Voice students ready recital performance under Malas’ guidance

Grace Canfield spent her childhood summers in Chautauqua. As she got older, she noticed the variety and the quality of the art around her, especially the Voice Program in the School of Music. Canfield admired the singers and was inspired by their performances. This year, she returns not as a child vacationing, but as a student in the Voice Program.

Canfield will take part in the student voice recital at 7:30 p.m. tonight in McKnight Hall.

Canfield said that because she grew up in Chautauqua, she’s familiar with the pressure involved with the Voice Program.

“I’ve seen the singers here; I know what’s expected,” she said. “So I always want to improve. You constantly compare yourself to your colleagues and I think that’s a dangerous thing, because there are people who are always going to be better or are in a different place in their life — so they’re better.”

Despite the challenges and occasional feelings of intimidation, Canfield is grateful to be in a place where she can grow and develop as a singer during the course of the summer.

Canfield takes lessons from Marlena Malas, the School of Music’s voice chair, who pushes students to be their best. Canfield said Malas has taught her to interpret the text of the music and the importance of delivering that interpretation.

“She’s not an easy teacher, but she is a perfectionist,” Canfield said. “I think that’s what puts her above the others because she really strives for the best. [She wants] the best her students can give and the best sound she can get — and it pays off.”

Tyler Stahl is another Malas student, and his experience working with her is not unlike that of Canfield.  He has learned to interpret the text with his own feelings and emotions, drawing from his own experiences rather than simply reading the words from a piece.

“She’s opened me up to new ways of building my voice, in the aspect of just looking at the music,” Stahl said. “Not necessarily looking at the notes of the music first, but looking at the translation, the text, making it [relate] to something that’s happened to you during your life.”

Canfield and Stahl have both progressed with their skills throughout the summer and will return to The Juilliard School — where they are both students — with newfound confidence in their abilities.

“I feel changed from the summer, in a very good way,” Canfield said. “I feel like Chautauqua is a place of constant evaluation of your soul, and for me as a singer, I try to find that true art.”