Are you a singer interested in doing a summer program this year? Do you want to spend your summer in one of Canada’s most beautiful cities? Do you long for a life-affirming and potentially transformative experience? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you are in luck — there are still some roles available for the 2015 Halifax Summer Opera Festival. Singers, I encourage all of you to consider this welcoming, supportive, inspiring summer program. HSOF prides itself on providing excellent educational opportunities in a nurturing environment, with reasonable, non-prohibitive costs for participants. And, sure, those are great reasons for doing any summer program. But after spending five summers with HSOF I’ve come up with my own set of reasons that I’d like to share with you here.
Well, actually, money matters.
Okay, so the non-prohibitive costs thing is actually pretty great. There are several summer programs I would have auditioned for had their tuition fees been more reasonable. In my opinion, the cost of a few weeks’ worth of summer training should not rival the annual cost of an undergraduate degree. And while professional development is extremely important to me, I don’t want to spend so much on being a singer that there’s virtually nothing left for being a regular person with regular expenses and interests outside of singing. From a purely financial perspective, HSOF was perfect for me (and ended up being perfect for me in other ways, too.). I got to learn from wonderful faculty, share the stage with talented colleagues, push myself to develop artistically, and all without having to choose between doing a summer program and making RRSP contributions.
You get to spend the summer in awesome Halifax!
One of the fringe benefits of this program is that it just happens to take place in one of the nicest places imaginable. I fell in love with the city of Halifax in 2009, the first time I did HSOF, and after all these years it hasn’t yet lost its charm. Some of my favourite things about Halifax are: the harbour, Coburg Coffee, the colourful houses, the Public Gardens, garlic fingers at Freeman’s, being able to walk pretty much everywhere, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (where you can get a cup of tea from The Tea Brewery and take in the art of Shelagh Duffett), the summer weather, Two if By Sea‘s divine croissants, Point Pleasant Park, and Darrell’s. One of the great things about HSOF is that you have the time to explore the city. Sure, there are some long days of rehearsals, coachings, and masterclasses, but you’ll definitely have time to see the sights and experience all that Halifax has to offer. None of the many, many photos I took in Halifax are quite as beautiful as the real thing, but just to give you an idea, here’s a picture of some boats.
You will meet some of the best people ever. This is not hyperbole.
First of all, the people who run HSOF are amazing. They are some of the most creative, supportive, hard-working, friendly, [insert a dozen other complimentary adjectives here] people I have ever met, particularly the two women who started it all, co-founders Tara Scott and Nina Scott-Stoddart. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with them on three separate occasions. Each time my life was enriched immeasurably. The thing is, they just really, really care. They care about the art, and they especially care about the artists. I remember working on an aria for my first HSOF production, and rehearsals were going…. okay. Nina decided to spend some extra time to coach me individually, until I felt comfortable presenting this aria to the public. She probably had a million other things that needed doing that day, but she sensed that I needed this help, and she made that a priority.
The other thing I want to say about Nina is that she is a casting genius. She has the extraordinary ability to match singers to roles, but also to match singers to each other. Often during rehearsals I would think to myself, “Wow, this is the very best group of people I’ve worked with!” Sometimes it felt positively magical. Our casts always had singers at various stages of their careers, from students to emerging professionals, and I always found there was something I could learn from each person. But more than that, we forged friendships that have lasted well beyond the four week time frame of the program. I expect that many of these friendships will last a lifetime.
It could change your life. I swear, this is not hyperbole either.
I’m approaching 1000 words, so I think I’ll wrap things up by saying, very simply, that HSOF changed my life. I wouldn’t be the singer I am today had it not been for this program. I am eternally grateful for my experiences there, and would not trade them for anything. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. So, dear singers, please consider this wonderful summer program. It could change your life, too!