Sep 17, 2013
Smith College Grad Katie Weiser of Litchfield at Syracuse Pursuing Career in Song
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She had applied to 10 schools, but Smith was her first choice. A liberal arts school, Smith allowed her post-secondary education to be an experience that was not solely focused on music and her career therein, as it would have been at a music conservatory. “Sometimes I wonder, you know, maybe I should have gone to a conservatory for my undergraduate experience, but no way. I definitely made the right decision, going to a liberal arts college, specifically Smith,” she said.
Smith College turned out to be a perfect fit for Ms. Weiser, who professes to miss the school, which she said was “the best experience of [her] life.” Under the direction of several vocal trainers and musicians, she was able to grow both as a musician and a performer.
“In her four years at Smith, Katie has become comfortable with many musical styles she had not grappled with in her early years. … She set herself the task of learning difficult notes and rhythms and putting the whole package together,” Jerry Noble, staff accompanist for Smith College’s Music Department, said.
Having played for Ms. Weiser’s many musical performances and rehearsals, Mr. Noble knows her performance style well. “If she is singing repertoire that moves her deeply, her audience is transported there with her,” he said. “She works very diligently learning new repertoire and bettering her musical skills, and she has made great strides musically this year alone.”
Ms. Weiser’s time at Smith was not without its challenges, however, the biggest of which came in the form of her fight for her self-tailored education. Being the first vocalist in the history of the college to receive the concentration in performance, she had to argue to get that distinction.
“They do not like to give students a concentration in performance at Smith because they feel in the Music Department that you come to a liberal arts college for the academic courses,” she said. “They don’t want students coming and forgetting about the academics and focusing only on performance. But I’ve known since I was little that this is what I want to do.”
After going before the board and being interviewed, then preparing and performing two full solo recitals, in the fall and the spring, she was awarded the concentration she wanted. “I guess they saw how serious I am,” she said.
However, Smith also allowed Ms. Weiser to participate in musical opportunities she’s not sure she would have otherwise experienced. She also had the opportunity to sing at the Metropolitan Opera with the New York City Ballet for a performance of Brahms’ “Liebslieder Waltzes” in 2011.
During the summer of 2011, she studied under several masters of the craft at Bel Canto Institute in Florence, Italy. “It was the best month of my life, hands down,” she said. With faculty from the Metropolitan Opera, Boston University, New England Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music, she studied in various classes, including courses on diction, Italian language and performance.
She also participated in what is called a master class, which involves a teacher listening to about six students sing individually and critiquing the students in front of their peers.
Critique is something Ms. Weiser welcomes. “After my performance, I want to hear everything they have to say because the only way I’m going to grow is if they’re completely honest with me. I love hearing everyone’s opinion,” she said.
However, she has had to learn just how to swallow critique in her time as a performer. “I’m a very sensitive person. I always have been,” she said. “Developing a thick skin, that’s been hard for me, but I’m getting there.”
And despite the challenges that this field presents to her, she could not be doing anything else. “She is a person who cannot not sing– she must sing– it’s life itself to her,” her Smith College accompanist Jerry Noble said. “[She has] the kind of voice and the kind of high notes people pay to hear.”
For Ms. Weiser, too, there is nowhere else she would rather be. “It’s hard, but I love it. And for me, there is no better feeling in life than being on stage. When the spotlight hits me and I’m singing, that’s it for me. I could die and be happy,” she said.
Starting this semester, she is pursuing her graduate degree in music at Syracuse University, and from there, she’s not quite sure where she’ll end up. “Ideally, I could see myself moving to New York or Boston and just auditioning all the time. I’d love to travel the world and sing,” she said. “This is what I absolutely love to do. There’s no better feeling than being on stage.”