musica-no, I don't think that it's a middle of nowhere regional thing nor do think that you and I are as far apart as we may seem to others. The changes in the world of classical singing is having a major impact, no doubt about it. The number of kids graduating with VP degrees each year far exceeds what it was even 10 years ago much less back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, when a lot of the teachers currently at major conservatories hit the street (and there were quite a few of them who didn't have degrees, but who worked with good teachers). Gone are the days when, like Frederica von Stade, one could wander into a top school during lunch hour just wanting to learn how to read music and end up with a Met contract in hand a few years later! A lot of schools haven't hired a new VP teacher in quite a few years and many of those that are there have bios consisting of roles sung in small houses in Europe or in the US companies which no longer exist. There were the days of Rudolph Bing at the Met when American singers were preferentially hired and younger singers also got opportunities from the tours and outreach that the company did. There were fewer singers though, so more opportunities existed.
Now we have schools- and not all of them even considered as high as 3rd tier schools- churning out singers by the hundreds as VP and MT grads. Are all of these kids employable as professional singers, or are they even very good? Odds are against that. But, off they go during the summers to non-auditioned programs, many in Europe, where the main requirement is the family's ability to write a big check and at the end of the period, home come the kids with pictures of themselves singing next to a very pretty fountain or talking about having sung Zerlina in a scenes concert in a picturesque Austrian village. There you go: performance credits![ I will admit that I am not a proponent of the pay-to-sing programs (for the most part); they're an invention to keep all of the American kids happy, young European singers don't take part. When and if you're good enough, you'll be able to attend programs without paying an arm and a leg.]
Seattle Opera just announced the suspension of its Young Artist Program, effective in the 2013-2014 season, due to a shortfall in funds. I fear that other programs may also be in jeopardy, which will leave fewer good training grounds for emerging artists. Has anyone else been following the entrant (and winners) lists in major vocal competitions this year? Instead of seeing unfamiliar names, singers who have been performing featured roles at houses from the Met to the ROH and who have come through the Lindemann, HGO,Ryan Opera Center and Merola/Adler Young Artist Programs are entering and taking home the money. This is a change from the past and we can only speculate as to what's driving it.
Singersmom07- There are many voice department heads serving now who have very little performing experience, but that's an interesting question. If a school has an excellent director of the opera department and a top coaching staff is it really that necessary for the pedagogical side to have loads of roles under their belts? I'm not sure, and it may well be dependent upon the interdepartmental relationships.
There are great singers who are terrible teachers- they just are not able to communicate the "how tos" or they can't deal with the spotlight not being on them, and there are vocal coaches- collaborative pianists- who aren't singers at at all, but who can make a good voice better and a great voice sublime by unlocking potential and helping the singer find the best path through a piece. An excellent teacher may not have sung every role within his/her fach but might have a tremedous grasp of vocal health, breath support and technique. I think we all agree that there are different ways to achieve a goal and that not everyone's goal is the same. musica pointed out that there are different teaching locales, some of which may even provide a living while pursuing further study. I also firmly agree with the statement that one should focus upon being the best possible performer, but again, that might have different meanings to different people. In this very overcrowded field, it's important to make yourself stand out from the pack.
Last edited by Mezzo'sMama; 07-12-2012 at 10:54 PM.