Angela Leigh Ahiskal (USA)
I would first like to thank Dr. Konaga and her staff for the opportunity to attend such a course and their hard work to make sure everyone’s needs were met. They were very kind and extremely accomodating. The entire week was well-organized and the logistics ran very smoothly. I thought it a nice touch to be able to have lunch with the professors throughout the week, allowing us more time to get to know them outside of “working hours”. The concert was also very well attended, despite the unconventional hour – this demonstrates a sincere effort on the part of the administration.
I feel very grateful to have taken part in the week’s classes, only wishing that it could have gone on indefinitely! Prof. Ueker was very specific in his ideas for the interpretation of the music and easily conveyed them to us, while still allowing for each singer’s individuality. His suggestions were always in the service of the music and I felt that each one, when successfully achieved by the singers, really made the music come alive. His passion for and deep knowledge of this music is evident in every comment he makes and it was truly a joy to work with him. He was extremely exacting and detailed in working with us, all the while maintaining a supportive and positive atmosphere. I learned an incredible amount from him, whether actively participating or listening to the other singers – I will continue to apply both the specifics and the general concepts he taught us throughout the rest of my career.
Prof. Gehrke is truly a “singer’s teacher”. He is somehow able to break down and explain the mechanics of the vocal event (whether good or bad) without overwhelming the singer to confusion. This ability is, truly, rare. Over and over throughout the week I witnessed, both in myself and the other singers, eureka! Moments in technique. His manner is incredibly easy-going, and working with him never feels like “work”. He is able to put even the most skittish at ease and gain trust at lightning speed. This is also a rare gift, and incredibly important when working with singers – so much of what we do is an extension of thought. A singer does not typically move forward unless they really trust their teacher, and he had that trust from all of us. His diagnostic and problem-solving ability is uncanny and once you are able to achieve the technical suggestion he has made, singing that phrase or line or even a single pitch is always so much easier – and so much more beautiful! His prowess does not end there, however. Prof. Gehrke is also attentive to the musical line and interpretation, his opinions of which he shares with both seriousnes and flair. I thoroughly enjoy laughing (and crying) in lessons with him and I take away a myriad of improvements after each session.
I would also like to take a moment to comment on the way Prof. Ueker and Prof. Gehrke work together. One day each singer had a session with them both at once. I must say, that it has been in my experience very unusual to be a part of such a complementary pairing. I have known only one other such case. There was an incredible amount of information exchange during that session, both artists sharing their perspective with the participants in such an integrated way. They left no stone unturned! This session was a real highlight of the course.
It was my great honor and distinct privilege to have participated in this course. I highly recommend it to any singer who is truly inspired by the music they sing and wishes to find the path to bringing their own artistry to the fore.