The Music Major Minute : Summer Training—Up Your Game

Summer break is universally celebrated by university students as a time to rest and recover from intense studies. Many students look for jobs to earn money, and most vocal music majors also find ways to keep up their training and perform. Following are examples of how voice majors might spend their summers. 

 

Summer Case Study #1: John Do Re Mi 

Voice Type: Baritone 

Year of Study: Senior Music Education Major 

Summer Plans: Participate in the Druid City Opera Workshop program, assist a high school music theatre camp, plan a benefit recital for a medical foundation that will help a family member, and practice piano in order to pass piano proficiency in the fall. 

Prediction: He returns to school in the fall more confident after his first Young Artist Program and donates $800 to the foundation that can benefit his family. He is more experienced with managing high school students and he passes piano proficiency the first week of school. He is relieved to have piano out of the way because he has 80 hours of observations to do for his education class. 

 

Summer Case Study #2: Jane Do Mi Sol 

Voice Type: Soprano 

Year of Study: Junior Vocal Performance Major 

Summer Plans: Work 40-hour weeks at Starbucks, learn and coach the entire role of Despina, and take a week-long trip to visit a friend in Mexico. 

Prediction: She returns to school in the fall with enough money saved that she needs to work only weekend shifts. She also plans to sing Mozart on her senior recital and asks her teacher for art songs in Spanish by a composer she learned about on her trip. Her teacher recommends her for a Spanish song competition, and she wins $500.

Summer Case Study #3: Billy Breaking Bad 

Voice Type: Tenor 

Year of Study: Freshman Vocal Performance Major 

Summer Plans: Go home, let mom cook and do laundry, catch up on the new season of Fortnite, and retake core classes online. He has three art songs to learn for fall, but will he learn them? 

Prediction: He returns to school with zero spending money because he didn’t leave the basement. He finished one core class but needs to apply for an extension on the other one. He also did not learn his music; consequently, his teacher will not recommend him for section leader of the choir because he has not demonstrated responsibility. 

 

Summer Training Options for All Voice Students 

There are many ways to continue learning over the summer. Doing so will not only prep you for fall but could lead to more opportunities down the road.

 

Lessons 

If you live near your university in the summer, does your teacher offer lessons? Take advantage of time to intensely work on your technique and get a jump on repertoire for fall. You can also work with coaches on new repertoire, refine your diction in audition arias, and memorize new songs/arias. 

 

Young Artist Program (YAP) 

Are you attending a YAP this summer? Whether it is a pay-to-sing program or an international festival, summer programs are designed for singers to network and train with new people. Prepare for your program by learning and memorizing any music assigned before you arrive. Bring your binder of art songs and arias to coach when you have extra time with the program faculty. Take notes or journal each day about the new techniques you are learning. 

 

DIY (Do It Yourself) YAP

Not attending a program this summer? Create your own! University students have access to libraries and practice rooms. Whether you choose to learn an opera role or a song cycle, or you have music for the fall semester to learn, make a schedule. 

Take time daily in the library listening to different singers, studying historical context, and writing in translations—then take your newfound knowledge to a practice room. Even better, challenge a friend or two to do this with you. Chip in on hiring a pianist and then at the end of six or eight weeks, perform your music for one another and nerd out by planning an after-party to talk about the interesting things you learned working on your own. 

 

Benefit Recitals 

If you are leaving campus and traveling home for the summer, there are a host of people cheering for you. Majoring in music might seem logical to you, but it is impressive to many of your extended family and friends. Your music-loving cousins, your church congregation, and your high school friends would probably love to hear you sing. The next time your aunt sees you in the grocery store and asks you to sing a high note, you can avoid that quagmire by inviting her to your summer benefit recital. Here is a checklist that can help you plan such an event: 

Decide on your program. Do you want to sing a solo recital or collaborate with friends or other local musicians? What type of music is both beneficial for your practice time and enjoyable for the crowd? 

Hire a pianist and rehearse as often as you can afford. When you are singing for grandma, the stakes may not seem high—but if you intend to invite your crowd to open their wallets and support your art, give them 45 minutes of your best music making. Communicate with your pianist about payment, whether that will be up front or after you earn donations. 

Try to reserve a recital space in a local church or school where you will not have to pay. Reasonable rental rates may apply—and tuning the piano is always worth the money—but if you find somewhere that doesn’t charge, be sure to write a sincere thank you card to the coordinator of that location. 

Print a simple program that follows a professional or academic format—including composer dates and texts/translations. This is an opportunity to professionally present your art form to your homies that might not realize you study history and languages. 

Ask someone with great fundraising skills to speak to the audience either at the beginning or end of the recital. A friendly, yet professional associate may announce your cause. Whether that is paying next year’s tuition or funding an international study opportunity, don’t be timid about asking people to support you monetarily. The speaker can remind your audience of the many costs involved in training to be a professional singer. That person can man the table near the exit with a formal basket or box for checks and cash donations. 

The savvy singing entrepreneur might combine this benefit recital with a GoFundMe (or similar) campaign to both promote your event on social media and offer people a simple way to donate. 

Be classy and thank your audience in the lobby as they leave. Post-performance chat is still a part of the performance. Positive remarks and gratitude are the law! Finally, when it is all sung and done, mail a handwritten thank you note for every check in your basket—those checks have addresses on the top. 

 

Stay on Track

Your summer goals might be game changers, or you might feel like you just want a break. Even your professors get a few weeks of vacation per year, and nobody will tell you not to take a little time off. Limit your rest and relaxation to a reasonable young adult level and then make your practicing great again. 

Wherever you are in your college studies and beyond, there is room for technical improvement. At the very least, vocal music majors will be more likely to have a successful fall semester if they achieve some practice and performance during the summer break. Best case scenario, you will recharge your musicality with a performance-based project and your next year of studies may bring significant solo opportunities, scholarship, and competition money that can assist your endeavors to sing. 

Christi Amonson

Soprano Christi Amonson’s recent concert engagements include touring China as a soloist with Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, “Easy to Love” pops concert with the Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra. Opera News described her sound as “liquid silver” after singing Nannetta with Chautauqua Opera. Amonson earned her DMA in voice and theatre under the tutelage of Grayson Hirst at the University of Arizona, where she has been an instructor. She earned her MM in Voice at the Manhattan School of Music and her BM in Music Education at the University of Idaho. In New York City, she sang with several opera companies and directed choirs for the Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Urban Voices Program. She is currently assistant professor of voice at Troy University.