A Day in the Life of an Opera Student

At Juilliard, Students Learn That Opera Is Both Craft and Commodity
The Juilliard School in New York City has trained some of the world’s most prominent singers since opening its opera department in 1930, including Leontyne Price, Simon Estes, Renée Fleming and Audra McDonald. The school continues to attract undergraduate and graduate students pursuing specialized music educations.
“By high school I had decided to go into music instead of taking the easy way out, like becoming a dentist or accountant,” said tenor Ross Chitwood, 20, who grew up on a dairy farm in Sulphur, Okla. “When I walked into the lobby of Juilliard, I knew it was the right place for me.”
A typical day for Mr. Chitwood begins at 9:30 a.m. with ear-training class, one of the musical subjects the singers study alongside classmates who are instrumentalists. Other courses include musical dictation, theory, conducting, music history, piano proficiency, and electives that cover specific composers and genres. Vocal arts students must also sign up for two foreign languages.
After lunch, the singers concentrate on theatrical skills in the Juilliard Opera Studies program. Here, they learn acting, movement, improvisation, stagecraft and stage makeup application. They also receive individual coaching for voice and diction to refine their vocal technique. “In drama workshop, we work with masks to create a character without using our faces,” said Rebecca Saslow, a 21-year-old mezzo-soprano from Boston, who praised the training as crucial to her education.
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