Taking It All In

By Sena Namkung '25, April 7, 2023
Senior participates in opera master class at Carnegie Hall.

This past winter, voice performance major Anchal Indu Dhir ’23 got an exceptional opportunity to travel to Carnegie Hall in New York City and participate in a three-day master class taught by award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

Dhir was one of five—of just under 500 applicants—from around the world chosen to take part in this prestigious program, which consisted of training and a mock audition with industry professionals. “I just let out the most horrifically loud scream when I saw the email. It was like one of the best things I’ve ever seen,” said Dhir.

It’s no wonder she was so excited. Dhir had first discovered DiDonato’s master classes when her high school voice teacher showed her YouTube videos of DiDonato. From then on, Dhir said, she was mesmerized. “I knew then, at age 15, that I wanted to work with Joyce,” said Dhir.

Sometimes, meeting an idol can be disappointing—but it wasn’t in this case. Dhir said that DiDonato, a highly decorated and talented artist, made her feel comfortable from the beginning of the program. “Every day, we’d wake up, meet with Joyce, and literally sit knee to knee in a circle. She’d intimately tell us stories, and we got to ask her questions, and we talked about life,” Dhir said.

You can watch Anchal Dhir's '23 performance starting at the 1:23.12 mark of this video.

In addition to these meetings, master class participants joined Deborah Birnbaum, a breathing coach and vocal technician. During these sessions, participants would sing for Birnbaum, who would provide critiques. “I learned so much about my [breathing] mechanisms from that,” said Dhir.

After their session with Birnbaum, participants joined DiDonato for a 30-minute public master class. On the final day of the program, participants performed in a mock audition in front of DiDonato, industry professionals, and an agent manager who followed up with feedback.

Dhir sang two pieces, “Deh, vieni, non tardar” from Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart, and “Ah! Douce enfant” from Cendrillon by Massenet, and was grateful to get the opinion of professionals. “I was told I am on a great track, and they shared that they liked how I presented myself as an artist,” Dhir said. “They advised me to continue working on my technique seriously, learn languages, and build my website.

“I put everything I learned into my role as Mabel in [the Ithaca College] production of Pirates of Penzance. The master class was a perfect practice opportunity for me, and I am so thankful and grateful.”

Anchal Indu Dhir ’23

Grateful for the opportunity to make connections with industry professionals, Dhir also said that one of her favorite memories was having dinner with DiDonato and the other participants of the program. “Joyce kept saying to us, ‘You know, I was literally you. I was all of you, and I am still all of you. I am still a student.’ And she made us feel so warm and comfortable,” she recalled.

Dhir had support from IC during the class as well. Dawn Pierce, associate professor of music performance, traveled with her to New York City. “Professor Pierce talked to me every morning when I felt nervous,” Dhir said. “She just kept telling me, ‘You’re ready. Just be present. You don’t need to do anything but be present.’”

Dhir says that every moment of preparation for the prestigious master class also helped her prepare for her work at IC. “Because of this master class and everything I learned, I’ve delved into breath and body work this semester full throttle,” she said. “And I put everything I learned into my role as Mabel in our production of Pirates of Penzance. The master class was a perfect practice opportunity for me, and I am so thankful and grateful.”