Wednesday, November 14, 2007

AIMS Graz 2007, My Experience - Part III - Sight-Seeing (Venice)

If I have one complaint about the AIMS program in Graz, it was the lack of time to travel. We were sort of led to believe that there would be a lot of time to do some sight-seeing, but we ended up having only one good weekend. But we certainly made the most of it, rented a car, and went to Venice.

In all of my time in Germany I never had the opportunity to travel to Italy, so this was a chance of a lifetime. Of course, I would rather go to Rome and Florence, but Venice was very nice. Venice is certainly a sight to behold, and I thought it was really funny that I only saw a few Italians.

Nothing really matches the reaction of walking out of the Venice train station and catching your first glimpse of the Grand Canal. It is like nothing you will see anything else. We then took a boat (their version of a regular bus) down the Grand Canal, saw the Rialto, and arrived at San Marcos Square. You quickly realize that most vendors sell the same things, and that summer is a sweaty crowded time to go, but it was worth it.

What is fun about Venice is that you can just go exploring, and never worry about getting completely lost. The Island city itself is so small yet so packed with interesting things that getting lost is actually part of the fun.

I also gave Deanna a task--to find some kind of jewelry that Abby would love, and she really came through. At first the search was pretty frustrating when we realized that most of the stores sold the same jewelry. Then in our exploring we past a small shop with a woman making her own jewelry, and we found the perfect piece. Deanna found a necklace/earrings combo that Abby loves, and wears just about every Sunday.

We had dinner on the Rialto--which was mostly great for the atmosphere. The food was okay, but spending $20 for about a palm-size portion of lasagna was disappointing to say the least. Still, nothing could beat the ambiance. The waiters were hilarious, and even tried to serenade for us.

Then, Rachel (Willis) took the opportunity to sing with a guitar player on the bridge over the Rialto. He was playing different arias, and when Rachel started singing with him a large crowd gathered. The crowd loved her performance and she received quite an ovation.

All that being said, the romance of Venice does tend to wear off pretty quickly. It was very crowded, and the fact we did not have a lot of money meant we could not do/see everything. Still, we all have a lot of fun memories, and I look forward to going back with the resources to go to the museums and concerts.

More to come!

(side note, I've decided to post my photos on my photo blog, and I will link to them from here. Enjoy!)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

AIMS Graz 2007, My Experience - PART II - GRAZ (Arrival & First Couple of Weeks)

The hardest part about traveling from London to Graz was the layover in Frankfurt. I grew up in Heidelberg just an hour away, and it was really hard to be so close and not be able to visit. My Oma also lives just about an hour away in Worms, but unfortunately we had a layover just long enough to run through security and get to our connecting flight.

Luckily everything went fine, and we arrived in Graz ready to go. I was surprised by the shabby quality of the Studentenheim, but we had our own sinks and got used to the smell pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that I am allergic to mold, and there was a ton of it in those dorms. I didn't identify the problem until about half-way through my trip to Austria, but it was very difficult to sing right from the start.

They kept things pretty low-key for the first week, allowing time for everyone to get over jet-lag and look around Graz. Having grown up in Germany and also having visited Austria several times I thought I knew what to expect. Interestingly enough Graz was much flatter and much more Italian than I expected. Everyone speaks German there, but they have thick dialects and the buildings and shops seemed much less German than I'm used to. The town does have a lot of culture even though it is very small, and I especially enjoyed going downtown.

Shortly after we arrived we auditioned, and it was from those auditions that they selected which performances we would participate in for the rest of the program. I didn't feel spectacular about my audition, particularly because it felt like I was singing through a brick wall. But luckily for me the room we auditioned in was extremely live, and the reverberation covered up some of my sickness.

I also began working with my teacher, which was probably the best part of the entire experience. I was assigned Dr. Alfonse Anderson from UNLV. He is a wonderful singer in his own right, and having a tenor who has a real ear for technique was very rewarding. He had ton of great advice right from the beginning, and also went right to work on my issues with legato. He is a kind, gracious man who is full of loving support.

I was also assigned a coach--Wei-Zhi Weng, and he also was full of great advice. He was particularly excited about my potential for singing German literature. He coached a ton of pieces with me, several coaching sessions happening outside of those scheduled on his own time. He is a conductor and music mentor in Berlin. For anyone wanting help who is singing in Berlin, you can link to his site here.

I also have to mention what a great support group all the girls from BYU were to me while I was there. It was a stressful time for me and for them, missing our families and having all of our own singing issues. The were full of good advice and were always available to talk to. Right from the beginning we developed a real family relationship.

Here are some photos! Enjoy!

Fountain, Downtown Graz

Statue representing the defeat of the Turks at Graz (notice how the statue is standing on a crescent)

My Graz Girls

View of the fortress of Graz

Church spires, note the Asian influence

How do you really feel? :)

Graz town center

Wow, Graz is the place for ice cream!

One of the many court yards in Graz

Graz's oldest bakery

on a tour of Graz


Deanna at out Strassenbahn stop

One of Graz's many clocks

Downtown Graz

The girls studying for BYU's Fall Opera (Marriage of Figaro)

These street performers were particularly fun--they played some really good Schubert

Room in the Graz University where we were welcomed by city officials
Party at the Palace (Me, Natalie, Rachel Cox, Deanna, Rachel Willis)

Rachel and her teacher Mary-Jane Johnson

The path leading to the palace

The Glasses

The AIMS Chorus

The room in the palace where the AIMS Chorus performed

To be continued...

AIMS Graz 2007, My Experience - PART I - LONDON

After my wonderful summer in Austria I finally wanted to get down on my blog a little synopsis of my trip. I met so many amazing singers, coaches, conductors, and teachers. I was also exposed to the Austria/Germany opera scene (and formed some opinions about it). I had a lot of opportunities to sing in some amazing venues, and much more. I also had the opportunity to do some site-seeing with some great friends, and really created an unforgettable experience.


The first stop of the trip took me to London where I spent a few days with my fellow BYU friends - Natalie Cope, Rachel Cox, and Deanna Lunt. I have always considered London my favorite city in Europe, and this only furthered my love for it. We only had a few days, but that was plenty of time to get a taste for the city. We saw some of the main sites like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Piccadily Circus, The National Gallery, and more. We also saw "Wicked" which was a lot of fun. I led us all to the wrong theater, but Rachel Cox just rolled up her sleaves and started running, and we got there only a few minutes late (after switching three subway cars, travelling several above and under-ground levels, running over several Londoners, and almost getting hit by several cars).

Deanna, Natalie, & Rachel

A Hotel in London (too bad it wasn't ours)

Classic Phone Booth (though it didn't smell that great inside)

Natalie, Me, & Deanna outside of Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall (I hope to sing here someday)

Natalie & Rachel

The Tower Bridge

The Wall of the Tower of London
I think Natalie is the queen of self-photos

On the set of National Treasure 2, in front of St. Paul's Cathedral

Big Ben

The Eye of London

Winston Churchill
Westminster Abbey Window
St. James Park
a bench at St. James Park


Flowers at St. James Park
Buckingham Palace
After "Wicked"

Big Ben from the National Gallery

Leeds, Leeds, Leeds! at Piccadilly Square

Outside Piccadilly Square

Tired at the National History Museum (too much site-seeing)

Natalie Video-ing the others

So there it is, stay tuned for more on Graz...