Along with their voice professor and NWSA music alum, Dr. Megan Barrera, New World School of the Arts college vocal performance students were invited to attend FUNSINCOPA (Fundación Sinfonía Concertante de Panamá) as guest artists in Panama this summer. The students celebrated diversity within the arts with vibrant and ambitious programming throughout the week-long festival and had the opportunity to perform in four concerts and a masterclass. In addition, they attended concerts and collaborated with other artists including the Opera Panamá Studio Artists.
“This festival allowed our emerging musicians to experience high-quality collaborations. The students learned about Panamanian culture while collaborating with high caliber artists and other students from abroad,” highlighted Dr. Barrera. “I participated in this festival two years ago as a guest soloist and masterclass artist. It was a totally new experience bringing some of my college students along with me and one which I will never forget.”
A brief Q&A with Dr. Barrera offers more insight on the significance of this music collaboration abroad:
What is FUNSINCOPA?
Fundación Sinfonía Concertante de Panama is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by Isaac Casal with the support of renowned national and international institutions such as the National Concert Association and the Orchestra of the Americas. Their mission is to be a platform for the education, creation, interpretation, and appreciation of classical music. The festival’s mission is to build a community of exchange between local musicians, and foreign music professionals and to create spaces where lovers of music and culture, and the public can enjoy and appreciate classical music: attending concerts, performing in concerts, and attending and performing in masterclasses as well. New World School of the Arts college voice students and I were invited to participate in FUNSINCOPA, during the 17th year of Alfredo de Saint Malo’s music festival in June 2023.
How many NWSA voice students participated in this Festival?
A total of five NWSA college students attended FUNSINCOPA this year with me. All in our music program, this was the first time that these students attended this festival – in fact, for many of them it was their first time traveling abroad! I attended this festival in 2021 as a guest artist and masterclass artist. Although not all the students are bilingual (English and Spanish), they were all able to navigate the event and the city well, as many guests and participants spoke English. It’s important to note that as a rule, vocal performance students have an ease with language since they must learn how to pronounce different languages for their song repertoire which includes Italian, German, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, and more.
What was your involvement in the festival as musician and educator?
For this Festival, I created the concert programs for the students to perform. We were able to rehearse in Miami a week before leaving for the festival which made our actual performance exceptional. The students also had the opportunity to perform two Panamanian songs that they would later offer in another recital that took place in Miami in mid-June. I performed with my students as well and taught a voice masterclass.
What were some of the songs you and/or the NWSA students performed?
We performed in a total of four concerts and a masterclass. Included in our repertoire was Giuseppe Verdi’s “Brindisi” which we interpreted alongside the University of Panama students and faculty. During the Concierto Didáctico portion of the festival, on the second day, we presented more than a dozen songs in seven languages! During Música de las Americas our students sang Eduardo Charpentier de Castro’s “Canción de Cuna” and “Carta a la Abuelita,” while I performed two songs from “Three Browning Songs 0p.44,” among others. Finally, the last day of the festival offered us the opportunity to perform various arias and opera scenes in collaboration with the University of Panama faculty and students, which included Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lelisir d’amore;” W.A. Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figro” and “Don Giovanni;” and Charles Gounod’s “Faust.”
What is the key takeaway of this collaboration for your students?
Our students had the opportunity to perform and inspire others through classical music in a foreign country. For many of them, this is their first time performing in another country, which offered them a chance to learn about another culture through their craft and lived experience. By collaborating with other international musicians, they were able to gain invaluable inspiration and renewed energy.
As a voice and opera faculty member at New World School of the Arts, what does this collaboration allow you to bring back to the classroom and the stage?
This collaboration helps me as a director. I expanded my knowledge of what may or may not work in music programming. Furthermore, it invigorates me to continue to find additional programming (more opportunities) for my students to perform outside of their regular academic duties.
New World School of the Arts’ specialized opera/voice concentration is unique and rare among Bachelor of Music degree programs in the nation. The curriculum offers undergraduate music students the opportunity to perform mainstage leading roles in fully staged opera productions and opera scenes, accompanied by stellar piano collaborators and the music division’s opera orchestra. The conservatory style education at NWSA supports high level one-on-one instruction with experienced artist faculty members who cover bel-canto technique, lyric diction, acting, and so much more, for the enhancement of students’ vocal artistry and training to become successful classically trained singer/actors. Information about New World School of the Arts music division at 305-237-3622.
A Florida center of excellence in the visual and performing arts, New World School of the Arts is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College, and University of Florida. NWSA provides a comprehensive program of artistic, creative, and academic development through a curriculum that reflects our community and the rich multicultural state of Florida. Through our partners NWSA confers the high school diploma, Associate of Arts degree, and Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees in programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance, Music, Theater and Art & Design. NWSA’s rigorous eight-year curriculum and conservatory-style teaching has empowered students in our community and our nation to become leaders in the arts for more than three decades.
Information about New World School of the Arts at 305-237-3135 or nwsa.mdc.edu.