CBYX Fellowship Winner Combines a Love of Language with Vocal Performance

June 30, 2021

Yvonne Gay

A portrait of a young girl standing on a rooftop.
Charlotte Maskelony ’21
Photo credit: Jonathan Clark '25

As a fellowship recipient in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals program, Charlotte Maskelony ’21, a classical vocal performance major, will spend the year studying, interning, and living with hosts in Germany.

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) is a fellowship funded by the German Bundestag federal parliament and U.S. Department of State. The program provides 75 American and 75 German young professionals the opportunity to spend one year in each other’s countries. The program consists of three phases: two months of intensive German language training; one semester of classes in one’s academic or career field at a university, technical, or professional school; and a three-month internship in one’s career field.

Maskelony became interested in the German language when she realized how significant it was to opera. Over time she grew to love the language as a way to gain a better understanding of world history and international politics.

Although Maskelony will not know where her internship will take place until she arrives in Germany later this month, she admits it would be a dream to intern with an opera company focused on new opera and a more equitable arts industry. Particularly since a lot of her work, both at Oberlin and with the Glimmerglass Festival, has shown her how crucial supporting new work and strengthening equity, diversity, and inclusion practices are to the growth of the arts. 

Before enrolling at Oberlin Conservatory, Maskelony studied German language for two years, and was encouraged to take intermediate courses by Professor of German Steven Huff once she arrived on campus. She credits Huff for helping her to foster a strong love for German literature, which led to a minor in German. 

Throughout her time at Oberlin, Maskelony has also applied her love of German literature and culture in a number of ways. She was selected for the National German Honors Society and served as resident assistant for the Max Kade German House. Last January, she designed the Swedish Art Song Intensive, a one-month study of Swedish language and song. Her most recent project was associate-directing Oberlin’s debut remote opera, a double bill of La voix humaine and The Telephone, and producing an in-person, COVID-safe outdoor screening of the show.

“The CBYX program offers an incredible opportunity to build international relationships that will help create a more connected arts industry and world,” says Maskelony. “The desire to connect with authentic German culture, after living with it at Oberlin, was a central reason I applied for CBYX. Culture in the United States has so much to learn from Germany, and I hope there are American cultural values—like the ability to reinvent yourself—that I can share in Germany.” 

After completing the CBYX fellowship and spending a few years working in the industry, Maskelony plans to earn a master’s degree in libretto writing, directing, or both.

“It would be a privilege to create a career writing libretti, directing opera, and running a new opera incubator. When I was younger, I was really fortunate to attend performing arts summer programs like Brevard and Tanglewood Music Center, Maskelony says. “I would love to start my opera incubator as a summer program, and grow it to a year-long program; a sort of mecca for composer and librettist teams to workshop their pieces. Ultimately connecting them with opera houses who will put on not just a premiere, but repeated productions of the show. Of course, I’d also love to direct those new works. And write them. So there’s a lot to do.”

But one of Maskelony’s bigger career goals is to work toward gender equity in opera. “In my German senior seminar this year,” she says, “we studied playwright Bertolt Brecht, and read Der kaukasische Kreidekreis (The Caucausian Chalk Circle), one of his most famous plays. 

“As I was reading the piece, I noticed a small note on the inside cover page—‘Ruth Berlau, Mitarbeiter (collaborator).’ As it turns out, she was a Danish actress, writer, and director who collaborated on Brecht’s work for over 20 years, but remains largely uncredited. I’m writing a libretto about her for my final, to add one more grain of sand to a more accurate history. That’s the kind of work that excites me the most, and that studying German makes more widely possible: reexamining our historical narratives. There are a lot of artists already working toward a more equitable opera industry; I just hope to learn from what they’re doing and contribute what I can.”

Beside the CBYX fellowship, Maskelony is also the recipient of the XARTS Fund Grant, the Student Success Fund Grant, the John and Emma Demuth ’68 Scholarship, the Conservatory Dean’s Scholarship, and was one of 11 students selected for Oberlin’s inaugural Music Leadership Career Community.


 

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