Students attend Hartt School Summer Vocal Institute


Sophomore Leo Kollen and junior Nika Garfield, both avid performers, spent time over the summer developing and perfecting their vocal technique. They both attended The Hartt School Summer Vocal Institute, a week-long intensive hosted by the Community Division of the University of Hartford, filled with masterclasses, vocal coaching, and more performance-related activities.

Nika described a typical day at the program. “Acting was at the beginning of the day because it helps warm your body up, and then you have voice class and lunch,” she said. “Then, there are individual lessons. And, finally, there’s a master class, where a selected group of people sing in front of everyone after working with an instructor.”

While they discovered it in different ways, both Nika and Leo benefited greatly from the experience. “My parents were the ones who suggested that I do it,” Nika said. “I was really apprehensive at first because I wanted my summer to be really relaxing, and I didn’t want to have too much on my plate. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew it would be a good idea.”

Leo decided to partake in the intensive as a way to continue to improve his voice over the summer. “[Director of Theater] Mr. [Kyle] Reynolds recommended it to me,” he said. “He found this program, and I talked about it with my mom, and eventually we decided that it would be a good fit for me.”

Throughout their busy days, Nika and Leo were able to improve their performance skills with special instruction from professionals at the Hartt School. “I worked with an opera singer named Dr. Thomas Cannon,” Nika recalled. “It was really helpful because he gave me some great tips, such as making sure our bodies were warmed up before we started vocal warmups.” 

Leo also reflected on the strategies he gained from the experience. “The teacher that I worked with gave a lot of tips on how I could hit the high notes better and more confidently,” he said. “I could see a clear progression in my performance. On the last day, it definitely felt like I learned a lot and that I had changed as a singer.”

Photo by Lucas Kollen

Both students would strongly recommend this program to anyone interested in improving their overall performance skills. “I think anyone who is into musical theater would love this program,” Leo said. 

Nika shared similar sentiments and also mentioned that it helped her overcome some stage fright. “It just helps you become a better performer,” she said. “I have a lot of stage anxiety, but I think you just have to perform over and over again to get more comfortable. At the beginning of that week, I was really nervous to perform in front of everyone in the master class. By the end, it came really easily to me.”

Nika reflected on her favorite part of the week. “I loved making friends with everyone because I think it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable if I didn’t have that group of people,” she said. “I think the fact that we were all so supportive of each other really helped.”

Finally, Leo shared his future plans after participating in the Vocal Institute. “I’ve always had performing in the back of my brain as an option for me in the future,” he said. “Overall, I think the experience will be a big help for the winter musical.”