Juan Felipe Herrera, former United States Poet Laureate, hosts a poetry workshop during the Art Song Festival on Friday at the Wahlberg Recital Hall. (Benjamin Cruz/The Collegian)

Art Song Festival brings in musical talent

Fresno State’s first Art Song Festival on Friday and Saturday brought experts together to perform and to educate on the art of singing.

“Art song is a very particular genre,” said Maria Briggs, Fresno State assistant music professor and founder of the Art Song Festival. “It’s a marriage of poetry, music and voice.”

Briggs founded the festival to provide solo vocalists with an event geared toward them like others in the music department already have.

“I see that a lot of our other areas, like strings and woodwinds and choral areas, have a festival. But solo vocalists – we did not have a festival,” Briggs said.

The first day began with two master classes taught by Briggs and Robin Fisher, who teaches at CSU Sacramento and has performed in the Sacramento opera.

These classes were followed by a lecture on the history of singing given by Fresno State music professor John Karr. Karr said he finds studying music history to be interesting because one can find both similarities and differences among the music from different countries.

“There’s so much that’s alike. Love is love. Hate is hate. Grief is grief,” Karr said. “They talk about it differently, but everybody talks about the same things.”

Next was a poetry workshop led by poet and former Fresno State professor Juan Felipe Herrera. Herrera was named the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015 and served until 2017.

In his workshop, Herrera brought participants on stage to engage in activities. They recited his poetry and wrote and recited their own.

“The students were very open. They were really inspiring,” Herrera said. “I just gave a suggestion or two, and they took off and built two seperate, beautiful experimental compositions.”

Herrera said he likes poetry because it’s a way people can exercise their own creativity.

“It’s very deep, profound and personal,” he said. “It’s also very expansive. It’s where you can let insight take place.”

The first day came to an end with a recital performed by Briggs.

Day 2 opened with a master class taught by Vladimir Chernov, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has performed in numerous places, including the Paris Opera.

“Art songs must have more devotion and dedication,” Chernov said. “Through the art songs, we educate the young generations.”

Then, a student showcase was held. Those who facilitated master classes chose students to perform in the showcase. After each student performed, Chernov asked who he or she felt won the showcase. Because Fresno State student Tiffanie Trujillo was the first person to volunteer herself, she was selected as the winner.

“It took me a while because I was like, do I really want to do this?” Trujillo said. “It takes courage to not be afraid of facing another reality – meaning, not winning.”

The festival culminated with Chernov performing a recital.

Trujillo said she liked that the Art Song Festival gave her a chance to work with experts in her field of performance.

“It’s so inspiring because they’ve had a professional career in this,” she said. “I get to gain from their perspectives.”