A day in the life…….

Bridget Gervais
February 16, 2020
The Vienna Musikverein

"What is it like to be a music student studying in the music capital of the world?" I would say that every day is unique and different. I get to visit cafés and walk around the city during my breaks between classes. I get to take lessons from world-renowned musicians. I feel like the past few weeks in Vienna have allowed me to grow immensely as a musician and as a person.

A typical day begins at 8 am, when I wake up. On Wednesdays and Fridays, my day begins closer to 6 am, so that I can intern at a Viennese school. During this internship, I work with a teacher who teaches music history, music theory and English. Unlike schools in the United States, Austrian students begin learning English as early as age 6 or 7. English accompanies the students throughout Primary School “Volkschule” and Secondary School “Gymnasium”. The “Gymnasium” that I am interning at has students between the ages of 10 and 18, basically merging junior high and high school together.

Many Austrian students I have met, are almost entirely fluent in English and often use the language with as much personality and passion as they would German. They also have grasped many slangs from the English language as a result of the United States’ influence on foreign media such as Netflix. Through the internship, we are encouraged to create and teach lesson plans, therefore my supervising teacher and I have agreed that I will teach one lesson a week, alternating between Music, as the subject, and English. 

My first IES Abroad class begins at 10:30 every day. I then have a long break until my evening classes. During this break, I usually practice for an hour or two as well as occasionally getting lunch with a friend. Often, I bring my lunch with, in order to save money, although sometimes I still manage to splurge on the 60-cent coffee from the coffee machine of the IES Abroad Palace. With my rather light course load, I am usually able to also fit a run or a bike ride in either before I go to class, or during my afternoon break. On Wednesdays, I meet my lessons teacher for lessons. Lessons are located in the basement of the Musikverein, which is about a 10-minutes long walk from the IES Abroad Center. I am taking lessons from Franz Söllner, who is a retired member of the Vienna Philharmonic.

As a member of the IES Abroad Performance Workshop, I get the opportunity to play unique works with many other talented IES Abroad student musician. This semester, I am performing works with a classical guitar player and a flautist. Every Wednesday night, the Performance Workshop meets so that we can perform for each other. Repertoire ranges from solo works that we are individually working on and chamber works done between members of the class. On Thursdays, the IES Vienna music department provides classes taught by professionals in the community, based on a variety of topics such as Baroque performance techniques, Alexander Technique and improvisation. Every Performance Workshop member is also allowed 45 minutes with an accompanist per week. My accompanist offers critique and feedback on my solo repertoire which is very helpful. Each student has required rehearsals every week. The amount of rehearsals depends on which pieces they are performing with. These pieces are then performed in one of the three concerts throughout the semester. 

This semester I am only taking 15 credits, a big change from the 19 credits and multiple one credit classes that I have been taking for the past four semesters. Because of the smaller course load, I have found time to much more time to practice. IES owns three practice rooms down the street, as well as a few located near many of the IES apartments. This is handy for students if they decide to go home for lunch and practice, but I typically practice in one of the three near the IES center. Around noon is the best time because everyone else goes to get lunch around that time. The rooms are usually all full at about 2 or 3pm, right before performance workshop. This is not ideal and often results in many of us practicing in the very ringy acoustics of the rooms in the palace and hoping that there isn't a class going on. While the rooms in the palace have feedback and ring, the practice rooms across the street are the exact opposite and are extremely dry. At least with the rooms being noise proof, one is unable to focus better and not hear the person practicing next door. 

IES Abroad Vienna provides a lot of opportunities for their students including the music students. Most of all, the best reason to be living in Vienna is the exposure to concerts and music. This weekend, I attended a Viennese Ball and a Vienna Philharmonic concert. Although the ball was incredibly crowded, the music was entirely worth it. There was an orchestra, a jazz ensemble and a cocktail pianist, all playing pieces that couples danced to. I learned to waltz a bit and got to try it out with my friend. It also amazed me that there were people our age that were dancing nearly flawlessly. The concert was incredible as well, featuring orchestral and vocal soloists that amazed me with their musical expression. Of the wonderful things about Vienna, the best and most worthwhile element is the music and history that surround it. I have been lucky enough to experience it.

Danke, dass du meinen Blog gelesen hast. (Thanks for reading my Blog)


Bridget Gervais

<p>I am Bridget Gervais and I am a Junior studying Music Education at Drake University. When I am not studying or practicing my French Horn, I enjoy reading, going on runs, cooking/trying new recipes, exploring and, of course, playing Christmas music on the Piano.</p>

2020 Spring
Home University:
Drake University
Des Moines, IA
Music Education
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