MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Christopher Pfund said his recently amended career very rarely feels like work.
“It just feels like passion,” he said.
The core of his career had been performing with opera companies and orchestras, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, New York Oratorio Society and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. But in the fall of 2014, the now 44-year-old added assistant professor of voice at the University of Idaho to his credentials.
Pfund started teaching at the college level in 2010 and he quickly fell in love with it.
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At the UI, Pfund’s primary focus is the opera workshop, a class intended to explain the inner workings of opera by allowing students to actually practice it during a two-hour period twice per week. Since his arrival in Moscow, Pfund and his wife, Lynette Pfund, have been developing opera at the UI to make it a successful, shining program.
Pfund said Lynette is his confidant, who has the deepest perspective on him and can aid him more than almost anyone else when it comes to his voice. Within the opera workshop, she specializes with acting and moving exercises, helping the students become more comfortable while performing.
Currently, the students in the opera workshop have all of their focus on their spring production, “Cendrillon,” a French opera version of “Cinderella.”
“The attraction of the opera workshop is that it’s a lab in which they can explore these different personalities and different artistic personae,” Pfund said. “They can allow their voice to go, they can move, they can express something with their full body.”
Pfund said he appreciates being able to teach to a variety of students, many with their own skill sets, and many of whom might have had a very different idea of opera before his class.
“People perceive opera as big fat people standing on stage and bellowing or making a large noise, and that is not really where the opera industry is today,” Pfund said. “Opera has always been a type of musical theatre and an expression of words, ideas, beautiful sounds.”
Pfund pours all of his focus into his teaching to prove to his students the value of opera. In his workshops, he addresses students by name and always uses the pronoun “we” to include himself with his students.
“We are a couple months away from this, and that should fill you full of confidence,” Pfund said to the class. “You have time to do a really wonderful job. It should also be a motivating factor.”
Pfund doesn’t hide his emotions when he is impressed with a student, and he always takes time to compliment the good things.
When a student is struggling, Pfund asks what is not making sense and explains his expectations in a different manner, even with demonstrations, instead of repeating instructions that the student has already heard.
“Oftentimes, singers and musicians are very aural in the way they perceive things,” he said. “These are students who haven’t always fit into the educational box.
“Helping them find that connection is about the most fun I’ve ever had,” he said.
Pfund, his wife and three children moved to the Palouse from New York, and while the move may have been a serious culture shock, he said he couldn’t be happier than he is at the UI.
“I have been thrilled with a core group of students here who are absolutely organized and curious,” he said. “The exciting thing about that, and the thing that most people don’t realize, is that if you have that perspective as a student, you can very quickly get somewhere.”
While Pfund still spends much of his time traveling and performing, he and his family are excited to be living within the creative stream of the Palouse, a place where he said he can be more spontaneous and accomplish more things in a day than he could in the hustle of New York.
“There’s such a different sense of time,” he said. “Time is so much more meaningful here.”
“Cendrillon” will run April 1 and April 3 in the Administrative Building Auditorium on the UI campus.
Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, http://www.dnews.com