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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Conducting fellowships and big breaks for tenors,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice, do you know that Marin Alsop has founded a special program to support and encourage young women who have chosen conducting as their career in music? Visit: Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship --

Dear Taki Concordia conducting fellowship,

In a word, no, though I have terrific respect for Marin Alsop, so anything she chooses to support is A OK with me ...

However, I downloaded the requirements for candidate applications (in the spirit of pure scientific inquiry, you understand, having last conducted while doing my Indiana University cello performance course more than two decades ago).

This is what I found:

Current résumé & repertoire list.
2 letters of professional recommendation.
Video or DVD not to exceed 10 minutes.
Essay (not to exceed 1,500 words): Please describe what is your vision for the 21st century orchestra?
Deadline for materials is 15 July 2006

And so, being me, I thought I'd have a go (at 1500 words on the 21st century orchestra), and here they are.


under a conductor
(almost certainly male, probably lousy)
playing to fewer and fewer white-headed grannies and grandfathers,
some of them awake and some of them worrying
about getting away early due to parking problems.

These are the dark, desolate days,
when nature in its stupidity equals the vicissitudes of man.

Yet still we shall stand, wearing dinner jackets and black dresses
against the rising tide of philistinism defying lack of interest,
appalling new compositions, and (basically) no money.

Here we shall stand,
assured in our defiance of the eternal gratitude
of dear Margaret Slade of Malvern
and others who gather to hear Mozart,
often Beethoven, sometimes Brahms
(though Shostakovich is frankly pushing it)
and hope to feel in ninety minutes with interval
(and a longish queue for the ladies)
something immortal.

May God support us
in this rash endeavour
and heap confusion upon our enemies,
and may our mortgages
not be everlasting,

(There will now be a collection on behalf of those whose brains have perished in the pits of 'Les Mis' and 'Phantom of the Opera', Deo Gratias, Amen)

(Can I have a zillion pound Arts Council grant for crap poetry, please?)

Ask Alice

Hi Alice, I found your website pretty much interesting ... I am a young tenor and wanted to know how is it possible for tenors to get their big break in the world of opera ... please send via email ...

Dear Y O Fanatic,

Well, you're already half-way to fame, being a tenor -- of whom, as you may know, there are far, far fewer than sopranos, baritones and even mezzos.

Obviously, some tenors (some regrettably) HAVE gotten their big break in the world of opera in various bizarre ways. I however (being old-fashioned) prefer the time-honoured methods of singing for those who know the good from the great (including the major opera houses) or -- failing getting an audition there, should your background be unusual -- by targeting the top singing teachers of our time. Competitions can be useful, but you're unlikely to be accepted by any reputable ones without someone respectable in your corner, recommending you as a genuine young talent.

You have come to the wrong place to get their names, as I'm only a string player, but the top music colleges can advise you on their current crop of vocal professors and you'd do far better to spend 100 pounds on someone who knows their onions than 20 pounds an hour on some local person who may or may not soullessly wreck your voice forever.

Yours in the high Cs,

Copyright © 26 May 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice




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