Page 70 - Classical Singer magazine 2019 Fall University Issue
P. 70

Dynamic Duo at Curtis
happen post-Curtis, in their late 20s,” he says. “I can’t say that when I was 25 I had this plan and I followed this plan. There was a lot of evolving to do.
“With soubrettes, they’ll be taking on their roles, and it will be very clear. Whereas I didn’t have a niche; I did
a lot of di erent things early on, and that can be a slower road. A Queen of the Night or a Carmen might be clear earlier. It’s going to be a tailor-made thing. There is no stock answer.”
Mary Louise Curtis Bok stated the school’s ethos as follows: “Students shall learn to think and express their thoughts against a background of quiet culture, with the stimulus of personal contact with artist teachers who represent the highest and  nest in their art.”
Those artist teachers may be in Philadelphia, or they may not. Curtis does not have a set faculty of voice teachers. “The faculty that we list on the website are just the people our singers happen to be studying with,” Owens says. “We’re not limited to this group; we can go out and explore and  nd who is best for whom. There might be a year when you don’t see a certain name on the list because that person doesn’t have a singer at Curtis that year.
“There are some core teachers with whom we’ve had success, and
70 Classical Singer | September/October 2019
we can coax certain students in that direction, but only if it’s working,” Owens says. “I’m of a  rm belief
that if it’s not working, then it behooves all of us, including the
voice teacher, to help them  nd someone else. If someone decides
to move to a di erent teacher, it is not an indictment of that teacher,
it just means that for that student something is not working. It’s such
a personal thing. If something is not progressing, or if it’s deteriorating, we all have to sit down.
“You have to pivot and  nd someone else. But we also don’t want a student to go voice teacher shopping every other week. Give it a year, or a year and a half. If there is too much change, there can be an overload of information, and that’s not good.”
Again, the terms of success will be practical. “If they come in and they’re doing well,” Owens says, “we’re going to do everything we can to allow them to stay with that person, within reason. We’re not going to  y them to California. Monday is lesson day, and the bulk of our students get on the train and go up to New York to study with their teachers.
“So, if a student comes in with
a teacher they like and are doing
well with, it is possible, though not guaranteed, that they will continue with that teacher. [With one] soprano
who blew us away in her audition, we thought, ‘We’ve got to let her stay with this person who got her here,’ even though this person has never been on the faculty. All the faculty is of an adjunct nature.”
This highly unusual arrangement takes away one of the most problematic aspects of studying voice in conservatory, which is the sometimes random assignation of teachers. By contrast, Curtis’ policy states: “Voice teacher selection will be made by the student with the approval of the dean of vocal studies and the president.”
“Any voice teacher’s job is
to ultimately make themselves unnecessary,” Owens says. “You give the singer the tools to self-police.” These days Owens does not work regularly with a teacher himself, preferring to rely on the guidance of various people whose ears he trusts— especially members of the Met’s sta , including Craig Rutenberg, Carol Isaac, and John Fisher. “I do a lot of self-policing,” he says. “Hopefully I’m the  rst one to hear if something is wrong, but that’s not always the case, and I’m lucky to have these other people.”
Owens’ singing schedule is still full. He will sing Porgy at the Met this season, and next summer he will  nd his King Marke in T ristan
Danielle Orlando coaches Curtis alumna Elena Perroni.
photo by Pete Checchia

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