Keeping My Cool

<p>Hey everyone. I am currently a junior in High School. So right now, I'm kind of at the point in my life where I'm not completely should what I want to do (I have many ideas, though). First and foremost, I would say my number aspiration right now is to be an opera singer (I feel like I am a really solid bass and have lots of confidence in myself). However, I know that the competition for this is fierce and theraod to success is very long (I'd be smiling all the way through, though!). I've been taking voice lessons for about a year and a half now, and I'm wondering if my current experience level is adequate for my aspirations. I know that if I wanted to major in any other instrument, then the answer would be no, but I know that voice is very different from any other instrument (While one can be a virtuose pianist at age 13, there's only so much one can really do while the voice hasn't fully matured). The only official assessment that I've gotten of my voice has been at the auditions for my state's regional choir (which I did really well in, but I'm not sure how much that really says about my potential). My repertoire for auditions is well where it needs to be (or it at least will easily be by the time that rolls around). Here's a question; Does anyone know how I can get my voice assessed by someone at a university or elsewhere? I would really like to know where I fall in the talent pool (although I can't say that I'd get discouraged even if someone told me that I didn't have what it takes, but hopefully I won't have to deal with that). And I plan on auditioning for a summer program for voice or opera soon. </p>

<p>Now that that's said, I will lay down my other talents and skills. For a few years, I've had aspirations of being a musical theatre performer. I still do, but I don't want to major in it at college (I feel like I really want to focus on music, and not get a diluted version of acting singing, and dance training.) I have been taking piano lessons for a many years (although I recently quit to make room for other things, but I still play 24/7). Would it be a good idea to resume piano lessons if I can convince my parents? I feel like it would be a good idea because I really would like to be able to work as an accompanist or do other piano related jobs when I'm older. I also have taken saxophone lessons for a few years (I quit a few years ago, but I still play it sometimes). I'm hoping to rejoin the symphonic band at my school next year on alto saxophone. I also have been beginning to compose several songs as well. I feel like I have great potential as a composer, but I don't think I'd be able to major in it because I've only written a few songs that haven't really been performed anywhere yet (Could I still major in composition possibly? I'm not sure, I'd just be assuming not). </p>

<p>I also am an actor. I've been in quite a few school and community theatre productions before, and I really enjoy it. I also took up tap dancing this year, and I love it very much and find that I have very much potential as a dancer (I progress so fast and practice all the time). Another interest of mine is playwriting. I'm currently working on writing a musical (both libretto and music), so we'll see if that goes anywhere. And I'm also very good at learning languages. I do very well in my French class in school and I'm looking to start learning Italian. I don't know if learning languages could be interwoven with opera (besides a few classes in diction), but that'd be great if it could!</p>

<p>So basically, I kind of don't know what to do with all of those skills and talents. I'm not really stressed out right now because I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I will be doing something I love. I just don't know what yet. My voice teacher recommended majoring in voice and minoring in theatre (because I'd be absolutely devastated if I had to give up musical performances in college. But at the same time I don't want to major in acting because I want to focus on voice and music more). I also feel like I could be a voice teacher or musical director later in life. I would really appreciate any suggestions that you all have for me. I know this is a lot, but any and every comment would be greatly appreciate.</p>

<p>I'll see if I can comment on a few of your points: first, taking piano again would be a help for you as a singer and you'll have to take it in any college VP program anyway so the better you play when you apply, the faster you can test out. Also, languages, not just diction, are a requirement for a Voice major- French, Italian and German and then diction in all of them plus English. You'll also take Opera Workshop and an acting class or two, with possibly an option for more. Dance is also required in many programs, but it's Modern and sometimes Period dance, tap won't be much help at all except for basic rhythm. Don't get hung up on " being a bass" either- fachs can and do change, most young singers shouldn't be concerned with them and very few young men your age are true basses. That would be something to discuss when you are looking for someone to hear you, but do explore the baritone rep ( there's much more of that for guys your age!).
Performing in MT productions while a VP major is not permitted in most schools because the technique used is very different and you'll be spending time going back to square one in your voice lessons for a while.
Any experience on an instrument or in an ensemble can only help you as a singer- you wouldn't believe how many VP majors don't read multiple clefts or even simple melodic lines when they begin as freshmen!
Getting an evaluation will probably have to wait a few months because schools will be holding auditions through March, but you should begin to scope out teachers whom you may want to contact. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk further.</p>

<p>I would guess your best bet on finding a teacher for an evaluation would be letting people know where you live geographically and then people may weight in on teachers accessible to you they think could give an evaluation. One warning, don't just pick some local teacher that people in your area says is great or because they teach at a college level program or local parents 'swear by' the person, do the research. People mean well, but they see some kid who has studied with "Mr. X" and who gets the lead in school musicals or wins some local competitions and think the teacher is creating the next Domingo'es of the world, when they are likely to be mediocre in terms of the 'real level' out there. </p>

<p>In terms of all region, all state chorus and such, I wouldn't put much weight on that, IMO in both instrumental and vocal performance the all region/all state programs generally don't give much of an idea of how someone stacks up in terms of 'real' ability, the programs vary from state to state and in reality they generally represent a distinct pool from the top young players out there and based on personal experience high level teachers can discourage kids from trying out (yes, top level students do go into the all state programs, but that doesn't indicate the overall level). </p>

<p>I agree with MM, no matter what you do in music, taking piano lessons is a plus, since as they say, almost all music starts with the Piano. Even for kids like my S who have a very broad musical background in theory and such, who can analyze a score and so forth, taking Piano lessons helps broaden the musical experience as well as improve the technical knowledge of music. As far as getting jobs later as an accompanyist or whatever, that one was brought up in another thread, and if you are talking about local gigs, like accompanying local music recitals, etc, then that could be a possibility, if you are talking high level accompanying at a professional level, that would be highly unlikely, these days a lot of young musicians end up getting advanced degrees in collaborative studies, and they are top level pianists in their own right, so it is highly unlikely at this point that you would be able to start taking lessons again and achieve that kind of level...but you should seriously think of taking it for the reasons MM and I mentioned. </p>

<p>Composition has its own requirements others can talk about better then I, but what I can tell you is it requires not just the passion to do it, but also takes a lot of technical knowledge in terms of theory and the like. Have you ever studied music theory in any way, for example? Composing music is not the same thing as writing songs, it is a very different endeavor. I can use a midi keyboard fed into a computer running a program like Finale and hack out a tune doing that, but that isn't composition......I ask that question, not to say don't do it, but rather to ask yourself why you want to study composition, do you already have background in it, or does it look interesting? I will also add that composition is not a fall back from singing or being an instrumentalist, getting into a high level composition program is not any easier then as a performer, and usually the kids who get into those programs already have some background, some training, in theory and the like (others on here with composition experience can weight in better)</p>

<p>The top composition programs require the submission of a portfolio of concert pieces. They also require at least one teacher recommendation. In the ideal world this letter would come from your private composition teacher. At some point prior to admission, the top programs require the taking of a test of your music theory abilities. All of this speaks to the top composition programs requiring a prior background in composition.</p>

<p>Some very good university based composition programs (University of North Texas for instance) require only an instrumental audition and no submission of scores. These schools determine who can be a composition major through composition and theory course work in the first and sometimes second year. But these programs weed out a large number of students who want to be composition majors but can’t cut it in the comp and theory classes.</p>

<p>There are several programs that focus on the pop song. Two schools that have very good pop song programs are USC Thornton and Berklee. Such programs are very competitive as far as admissions.</p>

<p>As has been said in several recent threads, getting into the better music programs is difficult. It takes a focus and time commitment that can be grueling. Interest in music is one thing, having the talent, drive, and focus to achieve at the highest level is something else.</p>

<p>Thank you for your comments. And musicprint, I have already been taking piano lessons for a good five or six years. But I quit lessons to make room for other things (financially and schedule wise). But I could start up again if my parents will let me. Regardless, I continue to learn new pieces on my own, and I think that my sight reading ability and overal playing ability continues to improve. If I did start to take lesson again, could I possibly get the point of becoming a professional accompanist?
And as for composition, I do have theory knowledge (I am taking AP Music theory this year). If I want to continue with composition, do you think that I should buy composition software? (I ahve a free version right now, but I feel like it's not the beset out there). I feel like I might stand a chance if I really got to writing right now and got a teacher or something. But I'm sure yet. I still want to go to college for VP at this point, but if I change my mind I want to have my options open.</p>

<p>If you will send me a private message with your location, I will try to recommend a resource for you to get an evaluation. My personal opinion is that playing a wind instrument is not helpful and may cause problems for a singer. Keyboard skills are always helpful. Good luck!</p>

<p>Finale and Sibelius are popular brands of notation software. My son and his high school use Finale. Most college programs use both. Don’t let these programs keep you from learning to notate really well by hand. U of Denver Lamont requires one of your scores be notated by hand. Oberlin at time required that two of the scores be done that way, but doesn’t anymore. Composition is something in which you will not progress unless you do it. A private teacher will certainly be able to help you as to your portfolio submission.</p>

<p>One concern I have though is that you do not split your focus too much. You want to be at your best for what you audition. In trying to get into the top programs, it will not help to be merely good at two things. For audition purposes, it would be better to be great at one thing.</p>

<p>An advantage of being in a top program for composition is that the level of the players and singers to whom you have access is amazing.</p>