The Professional Portfolio of Anthony Offerle

The professional portfolio of Anthony Offerle

Teaching

Statement of teaching philosophy

Whether I find myself teaching a studio lesson in the voice area, directing an opera production, or presenting a subject in the classroom, I instill in my students high expectations for their own performances and their personal study of the art of music. For students to truly succeed, they must be constantly challenged to meet their individual goals and never accept anything but their own best effort. It is a privilege to work with singers who have varied aspirations ranging from a career on the stage to a professional life as a music educator. Whether they desire to teach, sing for a living, or use their skills in other areas, my responsibility is to help them achieve their optimum performance skills at this point in their careers. As this is the primary objective, it is imperative that I offer to my students as many opportunities to hone their performance skills as possible through varied stage performance venues, recitals, competitions, and master classes. The art of singing is a journey and a teacher is charged with guiding his pupils, at whatever stage they may find themselves, in the most appropriate direction to achieve their highest ambitions.

Success is therefore measured by one’s strength in motivating and encouraging this philosophy in his students. I create a nurturing and safe environment where my students can experiment and reach for a high level of proficiency. This requires that I be able to move among the roles of adjudicator, mentor, and sometimes confidant. Cultivating a sense of personal responsibility and a serious work ethic is one attribute which I work to instill on a daily basis not only with my younger students but with those who are already performing professionally as well. Settling for the status quo is never an option whether my students anticipate teaching Kodály to children or performing at the Met.

Each singer is unique and has a special set of abilities and expectations. There is no one singular practice that accommodates the needs of every student; therefore, having a variety of technical approaches and the ability to adapt to the needs of my students is of the utmost importance. My approach is to work with the whole student: mind and physique. Singing requires not only a strong vocal technique (the body is one’s instrument) but singers must also meet the mental challenges that face all performers. Singers, more than any other performers, are required to come to terms with the personal elements of intimate expression and communication with an audience. While this may come naturally to some, it is generally a complex issue for most students but, nevertheless, a crucial part of developing the whole performer.

My methodology is to engage my students in a singing process that is based on fundamentally sound bel canto techniques and then design a specific strategy with each singer that builds the voice through vocalizes (such as those presented by Vaccai), specific technique exercises, and appropriate literature. The proper synthesis of technical training in combination with well chosen vocal repertoire helps build a strong foundation that allows a singer to perform with ease and confidence. I firmly believe that, the more fundamentally grounded a singer’s technique, the greater their range of musical and dramatic expression. Understanding the connection to the text and the emotional commitment to the music is equally important; all of my students explore these aspects of learning through training exercises and acting techniques. Some of these are the same methods I use in directing the opera theatre workshop program and students are encouraged to use these movement and communication tools in their individual recital performances. This methodology has proven to be successful in both encouraging the students’ aspirations and broadening their expectations of what may be possible as performers.

My students are also required to utilize the skills they glean from other disciplines in their studio vocal study. Each assigned piece is analyzed through a formula I have developed that incorporates language diction, music history, and music theory. Each semester, each student also chooses an additional single vocal selection in consultation with me that is considered a comprehensive piece. The University of Florida is a large research institution and this project helps to not only incorporate the many facets of musical study but also the university’s mandate to develop critical thinking, writing expertise, and communication skills. The parameters are expanded to include a complete written historical background and a detailed theoretical analysis based on the student’s progress in the music theory course sequence. The students then present their conclusions to the class.

It is important to the students I teach that I remain knowledgeable on current developments in the field of vocal study and the trends in classical singing. To that end, I maitain an active singing career with both international and United States performances of opera, orchestral and oratorio concerts, and recitals. I am president of the state National Association of Teachers of Singing chapter and develop, participate, and coordinate many of its events. My students find that engaging in these activities helps them broaden their knowledge and understanding of the singing world as well as offering them a chance to perform and receive feedback from a wider audience.

The opera workshop is another part of my instructional life. First and foremost the focus is on offering our students a learning experience where they can grow as performers and future educators. In consultation with the orchestral, choral and vocal faculty, productions such as scenes events, one-act operas, and large scale operas are scheduled on a rotating basis. In all the productions, our students are exposed to the process of creating musical stage dramas and not just the final performance. Classes are offered within the production schedule that focus on character analysis and development, stage movement, dance, and even stage combat. An additional learning experience is presented when performing in an opera such as La Traviata (2007) and the upcoming Tosca (2009) through the practice of working with guest artists. This is an opportunity we will explore for our performers over the course of their residency in the program. Learning a role as an understudy and being mentored by working professionals are time-honored learning strategies that are used as models at many of our country’s top training programs and universities.

Finally, I teach because I thoroughly enjoy helping students develop into the best musicians they can be and know that they will be the ones to champion great music in the future. Imparting to them the skills they need to be successful in their chosen fields is an honor and one I take most seriously. It is my fervent hope that my students in voice, opera, and musical theatre will not only become more proficient in their performance abilities but through that knowledge develop a deeper and more passionate love for the art of singing.