Daevyd Pepper’s Chautauqua Survival Guide
This summer I attended the Chautauqua Voice Program run by Marlena Malas. It’s a 7-week-long “summer camp” for singers, most of whom study with Marlena at Curtis, Juilliard or Manhanttan School of Music, but not exclusively. It’s a great program to make big changes and grow as an artist. If you are interested in attending, here are a few tips to help you prepare.
- DO NOT BE AFRAID, it is not a cult!
Though the community at first appears a little Stepford-esque, it is actually a thriving community of people just enjoying their time away from the daily grind. They are friendly people who are passionate about the arts and culture, so they will love talking to you about what you do. Be prepared to talk a lot about yourself; nothing really new for singers. Oh yeah and don’t let all the gates scare you either, they will let you out whenever, providing you have your gate-pass >:).
- Lanyards are life
To get in and out of Chautauqua, to go to all the free concerts (Leann Rimes people!) and to do almost anything, you need to pass through a gate, guarded by some of the most sombre souls. They will require you to present your gate pass to be scanned. Do not lose this as they are expensive to replace. They sell lanyards in the gift shop that have card sleeves right on them. They may seem dorky at first, but they grow on you, literally and figuratively: you sweat a lot, it’s hot and so so humid.
- Friend with car = Freedom
Chautauqua, though beautiful and vibrant, can leave you feeling a little trapped. On the plus side, it forces you to practice a lot and really implement the changes you’re working on with the fantastic faculty, but you still get a little cabin-feverish. A little day trip to Lake Eerie, Panama Rocks, Chipotle or an even arcade ($10 all you can play!) is just the thing you need to prevent you slipping into complete insanity. Luckily I made some great friends whom also happened to have a car. Many fun adventures were had.
- Love pizza, love Walmart, love pie.
Off the grounds your two main safe havens are Andriaccio’s—a pizza place across the road—and the Walmart in the neighbouring town of Jamestown (where Lucille Ball was born and raised). The Bellinger dormitory is the great equalizer: no matter what role you have or who are, we all suffer under the same dank conditions. Walmart is great for snacks, toys, games, clothes (some real gems there), and an excuse to get away. Andriaccio’s can supply you with some delicious pizza and very strong drinks after a long day of coaching and rehearsal. The staff is also very accommodating when 30 of us show up after a recital or performance. The most last most important place is the Farmer’s Market, hit up Miss Leslie for all your baked goods and order your own CUSTOM HOMEMADE PIE! She does not mess around with the art of baking and she will let you know if you’re favourite baked good is a ridiculous choice or not.
- Singing under a microscope
The venues are not super large especially the main recital hall, you are quite close to the audience. Though terrifying, it really tests you to immediately be on and remain on the whole performance. People are so close, all your vocal and artistic choices are clear as day, so you quickly become comfortable with almost any performance situation. You also get over accidently drenching people with your spit: casualty of art up-close.
- Don’t spend all of your time on Pokémon Go!
If you are doing more of an independent study, like myself, really use your time. There is so much to see on the grounds, they have great fitness facilities, many events and lectures happening everyday and hundreds of Eevee’s (I have two Jolteon’s currently). The coaching staff is also incredible and gives you lots to work on and will constantly be challenging you on a technical and artistic level. Lock yourself in a practice cabin (they’re so cute and air conditioned) and really take the time to implement the changes you are working on, you will surprise yourself with how much you can improve. Also, being in the middle of nowhere, really gives you time to think and reflect on yourself as a singer, artist and person. Do not be surprised how polar your feelings about your career can be, it’s what happens when you have time to think.
- Appreciate the amazing people: both as artists and as friends
The program is full of extremely talented people who all present something unique, there were no two singers remotely alike in this program. Go to all the recitals and masterclasses you can and soak up the high level of artistry around you. I learned the most from watching these people. It was also a program full of great humans, that I loved getting to know and spending time with. I felt I could hang out with almost anyone.
Chautauqua was one of the strangest and most amazing times of my life. Though 7 weeks felt like an eternity, it really gave me much needed time to focus, reflect and grow and get to know and work with some amazing people. I cannot recommend it enough for people looking for the thing to take them to the next level and have a little retreat.← Return to Blog