Friday, January 18, 2013

Blop #3 - Shelby Murphy

Hello, blogger-friends! I’m Shelby Murphy, a wise-fool of the School of Music, and a second year at SHSU! I’m so happy to be writing about Opera. Not just the course, naturally, but also the music, which is really the second-best part (after the people you make it with.)

My experience in opera, while not always fun and games, has been the most revealing of anything else I’ve done (and I’ve worn probably more than my fair share of costumes.) It has shown me what I can handle and what I can’t, and has forced me to stretch my limits far beyond what I expected it to.
Things I’ve Learned:
                1. My opera director will never give me something I can’t handle. Challenging music, yes. A role I really have to act for, yes. But never enough to break my brain.
                                At first, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that the product looked cool, and that running lights during tech week was a lot of fun, but I had no clue as to what happened in Room 201 after 3:30 every day. Needless to say, I ended up really underestimating this class during my first semester of participation. In fact, it was only after dropping a piece and crying in the shower for a couple of nights that I really started to find my groove to work in. But Mrs. Grimes, wise and wonderful as she is, never lost faith in my ability to catch up and keep up. Even though I wasn’t there telling her exactly how overwhelmed and freaked out I was, she knew I could handle it. She knew I could manage this program and whatever she threw at me, and that really gave me the strength to push through the hard times and help to create an awesome and successful program.
                2. I do not have to live my character’s life – but I do have to understand it.
                                This is a hard one to explain, but I suppose the easiest way to put it would be to say that I am an avid day-dreamer; it is my get-away, my go-to when things don’t go where I want them to. (Granted, most of my day-dreams still involve faeries and catastrophic events where I magically remember all of my martial arts training, but regardless, I like playing the hero.) Many women in opera, however, are not the hero. My role this last semester was, in fact, Carmen, the infamous gypsy who dared to defy all laws and who strived to save only herself. It was a very uncomfortable place for me to go, since I’m not the kind of person to be so boldly defiant of social laws, or even to be so feminine and sexy. (Yes, I like feeling pretty and dressing well, but “feminine wiles” have always been a bit out of my grasp.) So, playing Carmen, I had some difficulties until I realized that the acting portion should be more my forte than even singing. So I day-dreamed, and I imagined where I would have had to come from to be like her. I imagined what I would have had to do to get where she was, and I realized: my role doesn’t have to reflect me. In fact, Carmen’s very different from who I want to be; but, in order to be someone completely different, I must understand who she is in order to do her justice.
                3. Finally, Opera has taught me that I can be friends with people I can’t work with.
                                I know that sounds completely cliché (like someone just cut into the sharpest cheddar you’ve ever had – or maybe the biggest block of parmesan), but it’s totally true. Last semester, I became friends with someone who shared much with me intellectually, but who worked completely differently. She and I did not work well together, and in fact, she did not work well with anybody in the program; but still, despite our opposing values and work-ethics, we could be friends. I have never previously had a friend I could not work with, but she taught me that in some scenarios I can work with people I don’t like better than people I do – (and that’s not saying I don’t like the other people in Opera. Pretty much everyone in there is the coolest person I’ve ever met. We’re just not as close as I was to this person.) It was a rough relationship, with lots of ups and downs, but at the end of it, I think I made a worth-while friend, despite our difficulties, and I think that was a valuable lesson to learn.

I’m sure I’ve learned more that I simply haven’t noticed. I’m sure I’ve changed a lot, even if others can’t see it. I’m also sure that there are more lessons to learn, which is why my path must continue this way. I look forward to more growth, more challenges, and more music-making with you!

The author as Carmen in SHSU Opera's Pardon my French!

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