JOE PLEUSS '04
Joe Pleuss received his BS in Music from Edgewood in 2004. He is completing his MM in Vocal Performance at California State University-Northridge, and is applying to graduate programs for a DMA in Opera Performance.
DECIDING TO BECOME A MUSIC MAJOR
Music has always been an important part of my life. I began playing trumpet in fourth grade, and played in my uncle’s jazz club in Appleton. Music and theater were my primary interests in high school, so when I got to college, it was natural for me to head in that direction. I was primarily a trumpet player in high school; however, at Edgewood it was rather obvious to Music faculty that I had more potential as a singer. The Music faculty helped me make the most important career choice of my life, although I didn't know it at the time.
GRAD SCHOOL AND SUMMER PROGRAMS THAT WERE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES FOR ME
The highlights would have to be working on the title role in Don Giovanni at Opera in the Ozarks, as well as the roles of Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, and Frank Maurant from Street Scene. My voice really excels in the music of Mozart, and Don Giovanni is definitely a fun role to play. Almaviva was a very special role to me because it was my first opera role. The Frank Maurant role was a wonderful opportunity, because it let me draw heavily on my theater roots. I really enjoy the Giovanni character because of the multifaceted psychological approach needed to tackle this large work.
EDGEWOOD EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME SINCE GRADUATION
Edgewood really helped me find myself as a person. College is a unique place to begin to ask your own questions and find your own opinions on life. Faculty, including Moses Altsech, Julie Dunbar, Blake Walter, and Kathy Otterson, really invested a great deal of time in developing my potential—not only as a musician, but as a person. They were able to give me great experiences working on a wide variety of repertoire.
A great testament to the quality of teaching is that five years after I had attended Edgewood, I was still able to test out of the preliminary classes for both Music History and Music Theory for my master’s program. This is pretty remarkable, especially considering many students, including composition majors, weren't able to pass despite coming directly in from undergraduate programs. The professors at Edgewood do a great job of not only teaching you information, but helping you retain what you have learned.
EXPERIENCES OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM TO HELP YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR CAREER
Spend time in the practice room. If you are serious about a career in music, keep in mind that somebody is currently working harder than you are. I maintain a mentality that I am always playing catch up to someone who is spending more time in the practice room than I. Voice majors are unique because at age 20-21, your voice is still very young – so spend time with Mozart, Schubert, and your Italian art songs.
A singer is an athlete; your body is your instrument. Warm up before you practice and split up your practice time throughout the day. If your voice is tired, don't sing, but work through your music mentally by speaking the words in rhythm.
Spend time learning languages and working on your diction, as you have no idea how hard it is to listen to someone sing with poor diction. My diction was bad at Edgewood, and there is a very special place in heaven for all of the professors who were "privileged" enough to hear me butcher the Italian and French languages.
I have now found that if my diction is correct (exception of vowel modification at the top of the voice), my technique is almost always spot on.
ADVICE FOR MUSIC STUDENTS: MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR EDGEWOOD OPPORTUNITIES
What I wish I’d done differently is work harder on my vocal development at Edgewood. That would have saved me a great deal of money down the road, and sped up my success. Study your musical mechanics with Professor Walter, ask questions and absorb as much history as you can from Professor Dunbar.
Piano is the most important thing you can learn as a musician, because it is where everything is composed. If you are a vocalist, spend equal time playing piano and singing. This will help your sight reading tremendously and will save you lots of time and money down the road.
To all students: continue to ask questions and challenge your own beliefs, opinions and philosophies. Travel abroad, even if it takes an extra semester to graduate. It will definitely give you a different perspective on life.
Edgewood provides a great learning environment, so utilize the great faculty resources that you have.
December 2011 - Interviewed by Rebecca Rice
“Spend time in the practice room. If you are serious about a career in music, keep in mind that somebody is currently working harder than you are”Joe Pleuss