After five flights in as many months, five auditions and an enrolment form with 16 attachments I am very pleased to announce that I have been accepted into the Conservatorium of Florence for a Masters in Piano. I’m Nick Dunn, a presenter at Fine Music and this is my guide/account to studying abroad.
This odyssey began in June, when the deadline to apply to conservatories in Europe was fast approaching. This was the first of many forms and signatures, and for those thinking of studying music abroad, I have the following advice for you: make a friend at the Consulate and always, ALWAYS double the time you think it will take to get something done. This application form required me to get signatures and stamps from four different institutes saying that my Bachelor of Music was indeed “true”. Through a series of typos along the way, I ended up with a music degree from UNSW and a corrected degree from the Sydney Conservatorium. Both of which are authentic. mSo by the end of June I had successfully applied to the conservatories of Florence, Como and Brescia in Italy and somehow received a Bachelors from UNSW without setting a foot in Randwick.
In July, I went to Siena (40min drive from Florence) to do a masterclass course with pianist, Lylia Zilberstein. Of the 36 that applied I was lucky enough to pass my audition and enter the class of 16. Over two weeks we each had three masterclasses doing 6-10 a day. This is part of the Siena Summer Music Festival and took place in Palazzo Chigiana; that’s right, a palace. It’s a medieval palace filled with Renaissance art and instruments including Liszt’s custom-made Beckstein and the oldest known Harpsichord in the world. If you are visiting Siena, I highly recommend taking the tour of this palace. It is a private collection made open to the public and not your average museum. As students there, we were allowed open access to this museum to practice (there is a grand piano in each room filled with art), free tickets to any of the festival concerts and also in our own public concert at the conclusion of the festival.
July is also the best time to visit Siena because the Palio is on. The Palio is a famous horse race (these days they do two, on 16 July and 8 August) that has been happening since the Renaissance. This race goes around the main Piazza (del Campo) of Siena and there are no rules. The racers can push each other off horses and do whatever they want – basically Renaissance Mario Kart. The Siena Music Festival happens all through July in between these races. So there will be 2-3 concerts a day but further, each of the four districts of Siena have their own parade and contrada to see who can out-do each other. The contrada is an Italian party located in whichever district is hosting (usually in a garden, down an alleyway, through a side-door sort of thing) in a large open space with live bands, bars and cheap drinks. Since each contrada is trying to beat the previous one you can expect them to be good. The whole town of all ages goes, it’s a good month to be in Siena.
Between a month’s interlude in Sydney, I had to return to Italy to do my Auditions in Florence, Como and Brescia. For each, I had to do a practical audition (30 minutes of repertoire) and a test to prove my fluency in Italian – basically doing the same tests five times over. The biggest event in this time was at the Conservatory of Florence, where the panel didn’t have my name on the list. They called in the director and vicedirector of the conservatory and almost didn’t allow me to do the audition (keep in mind I came literally from the other side of the world for this). Further, an Italian friend (who was also auditioning) and I were planning on seeing Madame Butterfly at 3.30 and this mess didn’t resolve itself until 3.09. One of the teachers on the panel (aware of our opera plans) tried to speed up my audition so we wouldn’t be late. I finished around 3.23 and I ran across Florence to the opera house. I’d like to tell you that we made the run in seven minutes to the opera house but unfortunately we missed the first half.
Here we are now. The audition went well in all three conservatories and I’ve just completed the 16 part enrolment form to Florence. So to you fine listeners of Fine Music, I am afraid I won’t be on the air for a little while but if you need any tips on Italy – music or tourist related; you know where to find me.
– Nick Dunn