UofT Opera | Second year Masters student Joshua Clemenger reflects on University of Toronto Opera’s trip to New York City this past week.
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Second year Masters student Joshua Clemenger reflects on University of Toronto Opera’s trip to New York City this past week.

Second year Masters student Joshua Clemenger reflects on University of Toronto Opera’s trip to New York City this past week.

Second year Masters student Joshua Clemenger reflects on University of Toronto Opera’s trip to New York City this past week.

On Wednesday, students and faculty of UofT Opera left for our annual trip to New York City. This is the last trip I will be taking with a group of musicians who have become friends, confidants, and some of the best musical collaborators that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, but I can take heart in the fact that I know I will see them again soon.

  Few things can compare to the course of the performing and learning that we have lived through together, but our four day adventure to the heart of the opera world was the perfect capstone to two years of intense training, and was an intense bonding experience for us all. Seeing how far my fellow graduates have come in two years, not to mention the incredible growth already apparent in the returning cohort, is a testament to the program, to the people who make it all possible.

  You’ve heard from my friends about how important it is for young artists to see live opera, about the incredible masterclasses we participated in, and about the individuals who shared their expertise with us on this trip, but on top of all that, these annual journeys provide the shared experiences that make us a team. A team that can study and practice and perform together, and push each other more efficiently because we feel safe to try new things, and take risks, and we trust the feedback that we get from our colleagues, something that is perhaps difficult to foster in a competitive field. We must all be ambitions to even pursue this sort of a life, but the way this group has come together and supported each other through the hard and the easy has been inspiring, and gives me perspective on the shared tradition that I have seen evident in professionals who preceded us in the program, even many years ago.

   One such bonding experience occurred as we were walking through lower Manhattan after watching the new production of La Traviata at The Metropolitan Opera. While we were walking down 9th Avenue, passing us in the other direction was a man we had just seen take a bow on the biggest stage in the opera world, the opera’s director, Michael Mayer.

The amazing unlikelihood of the situation dictated that we stop him briefly and introduce ourselves as opera students from the University of Toronto, who had just seen his show, and express to him how much we had enjoyed watching La Traviata that night. He thanked us for stopping him and for our thoughts on the production, and then wished us luck in our careers and encouraged us to stay the course, before we continued on our way, awestruck at the serendipity that allowed that little interaction to take place.

   I know that my colleagues had lots of other little moments on this trip that they will never forget, in small groups and altogether, as I had them last year with the friends who are joining me in the jump off the cliff that is our exit from this beautiful cocoon, and that these moments will build the foundation for the comradery they will bring back to the program next September, when they welcome the next crop of new students to UofT Opera.

  I could not be more grateful for the time I’ve spent in the Geiger Torel Room and halls of the University of Toronto, for the faculty and staff – Sandra Horst, Michael Albano, Catherine Tait, and Andrea Grant; for Richard and Donna Holbrook and their sponsorship of a trip that helps us build our community here, and to the group of young artists who have helped me learn so much. You’ve changed me for the better, and I will never forget it.