University Fellow Describes His Summer Experience | St. Lawrence University

University Fellow Describes His Summer Experience

José Miguel Santelices Ormazábal '17 was awarded the Daniel F. '65 and Ann H. Sullivan Endowment for Student/Faculty Research University Fellowship for the Summer 2016. Working directly with Barry Torres, director of music ensembles, his project was titled "Behind the Scenes: What Does It Take to Prepare a Recital?" He presented a voice recital on Sept. 24.

The following is José's summary of his work during his summer fellowship:

"On Thursday, May 26th, I began a journey that unexpectedly changed the course of my summer research. After a surprisingly smooth flight which crossed the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, I arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, with a pocketful of dreams, yet also fears. In Boston, I took part in the 2016 Classical Singer Convention, my first of this kind. During the four-day convention, I attended master classes and met professors from amongst the top 70 music schools in the nation. I was also privileged to meet fellow musicians who shared the same passion for opera as myself. Through this experience, I was able to reevaluate my career as a musician.

Back on campus, I met with Mr. Barry Torres, my mentor during my fellowship process. Following the convention, we mutually decided that changes had to be made to a previous plan. The fellowship then focused less on research and literature, focusing instead on improving my musicianship skills (sight-singing, ear training), working on singing technique with Professor Jonathan Stinson at the Crane School of Music and learning repertoire for my fall recital.

My daily routine was divided into four different parts:

  1. Diction: I worked on English, German, Italian and French diction. I based my study on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). I read about different vowels, and how to achieve them. This included the position of the tongue, jaw, the shape of the lips, and the openness of the throat and the soft palate. I worked on producing vowel sounds with Mr. Torres, and I also worked on my own taking advantage of a book with exercises on this matter.
  2. Vocal technique: I practiced several vocal exercises that provided me with a more solid technique. I did this on my own, with Mr. Torres, and also with Dr. Stinson. I worked on concepts such as “chiaroscuro” (brightness and depth of the voice), on creating internal space by lifting the soft palate to allow sound to resonate, on unanimity of vowels, on breathing technique, and on how to successfully go through the “passaggio” (which refers to the transition pitch range between the vocal registers). Of course substantial time was devoted to learning the repertoire for my recital: Siete Canciones Populares Españolas, by Manuel de Falla; Tre Ariette, by Vincenzo Bellini; and Four Songs, op.14, by Roger Quilter.
  3. Ear-training and sight-singing: I improved my ear-training skills using a computer program. I worked on melodic and harmonic dictation as well as sight-singing, covering about a semester’s worth of class material.
  4. Historical context: I listened to various musical works and discussed them with Mr. Torres. I also read about the life of the composers of the songs I selected for my recital. With all the information I collected throughout the summer, I wrote program notes for my recital. 

This fellowship was a time in which I learned and internalized habits that will help me in my career as a performing artist. I realized that translating every text of the repertoire I sing allows me to give a more honest interpretation. I also noticed the importance of ear-training and sight-singing skills, since they allow me to learn repertoire faster and to be able to listen to a piece by only reading the music score. Finally, perhaps the most important lesson I learned this summer was how daily practice took my voice to a different level.

Throughout the summer, Mr. Torres and I worked tirelessly together. We are both proud of what I have accomplished. My fall fellowship recital will take place during Family Weekend, on Saturday, September 24th, at 4pm in Peterson-Kermani Performance Hall and you are all invited."