Two Centre musicians head to Europe for a summer of adventures
If she had to name one of the most important lessons Centre College has taught her, senior Kristen Baumgartner would say it’s “to jump for opportunities no matter where they take you.”
This summer, she and fellow 2011 graduate Liz McConnaughey will do just that, heading to Europe to participate in music programs. Although the two graduating music majors will live and learn in different countries, both share the same devotion to music and gratitude toward Centre for preparing them for their new adventures.
Opera and art in Italy
Plenty of opportunities have arisen during Baumgartner’s four years at Centre, and jump for them she has. The history and music double major has studied abroad three times, spent a summer attending Italy’s Florence Voice Seminar, attended the Middlebury Summer Language Program (where she studied Italian), starred in the DramaCentre production of Dido and Aeneas—and that barely scratches the surface of her engagements on campus.
Having accomplished much thus far, Baumgartner hopes that another few weeks in Italy will set her firmly on the path to operatic success. This July, she will participate in the Almalfi Coast Music and Art Festival based in Vietri sul Mare, about 40 miles from Naples.
There she will be working with mezzo-soprano Dr. Linda di Fiore of the University of North Texas, the professor who inspired Baumgartner to apply for the program.
“While it’s short, the program offers a tremendous amount of opportunity,” Baumgartner says. “I’ll be performing a small role in one of the fully staged operas, Puccini’s Suor Angelica. For a young singer who wants to pursue opera performance, this is a big deal. The start of your career begins with these small, compramario roles and from there you continue to build up your resume.”
In addition to performing in the opera, she will be taking part in several concerts around the area that include opera scenes, arias, art song and musical theater. She will also be taking a class in Italian language and culture. “Language study is incredibly important for the singer,” she says.
After completing the program, Baumgartner will pursue an M.M. degree at Colorado State University-Fort Collins with Dr. Gregory Brookes.
“I’m very excited about this new level of study,” she says. “CSU offers a tremendous number of opportunities; I’ll have the opportunity to grow as both a musician in the academic sense and in performance.”
With so much excitement ahead, Baumgartner would like to offer thanks to her current voice teacher, Professor AdrianaLia Moutz. “I don’t think I’d have been accepted into these programs and graduate study without all of her help and dedication,” Baugartner says. “I’m truly grateful for all the time she’s reserved for me and for the energy she’s spent helping me become a better singer and musician.”
Summer in Salzburg
It was a CentreTerm trip to Bali that ultimately led to McConnaughey’s summer plans. Her experience abroad—studying (and performing) Balinese music and culture—was life-changing, she says. “Every day was filled with music and dance, history and culture, food and fun. The work was demanding but immensely rewarding, and it really strengthened my belief that making music with friends is the best kind of music.”
Her passion for music, strengthened by the trip (one of two Centre study abroad trips in which she participated), is taking her to Salzburg, Austria, this summer. There she will take part in the University of Miami’s Frost Conservatory “Summer in Salzburg” program.
“Summer programs are to singers what internships are to other disciplines, but I’ve had to wait until my voice was developed enough before I could really benefit from an intensive study such as this one,” McConnaughey says. “Competition for spots in this type of program is fierce, so I was thrilled when I was accepted. What drew me to this particular program was its reputation in the singing world, the quality of the instructors, and, of course, the location!”
Although McConnaughey’s list of ways Centre has helped prepare her for her next six weeks abroad is long (including a music trip to Greece, courses in French and German, voice lessons with Moutz and more), she gives much credit to the College’s Norton Center for the Arts.
“The programs that come to the Norton Centre are phenomenal,” she says. “I’ve had the chance to experience a wide range of performers, styles and genres over the past four years. Students need to take advantage of the arts at Centre, and I hope that Centre will continue to maintain the high level of instruction in the arts so that music, drama, art and dance will continue to flourish on campus.”
While in Salzburg, she will have the opportunity to sing and study in a city with a long and rich tradition in the arts—especially opera and singing.
Because she plans to pursue a career in vocal performance, McConnaughey knows that the summer program could be instrumental in paving her road to success. And, she says, “Only in Europe can one go to a different opera every other night!”
She is also looking forward to other aspects of life abroad.
“I’m excited about visiting a lot of museums both in Germany and Austria,” she says. “And visiting the Spanish Riding School in Vienna has been a childhood dream of mine; finally I get to have a day to see it! Also, the Salzburger Festspiele—one of the largest music festivals in the world—will be happening as I am studying there, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to hear some of the best musicians and singers perform.”
Her long-term plans, she says, include singing opera. “As crazy as it sounds, it’s what I really want to do,” she says. “In the short term, graduate school for singers is all about finding the right teacher. Next fall I will be preparing for auditions to a variety of graduate schools, an intense and exhausting process.”
In addition, she will be taking courses in Italian and music theory, serving in several choral singing positions and riding horses, her other passion.