Summer in San Francisco

Cassondra Davies' experience at SongFest

October 5, 2022

Amber Rogers

Cassondra Davies performs at SongFest
Photo credit: Courtesy of Cassondra Davies

Oberlin’s Vocal Studies students are often encouraged to seek out summer enrichment opportunities. These experiences add to Oberlin’s training and allow students to explore potential roles and repertoire while expanding their network. SongFest, an art song program in California, has been a regular choice for many Oberlin vocal students. This program offers master classes, concerts, daily lessons, and coachings. 

Soprano Cassondra Davies is currently studying with Kendra Colton and plans to continue on to graduate school for voice. But that's not all—a double degree in biochemistry, she also wants to earn her M.D. She has worked in the labs of Catherine Oertel and Shuming Chen and has recently joined the lab of William Parsons where she is pursuing an Honors Project during the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Amber Rogers, Conservatory Communications student assistant, recently spoke with Davies and her studio teacher, Professor Kendra Colton.

AR: Professor Colton, why do you encourage your students to seek out summer study opportunities? 

KC: I've always told my students that they could be the greatest singer in the world, but if no one ever hears them, what future do they have as performers? They need to be heard far and wide outside the Oberlin arena.

AR: How did your Oberlin training prepare you for this summer experience, Cassie?

CD: Oberlin prepared me wonderfully. My training with Kendra Colton is immensely helpful to me. She is so specific with technique, musicality and artistic detail that I felt very prepared for my master classes and concerts.

Professor Bandy, one of Oberlin’s vocal coaches, was also a great help with Czech and Russian diction. I had the opportunity to sing in Graham Johnson’s Schubert concert, which is also a testament to Professor Colton because she helped me so much in preparing my Schubert pieces. During my coachings at SongFest, I found that only small notes were given, like tempo changes. I attribute all the wonderful experiences I had during Songfest to Kendra because she has given me such a strong foundation and pushes me to be the best singer I can be.

AR: What are some things you learned at Songfest that you will apply during your Oberlin studies?

CD: At the end of last year, my voice started to change, so I was experiencing a bit of a transition. During Songfest, our now-retired Oberlin voice professor Lorraine Manz gave me many helpful strategies to add to my toolbox.

She gave me the confidence to start connecting with my bigger voice coming in. We did straw techniques to help connect with my breath. I benefited from this and will apply it during the rest of my studies. We worked on some of the classic arias together, which was great. I really appreciated having that support from her over the summer while I was, and still am, experiencing this vocal transition.

AR: How did having so many Oberlin students at this program contribute to your experience?

CS:  Well, not only were there Oberlin students in my class, there were Oberlin alumni in the Professional Program! It did make me more comfortable, and it gave me the support of familiar people that I could trust. Together we all met a lot of people and expanded our networks even more. It was also great to hear them sing! We are often so busy during the year and aren’t able to hear each other perform, so it was great to hear each other. I am delighted I had Oberlin students with me during this experience.

AR: What growth do you see in students who take advantage of summer study opportunities, Professor Colton? 

KC: Students return to school excited about what they have learned and how they succeeded in the programs they’ve attended. They seem more focused and goal-oriented in what they want to do going forward. Their experiences are validating and help build the confidence that is necessary to perform and achieve. It's a joy to share in their growth and enthusiasm for singing.

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