Hannah, “Mein Herr Marquise”

Hannah, “Mein Herr Marquise”

The Voice Program at the Aber Suzuki Center in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, has started an exciting new program offering for its students called the Aber Suzuki Vocal Performance Troupe. Last year, my older students asked me for a new performance opportunity. While my students enjoy singing on recitals, in the community, and for contests, they wondered if I could create an additional, different performance venue.

For several years I have had the idea of a performance troupe in mind, but was not certain whether I could add this to my agenda. With the students’ inquiries and the current state of the economy, I decided now was a good time to act upon this idea.

There are three goals for this troupe:

The first goal is to introduce and educate young people in our area to classical vocal music. There is a great wealth of wonderful vocal literature that the average child does not hear, nor do they see children their own age singing this repertoire.

The second goal, given the state of our economy, is to enable my students to contribute back to the arts. Our schools do not often have a budget for outside educational programs. We perform free of charge not only to provide more performance experience to my vocal students, but to heighten and broaden classical music in our area.

Our third goal is to provide the students with new and challenging performance opportunities.

How do we do this? Each advanced student learns an aria, duet, or other piece that fits with a particular theme. A script pertaining to the theme is written by the students and proofed by Kay Holz, our accompanist and volunteer program assistant. An accompanying PowerPoint presentation is created, costumes and stage props are found, and rehearsals begin.

Voice students in “The Pirate Song”

Voice students in “The Pirate Song”

For each theme, Kay, and her husband, Dave, produce a DVD with production highlights. With a cover letter, it is sent to various schools and community groups within the area offering to perform a forty- to fifty-minute presentation. At this point in time, we have performed at twelve locations. Each time we go out, we vary the script slightly to accommodate different students and new songs they have learned. This also gives flexibility to students. When we receive an invitation, we send out an email asking which students can perform and the script is adapted. Students attend a dress rehearsal, and off we go.

We gear our performances to kindergarten through sixth grade, but find that older students and adults love the programs as well. We have always had very positive and enthusiastic feedback from our listeners.

Observations? The students love to perform! A strong camaraderie has developed. They are very mature and work well together in the performance, set up and take down, costumes and makeup, etc. Parents assist, especially with transportation and costumes.

Students Brit and Elizabeth, “The Flower Duet” from Lakme

Students Brit and Elizabeth, “The Flower Duet” from Lakme

At this time, we have developed two programs. One involves opera, with arias such as “L’ho perduta” from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “The Doll Song” from Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffman,” and the “Flower Duet” from Delibes’ “Lakme.”

Our second program centers around American Spirituals and their history, with relevant accompanying songs. It also incorporates students from the Aber Suzuki Center strings program. In the future, we plan on developing a program focusing on Earth Day, with songs about nature and water.

The interest shown and generated by the Aber Suzuki Vocal Performance Troupe, both by the performers and the public, has been wonderful. Younger vocal students continually ask when they will be able to sing with the troupe. The troupe singers are often congratulated on their performances, but most importantly, these students are learning to make good music and work together for the benefit of their community.

Regrets? I wish we had started this ten years ago.