For students in the Voice Program, the opportunity to perform in front of an audience is a valuable hands-on experience. For each Wednesday concert, they rehearse with the accompanist repertoires that have been practiced and tweaked over time.
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in McKnight Hall, students will take a slightly different approach to the program.
Originally, Philip Stoddard and Sienna Miller were slated to perform together, but in the wake of recent national events such as the deaths of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Alva Braziel in Houston, and protests across the country, the students began to change their plans.
“It’s going to be a very inclusive and expressive piece,” Stoddard said. “We’ve been collaborating with several members of the Voice Program on a project that has particular relevance to what’s happening right now.”
He said that performing his originally scheduled piece seemed wrong, given the events that have been unfolding around the country. Now, he said, the concert will have more depth and dimension because the relevance of his new work will be highlighted. The piece will be an hour long, with several students of the program involved.
“[The program] is not a secret, but we are trying to keep it, in a sense, under wraps,” he said. “It is going to be a surprise.”
Stoddard said it’s not about throwing out classical material, but it’s important to break down barriers and illuminate its relevance. He wants to use the time he has been allotted to show people something more than a well-dressed singer standing next to a piano.
He and the other students opted to change directions in an effort to devote the time and platform that they have been privileged with to the issues they feel strongly about.
“Not just to talk, but to listen to what’s going on in our country, and hopefully giving space in a community like Chautauqua for stories and voices to be heard,” Stoddard said.
For Stoddard and other voice students, illuminating and embracing the experiences the members of their community is a priority, because they may not be given the time and space needed to be heard very often.
“It is inspired by national events, and how poetry and words and song can have profound meaning in times when we feel lost or we feel at a loss for direction,” he said.
Voice student Rebecca Farley will be performing five Liszt songs. She has been coming to Chautauqua for a couple years, and said that being able to perform here is greatly enjoyable.
“I know and I love this community now,” she said. “I know these coaches, and I love to get to make music with people that I care about. I’m with really great company, which also inspires me to put my best product forward.”