Henry Michaels: What has the transition to an online model been like for the Vocal Institute?
John Churchwell: It’s a very unique challenge working with singers online. The very creation of sound is internal for singers, so there is no hand position, bow, fingering, etc. to look to when we are trying to identify what needs to be changed in terms of production. The fact that we are relying on sound quality alone—and now through Zoom—makes our work extra challenging. But with determination comes resourcefulness. We are finding ways to engage with our singers and pianists through text and drama, through programming, and by creating a safe space for us to work as a group and share our experiences and difficulties. It’s been incredibly rewarding.
Aaron Grant: Over the past three weeks we have taken a virtual tour around the world, with faculty and fellows participating from all over the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel, and South Korea. While we all miss Santa Barbara and the Academy’s gorgeous facilities, it has been wonderful to get to know our singers and pianists “at home” in so many different locations.
How have you enjoyed getting to know the fellows through this distanced format?
JC: Getting to know the fellows in this format is unfolding at a slower rate than normal, but seeing their excitement and passion for studying is showing us really what is at the heart of these fellows and their need to communicate.
AG: I am constantly amazed by our fellows. During this incredible time and in this brand new format, our artists have remained endlessly flexible and enthusiastic. The Music Academy has assembled an incredible group of singers and pianists for the Vocal Institute this year, and it is a privilege to spend this (distanced) time with them.