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The Courage to Sing

by Brian Speck, Director, HGO Studio

Our annual Concert of Arias is a big day for HGO, and especially for the HGO Studio; it’s the culmination of our audition process for incoming studio artists and the final round of the Eleanor McCollum Competition. Eight finalists have spent a week at HGO coaching with our music staff, learning about the company, and getting ready for their big night. It’s been inspiring to get to know them and experience their incredible vocal and dramatic gifts. 

I love singers, and I think I’m incredibly lucky to work with them every day. What they do is exciting and fulfilling, but it’s also difficult and deeply personal. I can’t imagine a method of communication that is more human and intimate than sharing a song with another person. Our parents sing to us long before we can speak, and we take great joy in singing as children. These experiences are common to all of us, and they are open, honest, and completely vulnerable. Somewhere along the way, we lose our nerve, and that vulnerability begins to scare us. I think that’s why so many adults are reluctant to sing in front of another person. Singing in its higher artistic form is no different; artistry that communicates and moves people requires deep honesty and vulnerability from the performer. That takes a lot of courage, but it also provides a deep sense of human connection that can’t quite be replicated in any other way.  

Over the past few months, I’ve heard several hundred hopeful singers audition for the HGO Studio. I have so much respect for what these singers have done. It takes a lot of courage to walk into a room and share something so personal with a panel of people you’ve never met.

I’m grateful to these eight finalists. They’re wildly talented people, but that doesn’t make it easier; each of them has worked incredibly hard for the chance to stand on the stage. They’ve spent countless hours honing their vocal technique, polishing their languages and analyzing text and characters. But when it’s all said and done, those tools are a means to an end; it’s the honest communication and connection that matters. Their extraordinary voices are the personal vehicle for an even more personal form of expression. It is thrilling to see them perform!