Jeffrey Hill ’09
“She taught with a firm, guided, and encouraging hand, but always listened openly to my thoughts and ideas. She allowed me to find my own voice instead of telling me what I should be.”
Coming from a tiny little village in British Columbia, Canada, I had never heard of Oberlin. I knew that singing was always the only road for me, but aside from that, I had not the slightest clue how to begin that career (aside from American Idol, of course!). Little did I know that I would end up at one of the best conservatories in the world. My teacher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta assured me that transferring to Oberlin would be the best move of my career at that point. She could not have been more right.
I first came to Oberlin to study with world-renowned vocal pedagogue Richard Miller. Unfortunately, that first semester would be Mr. Miller’s last as a teacher. Half-way through the semester, he retired. Like lost lambs, the studio scattered. Some students went to the third floor, some next door, and others down the hall. Only a few of us braved the temporary replacement that arrived within a week. With trepidation, I entered my first lesson. Four years, numerous operas, recitals, awards and accolades later, I leave Oberlin feeling more prepared for my career than I even thought I would be at 23. What was supposed to be two short years turned into four, and an additional degree. To put a long story short, Kendra Colton ’83 and I were a match made in heaven, and I milked it for all it was worth.
For a classical singer, college is much more like high school than the average person might think. Sure, you can be in high school choir and sing privately with a teacher in your town, but training an operatic voice does not truly begin until college. So you have all these people who are there for the same thing, and just beginning to carve out the path they want to take in their careers. Being a freshman voice major is something truly unique and special. That being said, finding the right teacher to work with during this time is crucial. Since you’re still in ‘high school,’ the teacher acts almost like a parent. (Well, apart from curfews, an allowance and being grounded; it is college after all, we do need a little freedom!) Her job is to guide you in the right direction, to safely take you through the rigors of developing the voice and beginning a career. When you connect with the right teacher, the result can be life changing. Mine was just that.
I owe a lot of my successes to my past teachers. I have been lucky enough to have a chain of fantastic teachers who have all guided me and helped me along my path. Kendra and I worked together during the most crucial time: the bridge between school (a little more school) and the real world. She taught with a firm, guided, and encouraging hand, but always listened openly to my thoughts and ideas. She allowed me to find my own voice instead of telling me what I should be. Her support allowed me to feel confident in my own unique talents and she never constricted me to fit any sort of mould. Kendra never gave up on me and never let me pass on opportunities or rest on my laurels. She has helped me to become an artist and sing with my own voice, taught me that “there is always time in music,” and supported me 100%, no matter what I wanted to do with my singing. Over the course of four years, she became not just my teacher (or quasi-parent) but a mentor, and most of all, a friend. Her belief in me helped to make me into the confident artist that I am today. She helped make Oberlin the best four years of my life, and I owe more to her than I could ever give back. This is my way of saying thank you for all you have given me; I couldn’t have done it without you.
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