The summer is a time of regeneration of energy and a renewal of conviction. Teachers often go to teach at summer academies or festivals. These are special times away from the routine of the mundane to reaffirm our dedication to the artform we love and hopefully to discover deeper aspects of our humanity that in turn will fuel our zeal to better the state of our art.
One of my newest students in Gothenburg has a home on the idyllic island of Klädesholmen on Tjörn (an hour from Gothenburg on the archipelago of the Swedish West Coast) and thought it might be a good idea to hold a masterclass there with a small group of students. I had envisioned a quiet, concentrated time with a few wonderful singers, hoping that the beautiful setting and open-lesson format would encourage trust, fellowship, courageous risk-taking leading to fundamental steps forward. One hopes for such things, but it is rare that our visions get realized totally and way beyond our wildest dreams.
I wanted this masterclass to be special, reflecting my philosophy of singing. Quite spontaneously, I ended up with confirmation from five very special students: 1) the student who owns the property and brought up this wonderful idea 2) the student who introduced me to Sweden 3) the American student who was looking for something special to do this summer, preferably in Europe, 4)the German student who had exactly those dates free, after a planned family vacation and just before rehearsing for her upcoming production and 5) the student for whom the trip became quite unexpectedly possible. In a strange way it seemed that this session was meant to happen for us six and I believe we were all changed by it.
Between arrival day last Sunday and departure day today we had three days filled with exercise, lectures singing, meals together and walks in what seemed a paradise on Earth.
I was determined to begin my days at 7:30 with Kung Fu practice. When the students heard of my plan, they decided to join me at the beach and everyone worked out side by side. We finished with a swim in the North Sea. We then had breakfast together followed by a lecture (Day 1 Phonation, Day 2 Breathing and Day 3 Resonance). After the lecture, we had tea together and then each student had a one hour lesson open to everyone else. Noone was required to stay, but everyone did, and everyone supported the others and the atmosphere created trust and each person became open to taking risks and letting go of what was safe for something more complete and uncertain. On the last day, we had a wonderful young coach come and the students experiences some of their pieces closer to performance mode. The pianist spent the entire last day with us and was of a similarly open, supportive and generous disposition.
Dinners were deliciously prepared and with great care by our generous host, whose heart is as huge as his Heldentenor voice. The others helped, sometimes by preparing a personal salad, or some condiment for our fantastic fish-dishes, etc. It was a time to relax and get to know each other in a very informal setting. Sometimes we talked about singing, but not so much.
The details are beautiful, but more than that I felt humbled by all my students at so many levels. They opened themselves so completely that I felt so responsible. Without exaggeration, I can honestly say that each of those five singers has a special genius and they trust me to help them make sense of it. I have been working with these singers for varying lengths of time and always avoiding false modesty, I believe I have guided them to their individual paths. Yet, it is I who am inspired. It is my sincere hope to become like them–to have a facile mind, a giant heart, a boundless spirit and the sense of truth to sing with that uniquely beautiful voice that originates not at their throats, but at the very center of their beings.
I do not have any wisdom to share today, but I think a teacher is just as much a product of his/her students’ virtues as the students are a product of the teacher’s experiences. After these few days, I believe I stand to benefit so much more from their collective gifts.
So I dedicate this blogpost to you Olof and Erik and Kala and Kati and Meta and Lisa. Klädesholmen is a beautiful place, but it is your outpour of love that made it Paradise for the last few days.
Jag kommer aldrig att glömma denna upplevelse. Ni är alla i mitt hjärta!