Thursday, December 11, 2008


Fine (Italian) - "The End"

Another semester has come to an end, and I spent my last day listening to all my students sing for their supper, as it were. "Juries" are the musical version of a final, and after a semester of preparation, each student performs a portion of the pieces they have studied and theoretically learned. I have to be honest and say that as a student, juries never bothered me at all. My philosophy was that they provided me with a captive audience, and that was a very good thing. I know, however, that juries for many students are a terrifying experience, so I try to have a bit of compassion and sympathy for the students.

One of my real sticking points has little to do with singing and much to do with looks. I ask, beg, threaten and require that all students LOOK like singers. LOOK like performers. LOOK like professional musicians. In the olden days (she said, dating herself) it used to be easy. All I needed to say was, "church clothes" and students would come tastefully attired. Nowadays "church clothes" ranges from fancy-party-wear to fence-painting-wear, so that won't work.

Lately, I've tried to be more specific, explaining that dresses need not be as formal as...well, as a formal, and yes, pants are OK, provided they are dress pants with a dress shirt or sweater on top. This semester students did pretty well overall, with a few notable exceptions.

Herbie doesn't want to make toys. Neither does Schubert. - One student walked in with a short short red dress (body-hugging skirt and top, actually) and a pair of knee-high white Go-Go boots with white fur trim. She looked fabulous. If she were a Rockette. It was very difficult to concentrate on the beautiful German Lieder she was singing when all I wondered was if she was going to sing about the Island of Misfit toys.

One of these things is not like the other - Appropriate skirt. Check. Leggings because it's cold. Well, ok, I guess, because you're young and kicky. Acceptable top. Check. Four inch platform sandals with bare feet in 15-degree weather. SERIOUSLY?

Two of these things are not like the other - Appropriate skirt. Check. OK, leggings again? I suppose. Check. Acceptable top. Check. UGGS winter boots. Pass-a-rooni. There are a reason these things are called UGGS. It's because they are. They're UGG.

Goodnight Maw, Goodnight Paw, Goodnight Mary-Ellen - I was most pleased to see my gentlemen singers in shirts and ties, and sometimes a full suit. It's fairly apparent, however, that this is not usual garb, because I was pretty sure at one point, I saw the ghost of my Grandpa walk across the stage wearing armpit-high belted pants.

Only a flesh wound - Only in college do you break your foot and limp on stage wearing one stilletto and carrying the other one in your hand and then proceed to cram the shoe on your broken foot because you just got the shoes and they look great on you.

London and France - No, I didn't see any underpants, but I did see everything else. One lovely dress? Cut down to Florida and slit up to New York City. Sleeveless. In winter. bare legs and sky-high WIGGLY TOED sandals. Yes, my comment sheet did include a listing of what is a necessary singers uniform, including boring but necessary plain pumps and a stylish but modest (and comfortable) dress with sleeves.

Am I being picky? Maybe. But better me than a total stranger. Am I being unreasonable? Not in the slightest. Graduate schools and potential employers are all going to make decisions that consciously or subconsciously take clothing into consideration. The more blatantly a nose is thumbed at the notion of wearing appropriate clothing for the appropriate occasion, the more that same nose opens itself up to criticism that has nothing to do with singing.

So the rule of thumb is, before you sing your first note, to put your best foot forward. Just be sure there aren't any wiggly toes hanging out at the end.

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