Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Voice with Edith Wiens: A Canadian Treasure at Juilliard

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Voice with Edith Wiens: A Canadian Treasure at Juilliard

Article excerpt

I sat for an all-too-brief afternoon in studio 539 at The Juilliard School, where Professor Edith Wiens instructed several of her students in what had to be one of the most inspiring afternoons I spent at Juilliard (three hours passed before I realized I was late for a meeting). I have been to voice lessons and master classes before, collaborated with singers and played recitals of vocal music, but as I watched this sweet-toned, and. frank sage work with her pupils I was asto.nished. by what I saw. The exacting guidance in her work was remarkable. Her teaching bears all the evidence of a distinguished, career transmitted. into practical terms for each student, and her career is worth admiring by any student and every teacher.

Edith Wiens is a Canadian treasure. She was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and. grew up in Vancouver, BC. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada who has performed, as a celebrated, lieder singer in London, Paris, New York, Moscow, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Florence, Munich, Berlin, and Vienna. She has several honourary Doctorate degrees, and. has received, both Grammy and. Diaspora d'Or Awards. Her operatic appearances include principal Mozart roles at Glyndebourne, La Scala, the Santa Fe Opera, Amsterdam Opera, Tokyo, and. Buenos Aires' Teatro Colon, and her recordings, including the works of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Grieg, Mahler, Zemlinsky, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Strauss, are represented amply by the EMI, Erato, and. Philips labels. She is the Artistic Director of the summer Internationale Meistersinger Akademie, which was patronized. by none other than Maestro Kurt Masur. Edith Wiens has been attracting multitudes of singers from around, the world to study at Juilliard since she joined, its Voice and. Opera faculties in 2010, and. for many years prior was a on the faculty of the Nürnberg Hoschule für Musik. During the conversation we had the day that followed, in her beautifully decorated apartment, it was easy to see why so many are racing to her studio with high hopes, of her teaching specifically.

During the lessons themselves, there was no time at all to grasp what was taking place. The students adored her; absorbing her every word and demonstration, enthused by each of her every corrections, attempting her every suggestion, and checking their understanding at each step towards improvement. The productivity was electric and every few minutes something she had asked the student to improve had been achieved, by what seemed like magic. The more I heard, the more I wanted to hear. She made me interested in how a voice works, and how it goes from beautiful to sublime. Her students were wonderful to hear when they came to her and they sang more gracefully and transcendently after she had advised them.

The next afternoon I spoke with Professor Wiens in her home. Our conversation began around lesson approaches and moved through many topics. The personality emanating from her is seemingly unthreatening at first, yet her tenacity and capacity to demand perfection is something which she compared herself with Margaret Thatcher (whom she made clear was not a politician with whom she agreed), citing, "When I get hold of a bone, I don't let go." I had originally felt this teacher was slightly on the lax side, and that the wonder of it all may have been in the student.

There is a luxury in teaching at Juilliard which Professor Wiens described as, "the talent pool is so full of the exceptional, and I get to select those I feel deeply invested in and hope to see through to their future careers." Whether teaching at Juilliard or elsewhere, the sentiment resonates as a way teachers may consider each of their students, prospective or otherwise. It would be easy to describe the person I met as a lovely person, or as a brilliant person, or as an enlightening person, or even as a complex person: surely it would not cover the experience of spending a day in her studio and a morning sipping tea in her New York apartment. …

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