Composers & the Voice – 2013-14
I admit it: I was pretty skeptical of the idea of a bunch of composers doing improvisational acting work. My skepticism sprang in part from the fact that, were I asked to list the 10 things in life I would least like to do, making stuff up while trying to act in front of a bunch of people I barely knew and on whom I wanted to make a good impression would certainly make the cut…
But Terry Greiss won me over, as did Steve Osgood, who was good enough to “play along” in all of our sessions—when we, the participants, were pushed to try something new, it was comforting and inspiring to have Steve, a fellow musician (read: not an actor), trying right along with us.
Throughout our improv sessions, Terry was a great coach and cheerleader—he was very good at communicating why we were doing such and so and how it might be useful, and superb at celebrating our successes, which did occur!
I have always felt that it is essential for composers to be performers of some kind—singers, conductors, instrumentalists, whatever—and that such “hands on” experiences can only enhance the music we compose. Terry showed me that it is as important for the aspiring opera composer to have some experience on the stage, moving about in a defined space, inventing situations and then living in them, and following the course of dramatic actions to their logical conclusions. He underscored the dramatic nature of opera—something I will continue to dwell on as my own operatic creations unfold.
– Jeremy Gill
It was with great sadness that we finished our final workshop with improvisation teacher Terry Greiss. Throughout these sessions we not only strengthened our relationship as a group but also learned a great deal about ourselves. As I immerse myself in the writing of my opera, I catch myself taking into account matters that never would have occurred to me prior to participating in these workshops. I am now aware of a new sensibility regarding staging, engagement of my characters and story with my future audience, and the interdependence between roles and their dramatic development. I am really looking forward to our next chapter with acting coach Patrick Diamond!
– Andreia Pinto Correia
Having just finished up the improv training portion of Composers & the Voice, the thing that has stuck most in my mind has been Terry’s repeated advice to “say yes.” In the context of improv, “saying yes” means being open to the unexpected places to which a scene or a character might take you. It means relinquishing your will to control a scenario, and asks you to embrace the realities of the scene at hand. The more you are able to say “yes,” the more convincing a scene will be. In the past few weeks, I have found that being open in the way Terry has encouraged is valuable advice for writing music as well. Composing music is a balancing act in which spontaneity must exist side by side with carefully considered choices. I sometimes find that a piece that I am writing is going in a direction that I did not expect, and I react by trying to bend the piece back towards what I originally had in mind. While this approach can have its uses, I have been thinking a lot recently about letting go and letting the piece itself take over. This increased sense of openess has already led me in some exciting new musical directions.
– Joseph Rubinstein