Andrian Stark, a 15 year old student at the Conservatory spent some time sharing his thoughts, experiences, and lessons learned during his time at CSC.
Primary study at the Colorado Springs Conservatory:
Composition and Voice
Time of study at the Colorado Springs Conservatory:
Years ago my brother wanted to play a band instrument, so he decided to go to a Conservatory open house to see if that would be right for him. I came along and I decided to try out some of the workshop things they had going. I tried singing, and I loved singing so much that I told my parents “I have to go here, I have to continue to do this.” So I did, and I loved it here so much, and I’ve continued going for eight years now at this point. That has become such a big part of my life, that’s why I’m going to Interlochen, to continue to pursue music.
The Conservatory is what really helped me find my interest for music and has enlightened my life in a way, because music is what probably brings me the most joy of anything else in my life, and it’s really kept me going a lot and the Conservatory is to thank for that.
As you reflect on your time at the cs conservatory, can you share those elements or experiences of participation that have had the most impact on you artistically?
Some of my first shows that were really fun, even if I was just part of the ensemble, were Oliver and Alice in Wonderland. They were so fun, as a little kid being on stage getting to do all this fun stuff, I felt like I was the star of the show even though I was really just in the background. I sang my heart out and I really enjoyed it. Then later, I slowly got to be a more prominent member of the Conservatory and I got bigger parts. I did Willy Wonka, which was one of my first notable parts. It was a really fun part to play, because the character Willy Wonka embodies this imagination, which I like to value above many other things as it is what drives art itself, and it flourishes at the Conservatory. I think the first massive role I had was Young Huw in How Green Was My Valley, an opera by Roger Ames. At that point I had started to listen to opera, and fell in love with it right off the bat. It was such an honor to be part of that opera. It was really hard, but it was all worth it. After I finished the last performance I could barely go to sleep. I was eleven years old and up until 1:00 am because I was just so excited and jazzed up. It was A LOT of work, and it took a lot of time to get there. The rehearsals were long, the expectations of the director were very high. I was honestly maybe a bit too young for the part. It was quite challenging for me at that time. But the after-show joy, and the joy of doing that music, is hard to put that into words, it’s just such an amazing feeling. Being able to do that was really such a great honor, and the Conservatory brought that to me.
Later, after I started taking Composition, I began to compose a string quartet, and I had two movements of it performed at Beautiful Chaos. Watching the musicians perform my piece, It was the same feeling like when I listen to music and get chills, or at the end of a show, it’s this amazing experience of being IN the art, IN the music itself. That was really an amazing moment for me, to be able to see these people performing my music. That feeling is part of what makes want to be a composer. Even though I’m not a Schubert or a Mozart, it’s still cool to hear people play my music.
Conservatory has definitely made me a lot more of a leader, especially in recent years as I’ve been helping take care of some of the little kids, helping them through shows, inspiring them to do what I did when I was their age. Also, working with the Conservatory has developed me be more honorable and kind to my superiors, learning to take direction and work with other people. In middle school sometimes I didn’t want to listen to anyone, and I think the Conservatory has helped me shift out of that phase. In general working with music has been a way to help mentally support me through difficult times. If I’m feeling stressed out I can always practice or even just listen to music and that always helps me.
When I’ve done plays in school, I have seen that so many of my peers are terrified to perform in public or speak to an audience. When I have to do something like that in school, I’m never nervous. When I was little and starting to work at Conservatory I was really energetic, and just a very confident person. That confidence in my interpersonal relationships has kind of gone away but through working on that at Conservatory my confidence has stayed strong when performing. Whenever I get up to perform, any nervousness I have immediately vanishes and I’m just there in the moment in the show. Besides being in shows, what has helped the most with that is studio class. Studio class is a cool opportunity in which every week you have the chance to perform a song, a monologue, a piano piece, anything you’ve been studying. You just have to get up there in front of your peers and perform and let what you have out, regardless of how perfected it is, and that’s really an amazing experience. Lot of studio classes, I am not fully ready. Sometimes I completely trainwreck, but just being able to be ok with that and pick yourself back up, fix all the mistakes in the moment, is a really valuable experience that the Conservatory provides.
How has the conservatory impacted your relationships? What role has the Conservatory played in your developing those relationships? (mentors, community, friends)
The people at Conservatory, whether students, mentors, or teachers, are all just amazing. I don’t know why it is, maybe it’s something about being in music that makes them these weird, nice, amazing people. It’s really great to be associated with them. A Lot of the students I’m great friends with. All of my teachers are phenomenal as well. I’m going to be very sad to be leaving them when I go to Interlochen, because they have taught me so much. I couldn’t be more thankful to them. My teachers this year are so good! Thomas Wilson is my conducting teacher, who I just started with this year. He is a great teacher, and it’s amazing to be studying conducting which I didn’t realize I would like as much as I have. I love it so much, even if I still have a long way to go. My Voice teacher right now, Peter Tuff, is from a classical background. He studied in Vienna, which is one of the greatest places for music in the whole world, and it shows. He has been a really helpful teacher to me. Before I started focusing on classical voice I studied with Ian Ferguson. He really helped me out because he was an incredibly difficult teacher to me at times but in just the way I needed. As a teacher he really pushed me. I had trouble with technical aspects of singing and he worked on that with me a lot. It was hard but it was exactly what I needed. My Composition teacher, who I’ve worked with for quite a few years now, is Mark Arnest. He has helped me develop a love of composition and music in general. We have so much fun working together – we sometimes get off topic and go down rabbit holes because we both get so excited about little details of theory or the structure of a piece but it is still always educational. And of course, Linda Weise, who taught me voice when I was younger. She helped me develop a love for music. She was so nice to me and very encouraging, and students always wanted to meet her high standards.
How do you perceive time and productivity? What role has being at the Conservatory played in your understanding of time?
Being involved in something like the Conservatory forces you to learn time-management. I have to juggle schoolwork, regular Conservatory classes, and extra rehearsals for shows and events. I have to make time to practice regularly. For me, I’ve found it helpful to have a consistent practice schedule every week. Well, I’m not always consistent but I think my practice is most successful when I am.
I’m still a procrastinator and I’m not very good at time management, but Conservatory has made me a bit better at knowing how I should spend my time and how I should prioritize what I have to do. It’s definitely helped me a lot with that even if I’m still kind of terrible at it naturally.
What is your fondest memory of your time at the Conservatory?
It is really hard for me to choose one thing. So many of my experiences have been amazing. If I could narrow it down to two experiences, from my early years it would be How Green Was My Valley. At my young age that was just an amazing opportunity. Then since I’ve been older it would probably be having my string quartet performed last year at Beautiful Chaos. Being able to hear my own music performed was such a cool experience that is hard to describe, but it felt amazing and like I truly did create something beautiful.
What is the most important life lesson you would share with a new student at the Conservatory of similar age?
It’s very important to practice and be prepared. When I was younger I didn’t really practice correctly or enough. But once you practice and work on your music and prepare well, it really helps you advance as a musician. Even if practice can feel like busy-work, it helps you truly experience the music and builds you as a musician. Showing up to rehearsals prepared makes a big difference in the quality of your performance, the productivity of the rehearsal, and your reputation as an artist.
Anything you would like to add (insights, reflections, etc)?
Next year I will attend school at Interlochen Arts Academy. Applying to Interlochen was quite complicated, largely because I had a lot of rigorous work at school going on at the same time, and there was a lot to do for the application. Since I was applying as a Composition major, I had to basically put together two auditions. At Interlochen to be a Composition major you also have to get accepted on your primary instrument, which in my case is voice so I had to submit essentially two times the audition materials as most students. For Composition I had to submit three pieces of differing styles, both the sheet music and a recording. For Voice I had to submit videos of two songs I had prepared. At least one of them had to be in a language other than English. Both of mine were in German, because I am a little bit obsessed with German Lieder. I also had to submit a music resume with all of my relevant experience.
Next year at Interlochen, my typical week will have a lot of time dedicated to music. I have to take academic classes too, but most of my time will be spent doing music. I will have a Voice lesson, Voice studio, and I’ll be in the choir, so I will still have to work on my primary instrument. I will also have a Composition lesson, Composition studio (it’s not all peer reviews, so I don’t entirely know what to expect for that). I will also take Music Theory and Musicianship Skills. In addition to all that I have to set aside time to compose. It will be a lot of work. Four times a year there are Composer Forums and students are promised to be able to get their music played in at least three of them, which will be exciting.
I feel that the Conservatory has prepared me well to be at Interlochen. Without it I wouldn’t even have been applying to Interlochen in the first place. My Voice teacher and Composition teacher were both so helpful in assisting me to get all my pieces prepared, recorded, and everything put together for my application. I’m sad to be leaving the Conservatory, but also so excited for what my future holds!