Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



Rufus Müller

Abstract/Artist's Statement

These past four years have defined me in so many ways, that it seems impossible to sum them up in a few paragraphs. I am at a loss of words when it comes to describing everything that I found at Bard College. I am a double major in French literature and Music, studying as a tenor with Rufus Müller. I wrote a dissertation on the theme of silence in French Holocaust literature[1] last fall, and I gave the first of a two-part recital, titled Into the Woods, Home before Dark, a collection of songs from various composers centered around the theme of forest and night. The repertoire ranged from Schubert’s Erlkönig to Poulenc’s Tu vois le feu du soir, and represented for me a strong shift in what and how I was able to perform. My second recital will be performed after I hand in this paper on May 12th, at 5 pm in Bard Hall. Before I elaborate on the creation of this two-part project, I would like to mention certain moments of my stay at Bard that I consider crucial in my development as a singer. This is also an opportunity for me to thank certain people here at Bard.

I began working with Rufus Müller at the start of my sophomore year; it was him who came to me through a student and asked to give me a lesson. As it would turn out, this first lesson was the beginning of a lasting friendship and a series of drastic changes to my vocal evolution. In that first half-hour, I immediately felt that there has been untapped potential in my voice, that I was essentially using a fraction of what I was capable of. Coupled with the thrill of releasing sounds, I don’t remember a lesson that did not leave me with an exciting sense of euphoria. Since those first lessons, I feel that I have accomplished a lot of what I set out to do, namely to extend my range, to better my diction in Italian and German, and to feel comfortable in producing sounds on a stage in front of an audience (singing, essentially, boils down to that). Evidently, there is more to it, from breath control to tongue placement, to strengthening certain muscles, losing habits… The list is long. I am very thankful that I met Rufus, as not only was I introduced to a vocal technique that has served me well in the past years, but I also found a teacher that I could understand; one often takes for granted to ability to comprehend one’s manner of solving a problem, to grasp one’s expressivity, and to be able to reply in kind. This kind of bond is hard to come by, as I have found. I have been able to accomplish a lot in a short time with Rufus.

My first semester, I joined the Community Chorus here at Bard, in the hopes of securing a minimal involvement in the music department, especially since my sights, at the time, were set on majoring in Economics or Philosophy. We sang Vivaldi’s Gloria; I still remember the intense thrill of sight-reading through the whole score the first rehearsal. I quickly realized that I was better suited to the Chamber Singers, which brought choral singing to a new level, mainly through the talent of our conductor, James Bagwell. It is only during my last semester at Bard, through the conducting class I am taking with him, that I am able to realize his ability to brilliantly lead a group of teenagers in producing a cohesive – and beautiful – amalgamation of vocal lines; I am thinking specifically of Mozart’s and Duruflé’s requiems.

Several events have shaped my career here as a singer; these are mostly performances, the opera workshop productions and my recitals. In our day and age, we have the advantage of being intricately linked to our past through technology, with the advent of video and audio recording. This advance comes with a catch: most find it painful to watch oneself at earlier stages of development, and I am no exception. I remember watching my moderation recital and spending several months working through many faults that I discovered as I watched the recording. Nonetheless, each was an important step in solidifying a different skill. For example, I found myself to be fidgety and unsure of what to do with my hands during my moderation recital. In watching opera workshop performances, I found those faults slowly fading away, an important testament to the changes that I have gone through. For both of my senior recitals, I have worked hard to incorporate what I have learned in every step of the process. I struggled for many weeks with the selection of repertoire, the careful use of lesson time and coaching time, and the creation of programmed music in producing these recitals. It was worth it.

As the semester comes to an end, I feel that my sights have been set on the coming months for a long time now. I confess that I sometimes have trouble sleeping at night when I reflect on the choices ahead of me, the decisions I will have to take in the near future. Perhaps my greatest fear lies in the solitude of the process; but I am lucky to be surrounded by friends and family who support my decisions. This coming semester, I plan on moving to the city to begin a self-sufficient lifestyle, hopefully fueled by jobs in performance. As much as the future is daunting, I feel safe in saying that Bard has given me a set of skills at my disposal that make this change all the more exciting. I look forward to looking back on these four years as time well spent.

[1] Écrire contre le silence: Souvenir, lutte, culpabilité (2010)

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