While a student at the University of Minnesota, soprano Anne Wieben (IES Abroad Vienna 2004-05) knew she wanted to pursue a career in vocal performance and set off for a year to study music in Vienna. For the past 12 years, Anne has made Vienna her home, first as a student, now as a performing artist and teacher.
In our interview, Anne talks about the role study abroad played in her journey to becoming an opera singer, and shares her advice to those looking to succeed professionally in the performing arts.
IES Abroad: How did you hear about IES Abroad and decide to study abroad in Vienna?
AW: I was a student at the University of Minnesota and always wanted to study abroad. I found myself in my senior year before I decided where to study abroad for a year. I talked to my advisor and, in the end, I decided I really wanted to study abroad for an entire year. I made the somewhat difficult decision to borrow money to do a super senior year abroad.
At that point, I had taken 4.5 years of French - there were simply no French speaking music programs for me to choose from, so I thought I would do something totally different. I wanted to go somewhere I could use my French skills, but all the programs in France were too general. The idea of going to Austria never occurred to me because I didn't speak German at the time. As I sat in the study abroad office waiting for my advisor appointment, I picked up a notebook with brochures and catalogs in it. It was the first one on the shelf, and so it was all the countries that begin with "A.” The first brochure was about going to Austria and studying music in Vienna. When I looked at all the opportunities there were to study music and learn about the arts and history, I realized it was the perfect fit for my background and major. There was no language requirement and intensive courses offered, which really sealed the deal. At that very moment, I changed my mind and decided I would go to Vienna.
IES Abroad: What are your most powerful memories from your time studying abroad?
AW: In a somewhat unique situation because I was a super senior, I had met most of my requirements to graduate from the University of Minnesota. I choose classes that truly interested me, that I was curious about. This made me very dedicated to my academic coursework and all of the new experiences that I found in Vienna. The voice teacher that was assigned to me turned out to be a wonderful, wise woman. She knew exactly the way to coach and mentor me as a young woman. I still work with the teacher I met through IES Abroad: Paulette Vineyard Herbich. In the opera world, a woman is in her prime between the ages of 35 and 50. My vocal teacher realized the importance of not straining or hurting my voice at a young age, but rather developing this skill set that I am now utilizing to secure more important stage performance roles. There were four of us who lived together that year with
|Anne in the opera Cosi fan tutte|
IES Abroad in Vienna in 2004-05, and through some stroke of luck or serendipity, it turns out we have all stayed in Austria, developed careers doing more educational work, meeting people here in the community, finding work opportunities, and deciding to live our lives here in Austria.
IES Abroad: At what age did you know and what motivated you to become an opera singer as a career?
AW: I remember very decidedly at one point sitting with my vocal teacher at the University of Minnesota. One day she turned to me and asked, "Anne, what's your back up plan? If this doesn't work out, what will you do?" I thought about it for a few minutes and said I didn't have a backup plan. She then said to me, "OK, well, let's go." It was in that moment that I committed in my own mind to make a career out of vocal performance. As with many things in life, one thing leads to another, and we don't usually know how it will end up. In my case, study abroad led to great teachers and experiences, which led to graduate level education, which led to more contacts and jobs, which led to more jobs and a career.
IES Abroad: What is your life like in Vienna working in the arts community? How do you spend your time each day?
AW: I've lived in Vienna for 12 years, and during that time, I have been a student for four years and a performing artist and teacher for the remaining balance of that time. Every day is different except for one thing: every day I spend an hour and a half on voice training. That's a given and that never changes. Some days I spend from morning till night training, rehearsing, performing, and teaching. I go through periods when I'm working every single day of the week and then other times when I'm wondering what the next project is going to be. All of my work is freelance, and I've been very lucky that one job has always led to another. I'm glad to say that I earn a living here and I'm able to live well. Sometimes my work is here in Vienna, and other times I work in other European cities.
IES Abroad: What advice would you give to music students who want to make a full-time career and earn a living in the arts in Europe?
AW: Anyone who wants to earn a living and have any measure of success in the arts today has to understand the business side of the performing arts, as well as be a top great performer and have an outstanding skillset. I have an agent, but I still find 90% of my work myself. I also have to work hard on my online presence. I have a website, and I do my own social media – that's critically important. You can't assume that people are going to find you. When you go to audition for a job, everybody in the room is going to be just as good or a better performer and musician than you are, so you have to do that special thing that sets you apart. You can't be afraid to self-promote and create a strong network of friends, mentors, and contacts. Most of my jobs have come through my network!
|Anne as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Photo Credit: Benedikt Haack.|
If someone wants to work in the performing arts, they need to find a good teacher, practice every single day, be ready to take risks, and be nice to your colleagues. For me, at first, it was attending the IES Abroad program where I met so many wonderful people and had a voice teacher who helped me make contacts within the community and who I work with to this day. Then, I spent three years in the Vienna Conservatory, and that's where I met and made more important contacts here in Vienna that led me to some of my first jobs. Higher education is much less expensive in Europe than in the United States, and I've been able to take advantage of many wonderful educational opportunities here in Vienna.
IES Abroad: What skills or lessons did you learn studying abroad that have impacted your life in the 12 years you have lived in Vienna?
AW: Of course, one of the most important skills I learned was learning the German language, which started when I was a student at IES Abroad. As I look back over my career, being open and welcoming to people, ideas, and experiences was critical to my success in creating a career here in Vienna.
IES Abroad: What’s next for you?
AW: My next gig is in March 2017, singing Fiordiligi in a historically authentic production of Cosi fan tutte in Schloss Laxenburg, just outside of Vienna. The theater is an original space (restored, of course) where Mozart himself conducted his own operas! Check out the website: www.teatrobarocco.at/ and learn more about my work at www.Annewieben.com.
Headshot, Photo Credit: Lisa Hancock
Are you a Performing Arts major or just interested in learning about our Music programs in Vienna? Check out our semester and summer study abroad programs in Vienna here.