Sixteen hours a week: that is how much time music major Regina Krawiec ’15 spends singing at Vassar. This amount of time adds up due to weekly vocal lessons with Lecturer in Music Drew Minter, participation in the Vassar Women’s Chorus, Madrigals, the student-run choir Camerata, and the hours she spends singing in preparation and for fun.
“This is probably a gross underestimate, but I usually do not time it,” said Krawiec. “I do know that I try to do an hour a day, every day. Sometimes I will rest on Sundays. I probably should not be practicing this much, but I cannot help it.”
This dedication to singing started at an early age for Krawiec, who began her musical career in her church choir. From there she started taking vocal lessons at age ten, through which she focused on show tunes and more popular music. She transitioned to classical music at age 16 when she hired a different vocal instructor. Krawiec sang classical music for year, and then picked it back up when she arrived on Vassar’s campus and auditioned for vocal lessons and choirs.
The Vassar vocal journey began with Krawiec having limited musicianship skills. This was a hardship in the beginning. “I think it really held me back when learning my pieces, and especially in choir,” said Krawiec. “I remember last year at the beginning of Musicianship Skills 2 I felt so discouraged…I doubted whether or not I should even be a music major,” said Krawiec. But the soprano stayed resilient. “I practiced a lot, and I received help and encouragement from my professors, especially Christine Howlett who let me sing in both the Vassar College Choir and Women’s Chorus when I expressed a desire to sing in both choirs to help my sight-reading,” said Krawiec. “She did not have to do that, but she did and it really paid off.”
Last summer Krawiec had the experience of studying abroad in Italy, and when she returned she was able to sustain a pianissimo high D. “You almost question where the sound is coming from at the point. It is amazing,” she said.
In addition to studying abroad, Krawiec has been working with a vocal instructor, Drew Minter, and vocal coach, David Alpher, since her freshman year. A vocal instructor focuses on developing a singer’s mechanical technique, while a vocal coach aids the singer in learning and performing a song.
Krawiec commented, “I honestly would not sound the way I do now, or even realize what I wanted to do with my life, if it was not for [Minter’s] wonderful mentorship and friendship.”
Krawiec’s fondness for singing has much to do with the physical and emotional exaltation she experiences as she sings.
“When I sing it is the most exhilarating feeling. There is something special about being able to use your body, and really feel like you’re inhabiting all of your body, to produce a glorious sound,” said Krawiec. “Being a soprano I especially love singing high notes, and furthermore, high pianissimo notes. They feel somehow tethered to your body, but at the same time like they are simply floating out of the top of your head.”
In addition to the physical nature of music, Krawiec enjoys the history behind the art form. “There is the beauty of keeping traditions alive. When I went to Italy in the summer I studied with Margaret Lattimore and she said to me that I was part of a grand tradition, that she loved passing down these traditions to the younger generation, and that one day I might pass them down too,” Krawiec said. “I thought that was a really wonderful sentiment. Opera is a grand tradition that connects many different people from all over the world for centuries. To think that I am currently on the path to be included in this tradition, that I am part of the next generation who will carry these traditions and keep it alive, is profound.”
Krawiec believes that the ability to sing is a great gift that one has a duty to pursue and maintain. “I believe that people who are able to sing are blessed and lucky. We are given this gift that not everyone receives, it is simply our responsibility to take care of it and cherish it. But also to nurture the gift and help [ourselves] achieve its highest potential. It is also especially gratifying to hear myself now. I have worked very hard to get my instrument to what it is today, and will continue to work for as long as I am able to ensure that it is growing and maturing. When I first got to Vassar I was afraid to sing Fs in the staff, but now I can vocalize to almost an octave above that.”
Krawiec’s vocal career is something she has cultivated through dedication and countless hours of practice; however, she believes that her voice would not be where it is today without the instruction and opportunities that Vassar has provided her. “I feel so supported by the music faculty, everyone wants to see all of us succeed. Now I think I am a much better musician than when I came to Vassar,” said Krawiec.
“Of course I’m not at the level that I want to be at yet, but it is a work in progress. It is encouraging that I have seen a progression in my skills, and it makes me want to advance even more.”