Where do our graduates end up after training at the IOA? A number of former students talk about their time at the IOA and its effect on their later career. Pianist Eline Brys (26) immediately found her first real job:
‘I owe my present job to the IOA.’
Since the start of this season I have been working as a pianist at the opera house in Osnabrück. My greatest asset is that wherever I am, I always want to do my best. And that’s why I never leave home unprepared. I learnt this at the IOA. As a pianist you have to be able to achieve a lot in a short time. You have to foster a wealth of repertoire: not only be able to play the operas all the way through, but definitely also be able to sing them all. The only key to all this is self-study. The tutor Hein Boterberg taught me a tactic with which I was able to work much more efficiently. It is a particular way of studying that ensures you master everything in the best way. I have to have confidence that whatever I play, perhaps with a little error here or there, is part of a broader issue that will resolve itself later. Since I am a perfectionist, this was an exercise in letting go. You often have to learn a whole opera in a very short time and you don’t always have the chance to reflect on things much. The quicker you can work through the score, the better. At the IOA I also learned the best way to sight-read. There is no method, I just had to work a lot and very hard. Something for which I am very grateful. It enabled me to build up a lot of stock-in-trade and learn repertoire from which I am now already reaping the fruits. It’s mainly the repertoire for soprano, as we didn’t have a tenor in the class. (laughs)
In fact, letting go is something you also learn in Magda Thielemans’ lessons on movement. I found those couple of hours of movement every week at least as important as piano coaching. It made me freer and loosened me up. Just like the acting lessons. It gave extra impulses to my inner singer. I have also become more self-confident with regard to the singers. Only now can I really accompany them, because in those two years at the IOA I learned what to look out for in each singer.
As an accompanist you also have to give instructions. That is a hurdle you have to get over. Not every singer values the pianist’s advice. But now I have the nerve to take that step every day with no trouble in the course of my work. I stand up for myself musically! (laughs)The culture of openness at the IOA taught me how to cultivate a thicker skin. So as not to take every remark personally whenever you make a mistake. It’s an important attitude to learn. It’s a tough world and you have to deal with lots of impressions. You have to be able to allow through your filter those opinions that are worthwhile and put the rest aside.
I can definitely say that I learnt essential things at the IOA, things I would never have been able to do otherwise. So in some ways I owe my present job to the IOA. Elsewhere, it would certainly have taken more years of study to achieve what I wanted. Even though this is only the beginning.
Interview by Cara Van der Auwera