In terms of education, Susan Graham has experienced just about every different type of program available. The mezzo attended a state university for her undergraduate work; a major conservatory for graduate studies; and later participated in the Merola Young Artist’s Program in San Francisco before embarking upon a major international career, a Sony Classical recording contract, and credits in most major houses and festivals.
“It really depends on the individual’s background…most people from Europe don’t even know about the university experience, and I would guess that Americans are split pretty evenly,” says Graham. She did her undergraduate work at Texas Tech University before earning a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music. “There are the great music schools like Indiana, Northwestern, USC–and their supporters are devout. And then there’s the Juilliard, MSM, Eastman, NEC route, whose supporters are equally enthusiastic.
“When I was 18,” Graham says, “I thought I would prefer to be in a more multi-disciplined environment, and I really just wanted the ‘college experience.’ I wasn’t so sure at that point which direction I wanted to take. Plus, I really wasn’t ready to go far away from home, so I opted to stay in Texas and go to the nearby Texas Tech University. I did go to Manhattan School of Music for a master’s degree. So I did both.”
Graham enjoyed Texas Tech, and found the numerous large-scale opera and musical productions rewarding, but there were missing links as well–the language study, she felt, was not as good as it might have been, and there were few opportunities to observe great singers in performance. She doesn’t regret her undergraduate experience, however, and her conservatory education and New York experiences filled in the blanks.
“It wasn’t until I came to New York and MSM at age 25, that I managed to shed my old inhibitions and ‘re-invent’ myself in a new place,” she says. “It inspired me to go beyond myself and actually see what the possibilities were, and tap my potential for the first time. However, I would not have been ready or able to do that at an earlier age, as an undergraduate.”