The musical activities of the Opera Department could not run without the help of its graduate assistants: pianists who are appointed directly by the department to work as accompanists and coaches, and conductors who are assigned by the Conducting Department. Both should apply for consideration prior to the February auditions. Further details of these positions are given below.
Two (occasionally three) full assistantships. These are pianists who work an average of about 12-15 hours per week. They play ensemble and staging rehearsals for productions, and perform as accompanist for workshop productions with piano or as orchestral pianist (or occasionally harpsichordist or organist) where required. Depending upon their knowledge and experience, they may also coach singers and lead preliminary musical rehearsals in their own right. Appointments are made by the Music Director, JoAnn Kulesza, based on audition. The essential qualifications are excellent pianistic and sight-reading skills, and the ability to follow a conductor. Knowledge of the common operatic languages (including English) is desirable, and previous experience playing with singers is a considerable advantage.
One full assistantship. The conducting assistant works an average of 12-15 hours per week leading ensemble musical and staging rehearsals of the larger productions in the absence of the faculty conductor, assisting that conductor at other times, and assuming the responsibility of being ready to take over in case of illness. On occasion, conducting assistants whose abilities are already known to the department may be given one or more performances in the run of a production to conduct or be assigned a chamber production of their own, but these opportunities cannot be guaranteed and come as a reward rather than a right. The Opera conducting assistant is not appointed directly by the department, but by the Director of the conducting program, Gustav Meier, in the same way that assistants are assigned to the other major ensembles. Sometimes, conducting assistants are rotated between different assignments on an annual or occasionally a semester-by-semester basis, to give experience in orchestral or choral repertoire as well as opera. The Opera Department is also glad to offer practical experience to conducting majors other than the designated assistant whenever its needs permit. Experience in working with singers and some knowledge of languages is a virtual prerequisite, while the ability to play the piano permits the conductor to take responsibility for rehearsals at an earlier stage than would otherwise be the case.