Student Essay | Edmund Milly, M.M. ’15

Admissions, Music, Student Life, Yale School of Music

Greetings, everyone!  Today’s post is courtesy of Edmund Milly, bass-baritone, and second-year M.M. student in the vocal program (Early Music, Oratorio, and Chamber Ensemble).  He has kindly agreed to show us what a “typical” week looks like for a full-time student to juggle a jam-packed performing schedule as well.  Enjoy!

A Week in the Life of a Yale Voxtet Member

By Edmund Milly, M.M. ’15

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If you work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, and your job is the same every day, then I guess most people would say that your week starts on Monday morning, with, I’m sure, much giddiness and anticipation of joys to come. A Yale Voxtet singer’s week is a bit different in several ways, and, now that I think about it, I’m not very sure of when it could be said to begin. Does the week perhaps begin at ISM Colloquium, every Wednesday afternoon, when everyone in the Institute comes together as a community to exchange information about upcoming events, sip coffee and inhale tasty treats, and take in the week’s stimulating interdisciplinary presentation? Or is Monday night’s Schola Cantorum rehearsal – the first of the week – a more appropriate starting point? Another candidate is Tuesday night, because that’s when I write a sort of epistolary journal entry to Judy Malafronte, chronicling what has been going through my head in the past week at Yale, as it may or may not pertain to issues of performance practice (and really, what doesn’t?). Then again, because of the church services at which we so frequently sing, we are in tune enough with the ecclesiastical calendar that perhaps Sunday is the most fitting beginning. It’s a matter of perspective.

My point is that a week in the Voxtet is a heterogeneous affair, both in comparing the days to one another, and in comparing one week to the next. However, perhaps I can be more concrete. The days of the week have a strong individual personality, because no two are alike, even in a “normal” week (itself a rare beast). On Mondays, the eight of us meet with our teacher, James Taylor, for a seminar which could be anything from a casual meeting, to viewing and discussing the performances of singers we admire, to a little extra rehearsal time when things get tight. Afterwards, we rehearse with Yale Schola Cantorum, a 24-person chamber choir, where we function as both section leaders and soloists. We rehearse with Schola on Wednesday night, too, but that’s completely different, because it’s preceded by the aforementioned ISM Colloquium, as well as Judy’s performance practice class, so… you get the picture.

Other notable components of the week which occur only once in its cycle include: our individual voice lessons; an hour-long coaching where we work with our collaborator, Ignacio, on whatever we like; 45 golden minutes with the vocal wizard known as Ted Taylor (which impart to Friday afternoons their own distinctive flavor); diction class; a non-performance elective; chamber music rehearsals; repertoire class; an elective (I’m reading Dante’s Divine Comedy right now); and acting class, which is not only a great way of improving as singing actors, but also yet another opportunity to work on repertoire (have I mentioned that we really learn a lot of music here?)

All things considered, we keep sufficiently busy. But perhaps you, like so many of us, are one of those who finds it rather difficult to imagine a life without a church job. Fear not: this is completely manageable, whether you choose to go with an in-town church, or venture farther afield. The life of the ISM is often intertwined with local churches, so it feels like a natural extension of our academic and musical life to make music in that context once or twice a week, often alongside our colleagues. For my work to be so inextricable from my studies is an excellent feeling. Just be warned, that Holy Week (and its numerous accompanying special services!) is not likely to resemble a “normal” week for a singer, either.

It may sound like a bit of a clîché, but it must be said that there is no standard week at Yale.  Schola Cantorum’s concert schedule divides up the school year into five or six of what I suppose one might call mesocycles (the week being our microcycle), and are the source of much musical and intellectual inspiration and acceleration, in addition to being our most intensely scheduled times. The proximity of one’s annual solo degree recital is also liable to affect the feeling of a given week. From what I’ve said, I hope it comes across that although our schedules may enjoy a certain degree of variation throughout the year, they also represent a constant flow of musical stimulation and growth, and we – Yale Voxtet members – are all very much in it together. The bond that comes out of going through this program together is one of the closest things I’ve ever felt to a second family, and it is always reassuring to know that a huge part of your experience of the past few days has probably been shared by people close to you. In fact, I believe that the variety and challenge present in our schedule at Yale comprise one of the best possible ways of preparing for the lifestyle of a freelance singer, post-graduation. I often feel that life is a state of continuous change, and our happiness is proportional to our ability to embrace that change and capitalize on its energy. Of course, such a complex and protean routine certainly has its challenges, but it is also immensely rewarding.