hands and start singing “Be Our Guest”. (They didn’t, but it was still really fun.)


The second big event was the Christa Ludwig Masterclass. Once again the venue reflected the grandness of the event. In a baroque hall covered with frescoes and sculptures that featured primarily the most ridiculously regal cherubs (“fat, sassy babies” as a friend hilariously described), we saw Christa Ludwig presented with flowers, do a delighted spin, and sit down to watch AIMS’ finest perform for her. Just being in her presence and seeing such a huge legend from the opera world in person felt insane and wonderful, so I can’t even imagine what it was like for the people who sang or her. She didn’t really talk technique with anyone, she only talked musicality and passed judgments on rep and fach. It was terrifying and exciting to realize that the lucky few singing for her, who were only between two and ten years older than me, were seen as finished products, not students still in need of every kind of musical help imaginable. She also had some wonderful things to say about musicality and singing in general, my favorite of which was “singing is boring, you have also to feel”.


Other than these two surreal and fabulous events, life in Graz has been wonderful if slightly more mundane. I feel like I really live here, like maybe this is actually real life. I have been cooking for myself, having to choose between breakfast and German class because I am consistently waking up too late to have both, doing homework and research, and practicing a lot. It feels like school rather than vacation now, and I wish school always felt like this. I am singing better and more easily than I ever have; I’m singing repertoire I didn’t think I would be capable of, and I am consistently surprised by how quickly I am able to learn and progress as a musician in this environment. It’s a pretty wonderful way to feel about “school”.