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!
Just like that, all of my performances with AIMS are through. They were an absolute dream (literally because I just had a nightmare that I forgot to go to one). Friday night, our performance was at the Odilien Institute, where lots of our masterclasses and recitals and lectures have taken place. Though the gymnasium of an institute for the blind wasn’t exactly on the list of places I thought I might want to show up in a fully beaded, floor length gown, it turned out to be a great place to sing and we drew a sizable audience. I sang well. There is literally only one tiny thing that I would change: a just-in-case breath that I took but really probably didn’t need. (My teacher at home is reading this going “…you only found ONE THING wrong with yourself? YOU??”)
In fact, it is probably in first or second place for performances I am most happy with. I didn’t get nervous to the point that it compromised my singing, just to the point that I was really stinkin’ excited to share some Schubert and some Wolf with people. I sang about as well, in some places way better, than I ever had in rehearsal, which any musician knows is so, so rarely the case. Why? Because during this program I have finally learned how to really focus. How to put myself in the zone and stay there though an entire performance. It’s a big accomplishment and its been a long time coming, but two or three classes from here at AIMS are completely to blame for me finally figuring this out.
On Sunday I was lucky enough to give two more performances. At nine in the morning, I sang a piece from the Bach St. Matthew Passion in a beautiful cathedral. As it was so early, it wasn’t just the best singing I have ever done, but it was fine, and once again my focus was right. I have never really sung Bach before, and never outside of a choral setting, and it isn’t something I thought I would be able to do well, if at all, so I learned loads from studying this piece. It was also really great to get the opportunity to collaborate with flute and organ, played by two wonderful colleagues.
On my way to the venue for the matinee performance of the Liederabend concert we had given on Friday, I got really lost and had to ask someone for help. This led to my most successful adventure auf Deutsch yet. In my well articulated but probably painfully slow German, I asked a small man with long hair, a weird ponytailed beard, and about a thousand tattoos where Heinrichstrasse was, as “I must in a castle on Mozartstrasse a concert sing”. He insisted on just walking me there, and on the way he asked me where I was from and why I was here, but he asked me in German so I knew that my German was bad enough to make it obvious I was an auslander but good enough to mean we didn’t have to give up and switch to English just yet. I told him I was here for six weeks to study singing and that I am from Texas. He said he played the guitar and had been to the Grand Canyon once. When we reached Mozartstrasse, he asked me if I knew Mozart, and when I said “Naturlich!” he said, “but do you know he was born near here in Salzburg? He has even been to Graz before!” He said it the way I sometimes tell people that Beyonce and I share not only a hometown but a high school. With his help I was early enough to the venue to finish waking up and warming up before the concert.
The concert was great. For me personally, it was not as good as Friday though. I was able to find my focus again, but I was slightly lacking in energy, so the next step after consistent focus access is to be able to find the right energy level consistently. As I walked off stage after my second song, it hit me that all of my performing for the summer was over. That I was unlikely to ever share a backstage party room with any of these wonderful people again. After the concert, a native German speaker told me that my diction was perfect and that they understood every word.
The rest of the weekend involved sharing a meal with the rest of my concert studio, explaining the woes of Texas weather to some Michigan friends, and a long walk to celebrate the super moon with a dear friend. But I think the nicest thing about this weekend was that my teacher, Tom Harper, showed up to all three of my performances, with kind, encouraging words before and after each.