On the 16th of January, I will commence my very first recital tour in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago. After my recital in Chicago, I will appear at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and then finish the tour in Oberlin under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.
When I began to study singing and started to shift my musical focus away from the violin, opera was largely not what captured my attention musically. At first, I had a brief brush with Musical Theater, but soon after that, it was the early Italian songs that many young voice students are assigned to sing and a lot of art songs. Opera was not much on my mind, and while I knew that I wanted to sing classical music for a living – I really had no idea of what that entailed. All that was important to me was that I had found a way to make music a central part of my life.
Once I settled on my first teacher, Rosemary Russell (who was a professor at the University of Michigan at the time), I applied myself to studying voice with the intensity that I had studied the violin previously. I still played in my youth orchestras and took violin lessons, but I added my solo voice work and a couple of choirs to the mix. In finding Rosie, I had stumbled onto perhaps the biggest blessing in my musical development. I found a voice teacher who saw the innate passion that I had for music and exploited that fire in me to spur me onwards to faster and faster growth. Having started out as an organist herself, she understood my instrumental background and showed me music that met my interests where they were and piqued my curiosity to discover more. As a violinist, my musical upbringing had been Bach and Vivaldi concertos, the symphonies of Mahler, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, the string quartets of Haydn and Mozart. I didn't have a clue as to who Verdi was. My very first experience with Rossini was playing the second violin in "Una voce poco fà" – I kept getting lost, because it was just not music that made sense to me – it just seemed like an endless series of boom-chick-chicks. Rosie somehow understood this about me and started me off on the songs of Fauré, lieder by Schumann and Schubert, folksongs of Britten, songs by Purcell, Vaughan Williams and Finzi, and Handel arias. She would tell me to buy certain books of songs, and I would bring them to my lessons, where she would meticulously circle all the songs that she thought I should look at as a place to start. I would rush home after each lesson, devour the music as fast as my brain and throat could consume it, and come back the next week with more than we could get through in an hour. Each new song she guided me towards was like a new, shiny gem that entranced me – it was like there was an infinite amount of musical beauty in the world to discover, and I couldn't become familiar with it all fast enough.
The upcoming recitals feel like a bit of a trip to the past for me – preparing for them, I am constantly reminded of the passion for music that she nurtured in me and all the things I learned in those first six years of study with Rosie, who passed away in 2005. I'm also reminded of my many other mentors along the way, as well – but it is Rosie who has been popping up the most these past two weeks as Myra and I have started to dig into this material.
Having picked out the program myself (as with most recitals), I feel a stronger personal connection with this venue of performance and this music than other musical adventures I get to go on. So for the next month and half or so, the blog will mostly be devoted to my thoughts on the recital, the anecdotes that come up, and discussing the program itself. It's mostly what is consuming my thoughts these days, and it will be fun to ramble on about it as I prepare and swim through all of this music in the coming weeks.