Hear From a Past Winner: Charles SyBy Charles Sy
Charles Sy at the 2014 Ensemble Studio Competition, photo: Michael Cooper
The day of my audition for the COC’s Ensemble Studio Competition, I was incredibly stressed. I had just recovered from a really bad cold and my voice was still quite raw from a week of heavy coughing.
But it was the last day of auditions — so, after spending most of the day drinking ginger tea and steaming my vocal folds, I went for it.
I had worked so hard to prepare my aria package for this audition and did everything I could to stay focused, but it felt like my body was fighting against me. Halfway through, one of the judges even suggested that I step outside and grab a drink of water before continuing.
I graciously accepted — and I made it! I was selected to return for the Toronto finals, took home First Prize and the Audience Choice Award, and received an invitation to join the COC’s Ensemble Studio, a training program for young opera artists like myself.
The (very) young artist warming up his pipes on the porch of his childhood home.
One thing I learned from my audition: a “bad performance” is rarely as bad as you think it is. You can still give the best performance you can give in that moment and trust that it is enough. I asked Liz Upchurch, one of the judges and the head of the Ensemble Studio program, if she remembered mine. In her words: “We didn’t just fall off of the last turnip truck. We know a good voice when we hear it, even if they are dealing with things.” Thank you, Liz.
The Ensemble Studio Competition is a truly amazing opportunity for both the vocalists and the audience members. This is where singers like me have a chance to launch our careers to the next level.
Past Ensemble Studio Competition Winner
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