On December 15, the walls of Hahn Hall reverberated with the talent and power of 25 of the 550 classical singers who are currently competing for the chance to study under the direction of legendary singer and vocal teacher Marilyn Horne in the Music Academy of the West’s 2013 Summer School and Festival. In August 2013, those singers selected will perform in Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Granada Theatre.
Before the auditions began, one of the judges, Warren Jones, came out to explain to thje audience that the voices selected need to suit the roles available. Alumnus Christopher Filipowicz, who was the first to audition, explained that the characters are what keep The Magic Flute timeless: “There are so many different levels that you never feel like you’re getting all the same music all the time, and I think it’s because there are so many different characters with specific kinds of music.”
For Filipowicz, this isn’t his first time auditioning for the Music Academy (MAW). The last time he did so, it was amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City. “The energy was a lot busier, so it was a lot more stressful; it’s just nervous energy and you want an outlet for it, so you want to sing,” he said. Both then and now, he has been the only bass auditioning, and his “unique voice type” thus allowed him more stage time, so he was familiar with the feeling of being onstage. He performed a couple of arias from The Magic Flute, the music of which he thoroughly enjoys.
Not every competitor performed pieces from The Magic Flute. MAW alumnus John Kapusta, a tenor, performed a Strauss excerpt as well as a Mozart aria for his audition. He was familiar with the audition process, but, nevertheless, he said that his “heart was definitely racing, but it wasn’t too bad.” Kapusta started singing at a young age with his musical family and began his formal training while in junior high. His studies at the Music Academy of the West greatly helped him in preparing for this audition, since he learned four out of the five pieces in his repertoire last summer at the Music Academy. Kapusta also credits the faculty in that “their guidance was really helpful.”
In fact both Filipowicz and Kapusta offered great praised to the faculty of the Music Academy of the West. A third alum, soprano Ashley Watkins, described the faculty at the Music Academy as “second to none.” She especially credits her mentor, voice program director Marilyn Horne, as her biggest influence. “Not many singers who have had a career of her caliber are accessible to young and up-and-coming singers, so she’s a gem,” Watkins said. Beyond her professional instruction, the main inspiration for Watkins’s singing has been her grandmother; the two would sing hymns on her grandmother’s bed as soon as she could speak. Once in college, Watkins started her classical training.
The audition process for the voice program at the Music Academy is not new to Watkins. Up there onstage, “a million things” run through her head, mostly the text and subtext of the piece. Describing the experience, she remarked that “it was a good thing to not be so distracted by nerves and all of the worries of the world, but just to be kind of in the moment.” And it was a very good thing to be in the audience and listening to all of these fabulous young voices.