This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. For the complete interview, you can access here.
Kristine Dizon: Hello, my name is Kristine Dizon and I'm the CEO and founder of The Modern Artist Project. Today, I'm with Angela Sindeli, born in Bucharest, Romania where she graduated from the Faculty of Performing Arts in Singing for both the Bachelor and Masters levels at the National University of Music Bucharest where in 2014 she was awarded Summa cum laude for her Ph.D. title - Myth, seduction, mystery: women in G. F. Handel's Opera, coordinated by Professor University Dr. Dan Dediu. She was trained by the Romanian sopranos Marina Mirea and Mariana Colpos. Angela gained various scholarships such as Erasmus grants at the Conservatorio Statale "Dall’Abacco" in Verona and at the Joseph Haydn Conservatory, European grants at the International Summer Academy in Prague, Vienna in Budapest, coordinated by M.D. W. And Lead forum, an intensive program organized and promoted by the U. D. K. Berlin. Angela Sindeli is also experienced in coordinating European projects promoted by the National University of Music Bucharest as she is also representing the international relations department of the same institution where she teaches.
She recently gained the executive graduate certificate in social entrepreneurship, organizational management, and community development at the Global Leaders Program as part of the 2022 cohort, thank you Angela for joining us today.
Angela Sindeli: Hello Kristine, and thank you for inviting me.
KD: I know I talked a lot about the different things that you've done in your career, but I'd like to learn more about the path that led you in this direction.
AS: Okay, so as you said, I was born in Romania and all I can mention is that my crazy personality visible from an early age made me discover singing, acting, and dancing through creative playing. It was a game at the beginning because I always liked to invent games to involve people in playing and enjoying this process. One of the questions I used to ask my fellows from the kindergarten was “What are you good at?”
I guess this might be the early stage of my managerial skills. I grew up with music as my second major, although my parents are not professionals, they both like singing and my father plays I think three instruments just for fun. We used to have our musical evenings and I must say our repertoire was white varying from folk songs to sometimes operatic businesses. This is one of my dearest memories from childhood. What else can I say?
I have also been a choir member of the children's choir for more than 10 years and when I realized that I'm going to embrace music as a real profession, I started to take singing and music theory lessons I always liked being stage, and now as an adult and artist, I really miss the genuine reaction as a child while singing. I was so free and worry-less somehow by getting older. I think we tend to forget the freedom and flexibility that children have in everything they do.
KD: Thank you for sharing that with us. And I definitely agree with you in the sense that the older we get, the more worried, the more self-conscious, the more aware we are of how we're perceived. And yes, I agree with you, the beauty of being able to be in that mindset to be in that world is really captivating
AS: It's a pleasure.
KD: So when you think about the idea of having a career as you do, not only with administration or being an artist, how do you find the balance of juggling those two things?
AS: Oh, it's really a challenge because both of them are really demanding and both of them require a lot in terms of preparation in terms of being on the spot and being always present and connected to reality. It's not always easy to do that because sometimes you tend to identify yourself more with the singing or sometimes more with the administrative part.
But I think if you manage your time wisely, you somehow manage to juggle with them and take the best of each of them. It's sometimes really difficult because keeping the right balance is not an easy task.
KD: So for our listeners, what would you recommend in regards to being able to find that balance?
AS: I think it's always a matter of what you really want to do and what is really important for you at that specific moment because you can do them very well. But sometimes you have to really choose, I mean if you want to sing or to perform more, you have to let the administrative part a little bit on the second spot, let's say.
But yeah, you have to choose. Doing them both in the same with the same amount of time, with the same amount of commitment, it’s really difficult. So sometimes you have to choose, but if you manage your time you can do them both.
KD: No, that's really good advice in regards to being able to really think about what you want in objectives, your purpose, right? It goes back to the question that you had when you were talking to your friends when you were a young girl and what are you good at. And I think that's a really great quality. And that really shows the direction that you had at that early age and when we think about young professionals today with the different possibilities, after the recent pandemic that we've had, in order to be able to take agency, what would you suggest would be the best way of being able to go about that after completing studies in the university?
AS: I think the professionals have to understand nowadays they are not trained to become only excellent musicians or artists. This is not enough. It is really important to be ready and to have this working progress, work, and movement, but it's really important to realize that there are some other things that count such as your personality, your background knowledge, common sense, community involvement, self-promotion, networking, things that the digital era allows in these days. So I think they need to shape their own career, They need to permanently improve and shape their path. So somehow I think the mix is actually both the professional part and also the entrepreneurial part. So they have to do them both.
Yes, and I feel like in a sense, having done the Global Leaders Program and we were actually in the same cohort, being able to learn the different skills of what it takes to be able to earn how to finance or how to finance projects, how to be able to reach out to different people, what types of email correspondences need to happen in regards to establishing meetings, being able to say, “Okay, this is what I need to do in order to make this happen”. This goes back to the goals that we have and do you feel at your institution or in just in general that institutions are teaching these concepts in a clear way to young people?
AS: As a matter of fact, yes, as educators, I think it's a part of our mission to open the young professionals towards this new mentality and to provide them with the tools for doing so. At the university where I teach at the National University of Music Workers, we have initiated a post-graduation program which is called Musical Management. I know from experience these kinds of programs and courses play an important role in designing the educational curriculum and at least in Europe, I am aware that these kinds of programs are already existing and growing. That gives us hope because being an artist in this digital age requires flexibility and content-wise, permanent attention to improvement and self-improvement.
KD: No, and that's the thing, I feel like in a sense when we think about the world that we live in even 10 years ago, it was so different, and being able to see how powerful the internet has become, it's a little bit crazy.
AS: Yes. Absolutely.
KD: And establishing those skills, especially at that time because we see lots of musicians, lots of young people who are really bright-eyed who really want to be able to pursue the dreams that they have established when they were young or when they were kids. And sometimes it's disheartening to see… when we think about the level of competition and the lack of jobs available, what types of advice would you give to provide encouragement to these people?
AS: They have to use all the tools they have on the table. First of all, even if we have this digital approach and this internet help, as an artist, you have to be always ready, always ready mentally, always ready professionally. First of all, you are always on time and on the spot with what you really do, and then try to create networks, try to open as much as possible to the outside. As you said before, many years ago, our mentors, and our teachers couldn't even imagine the richness that the internet provides for young artists nowadays.
They are lucky to have these opportunities, but on the other hand, what I noticed on the internet nowadays is that there is a compromise. They want to be displayed, let's say. But the quality of the things displayed sometimes is not that good, sometimes not what it's supposed to be. So, being visible is really good. Being on the internet is really good, but you should sometimes keep the balance between the quality of the things displayed and the presence online.
KD: I think that's great advice because a lot of the time, at least I don't know about you, Angela, but like early on in my search, my path in being able to find the direction that I was able to find, I know for a fact that I didn't know the possibilities about would be the best angle, how lighting is important and I'm a musician by training.
And so it's one of those things that you really realize that the quality of the work that you demonstrate, that you share with people actually, that's like presenting the best image of yourself. And also to whether you bring up a really great point before the idea of personality, if you are a person that you would want to work with, right?
Or for example, if I'm a person that you would want to work with, you would rather work with a person who is able to connect with you in a way where someone who may be just as qualified, who doesn't have those skills would struggle. It's always a matter of compatibility between the professional and the person because I think they go together. When we think about those things, in regards to the tools, at least what we try to do at the modern artist project is to provide resources for young professionals to start things off without having to spend so much money. Being able to understand the importance of organic marketing, being able to understand the value of what they do. So with your teaching at the university, what do you suggest to your students in regard to how they're able to shape and have ideas about what they want to do when they graduate?
AS: Yeah, this is a really important question because they always ask us, at least in the last years of their studies, they keep asking, “Okay, what's next?”. Because of course you take everything from the university, but you just face the market, the real danger. And maybe let's put it this way, the real challenge for each musician.
And what I advised them is to stay open and not to expect others to solve the problem for them because during my teacher’s time, let's say they were just finishing their studies and they got jobs in the opera houses, it was really simple than those times. But now the number of graduates is growing and the competition is getting bigger and bigger and really serious, not only at the national level, but at the international level, and they have to reinvent themselves, they have to reconsider everything they learned in school. With the tools that they got from the university, they have to really create their own path. I'm talking to them about the repertoire they choose and the dress codes they use for the audience that they reach for because it's really important to know exactly what you expect from them.
Let's talk about opera because I'm into that field, we should somehow get off the stage and try to reach new people towards this genre, which is nice for the traditional audience, but it might be not so familiar for the younger generation. So it's up to us to sell our products and to educate our audiences about what we really want to have as a result.
KD: And I think this is really great advice, and this is something that I also really advocate, really making classical music or just music in general, or even art, opera, or jazz, or what have you to make it relevant for people and having that type of connection because if not, then what's going to happen is that our art is going to die.
Something that we love, something that we care for, something that we train for. And so I think it's great that you tell your students to not wait because they feel like there's a lot of people who wait, then they get frustrated and then they say, “Well maybe I'm going to change careers”, which is not a problem. I know many people have done that, but then it turns them off in regards to what the music is or the value of music.
And I feel like you bring up a good point about sharing with audiences. Now in Romania, how do you connect with audiences in making sure that they're able to communicate with you not only as an artist but also with the art that you create?
AS: This is really an interesting question about the audience and it's something that really requires our attention. And answering this question brings me to two things. First of all, I would begin by asking myself who is my audience and second of all, who I want my audience to be and answering those questions gives us the right approach, I think, because we will always have a traditional audience that appreciates our arts, who is always there for us and for our music and then there’s a changeable, flexible audience who might have heard about us or who is just curious to find out more about our music. Of course, we will always cherish the traditional audience. But I think the challenge for us is to grow the new one. And how can we do this? As I said before, by trying to educate the audience by listening to their wish by getting to speak the same language.
I mean if we want a larger audience for opera, we get off the stage and meet them in their familiar environment. We go to schools, we go to festivals, we go to public places to market. I don't know too unconventional places or areas adapt a little bit, our repertoire, makes it more digestible. Let's say, adapt our dress code. We shouldn't be always that bush as the people are used to, and we have to become more familiar with them. We shouldn't intimidate them and I think we should make them a part of the performance in itself. Because if they feel our energy, they are going to vibrate, they are going to ask for more. Last but not least, this is something that I took from the Global Leaders Program, we have to tell a story by our singing. If you don't have a story to tell, the audience is going to get bored. So having always a story message, a subtext I think helps us a lot to gain new people and to you know educate a new audience.
KD: This is really great and I love the fact that you talk about this idea of storytelling and be able to say what type of story the audience wants to hear. For example, in the United States, you know the attendance of concerts or classical music concerts or when we think about just the attendance of concerts in general and being able to find a way of saying new music or when we think about music that's written for specific audiences… how do we connect with that in regards to how you educate and I think you've hit on a lot of really great points here, Angela.
AS: Thanks. Yeah, it's something that really stays with me because if we don't get preoccupied with the audience we somehow miss our goal.
KD: Yeah definitely. And when we think about the role technology has played in regard to how our audience consumes music, how they feel about music, how they interact with music. There are a lot of different things that are so different. I don't know about you but 10 years ago, even when we had CD players, right?
KD: I mean we still have CDs, but we have downloads and now you can access music a lot faster than before.
AS: Yes, absolutely.
KD: So in regards to the different things about how we get the audience more involved, that was something really interesting that you mentioned and I'd like for you to be able to give more on how would you personally go about it.
AS: During my concerts, I realized that as I said, we have a traditional audience and new people coming around for the new people coming around. I think it's really important for instance, to present a little bit more of the works that you are about to perform, to introduce the audience to the theme that you choose for your concert, for your recital. For instance, to say a few words about the composers about the era, about the historical and social context of that time.
And always try to find a connection with what is happening today because music is something that connects the old and the new, the past with the present, and also the future. So even if you've seen Bach for instance, tell them a few things about the environment, about the choices that you made for the repertoire, and then you see them allow the audience to leave this specific moment, to be a part of it, you know?
Because there are people that might come to your concert and have never heard a note about Bach. And it's really important the way they go home after listening to your music and after listening to your words about life in those times and the style that it used to be during Bach’s music.
KD: And I think that's really great. In regards to being able to take time from a concert right where you'll be performing these types of works and being able to say, “I want you to share in this experience in a way that is different from before.” And a lot of time. It's difficult for people to even have the courage to do that type of public speaking because I don't know about you, but like at least for me to be able to speak to an audience of people really takes some skills. So what type of advice would you give to people who are not really public speakers, who are a bit shy, but want to be able to share their music with their audience?
AS: They could make small presentations that the audience can read, but this is a little bit too formal. I would say it's really nice when you actually approach them by speaking to them. That could be advice to present written and in a few lines, the idea of the concerts, the idea of what I previously said. Another way of reaching the audience is to actually go to public places and I know my students already started to organize themselves and just play or sing or rehearse publicly. We have a very nice park near the conservatory and during summer you can see them playing around and of course, people are gathering because it's something really nice. Even if they rehearse for the audience, it's something really new and I think that's a way to reach them. The first step is to make yourself visible.
Okay, so just being there rehearsing, having an audience on the spot, you can enjoy this vibe and announce to the public that they can see you see you performing in the conservatory. I think it's really important to make human connections with them, to really get them into your work.
KD: I love the idea of going to public places, it's kind of like a pop-up concert. Being able to just play music and have people take part in it, and I think having those types of pop-up concerts or even just performing in the park or in public places where there's a lot of traffic. That's the thing I'd like to add in regard to what you've mentioned. If for some reason you want to do those types of things make sure it's in places that are well populated.
Making sure that there are actually people there. Because you could go to a great park, and you could go to one part of the park and there's not really a whole lot of people there and you can play your music, right? But who's listening beside the birds and maybe a couple of stray cats, that type of thing?
AS: Yeah, you're right. Usually, this park is really populated. And it was really important to work a little bit on the repertoire that you perform, as I said about the opera. I know it was a project. I don't think it's an international project. I would say opera truck. It was called by a small group of singers that went to different places and performed small scenes from the operas. I mean let's take the Marriage of Figures for instance, they didn't actually perform the whole opera, but they took some areas and they did some acting and it was really nice because the people felt that the opera just came to them. I mean they weren't supposed to be well dressed and pushed in order to see these performances. So I think this is really important as well. I mean it's the message, not the ambiance that should attract people toward the concert or towards the performance.
KD: That's true. And one of the things that I really appreciate about, what you've just mentioned is the fact that when we talk about this relatability, we don't have to wear these big concert gowns or these long tuxedos to be able to connect with people, but being able to show the authenticity, the genuine nature and beauty of making music in these types of settings can be really meaningful and can touch people or touch audiences that you never thought you would reach out to.
AS: Absolutely. And I think audiences need to be touched. The people from the audience need to identify with the characters that they see more than we even think because what's the point to see a performance if you don't need this sensitive approach towards music towards a message that an artist can communicate? So the more we get familiar with them, I think the better will be because usually, classical music has this specific way and specific people coming to attend these kinds of concerts, that somehow tends to be a little bit addressed to the elite. And I think we should do it the other way around, to get the people, ordinary people to connect with classical music a little bit more.
KD: I think this is really great and there are so many elements when we talk about getting the general audience or even expanding our community and being able to do that in a way that it doesn't seem forced but intentional in regards to being able to say, “Hey, you know, this is important, here's the value of what we do”. So one of the questions I have actually kind of backtracking a little bit is, in Romania, how does the music education system engage students from an early age?
AS: Yeah, as I said, we are doing small steps in this direction of entrepreneurship. But yeah, we have a traditional school, I would say, because we tend to focus more on the educational part on the traditional educational part with knowing your instrument, having the right tools for you to become a real artist and a really good artist.
And as a second step, this managerial approach is really important and it is growing. So, as I said, we are doing small steps but we are now having these programs that I hope our students are going to attend and are going to embrace because we invite people from outside, we invite people that are having their own businesses.
We also invite former students that are now having successful careers and that started small to persuade the young ones and to give a personal example because this is really important. I mean if they see that some of them manage, they have the courage to hope that they are going to be able to do it as well. So a personal example is really important if you bring someone to talk to them about their personal and professional life, that helps a lot.
It's also important to have mentors to have people from outside to whom they can relate in terms of how to prepare a portfolio, and how to even dress for an audience for an audition. This small aspect may sound unimportant at first glance but is really making a difference. So yeah, I think they need to talk to people more, they need to find persons to whom they can relate and from whom they can get advice.
We try to help them in this matter since as I said, we didn't have this tradition of going together with theoretical and professional approaches towards singing, playing, and the entrepreneurial site.
KD: I think this is a great development, and a lot of time, I don't know about you in our society, we always want to have things really fast, right?
We've become so impatient in regards to, these types of things, but this idea of this entrepreneurial spirit, I think that's really great that you're working with your students and being able to encourage that because especially with entrepreneurship, there's always a level of risk involved, right? We dedicate so much time for example, to a project and have the project be in a way that's presented really well professionally, but you could also have that same project fail, but not with any fault to one's own, but the fact that there is potential for failure, But also to being able to say with that failure in mind it's going to be okay because it is a process.
I really love the fact that you're working with your students on speaking about failure, I think this is a part of the process, I speak with my students about failure because they have to embrace it even as human beings, not only as artists, because let's face it, our life is not only about success. Each of us has experienced these moments of failure, but if you look at the failure as a step forward, that's great because I think that's what it’s all about. You fail, but you grow at the same time.
AS: Yeah. And that growth is so essential. So that not only bettering ourselves but being able to encourage that with other people because a lot of time, people feel like, “I have to be perfect, I have to be excellent all the time,” which can be really stressful, right? But it's also a matter of education because some of the systems that I know teach the students to be this way and if we don't get more flexible in our approach as educators, I think the result is the one you are talking about. So we should change this and try to encourage the students to make mistakes because this is the only way we can learn. And also to approach with new words for them to apply for projects to have the courage to ask for funds.
You know, we don't have this in Romania. It's not that common to have students asking for funds for their studies, for their scholarships and master classes, and so on. This is not a very common practice. And I think we should persuade it a little bit more.
KD: And I think that's really interesting to learn about the idea of taking steps of going in the direction of being able to help the students that you serve, the communities that you serve in regards to making sure that when they graduate, that they are equipped or at least have some tools right to be able to manage, having portfolio careers, being able to take auditions.
It goes back to what you mentioned, the idea of it can be as simple as how you dress in regard to how people perceive you, especially taking auditions and even job interviews.
AS: Right. It's really important. And you know what you asked me about pieces of advice now, I have one in mind and I think it's really important to be flexible and to stay open because the school gives you something and maybe when you enroll for a certain school you have some expectations, but those expectations, sometimes they're not the same with what the labor market requires.
So you have to adjust, you have to be flexible and try to see and seize the opportunities around you because if you stay still and stiff in only one direction, you miss the whole picture.
KD: And this is excellent advice. And I think with everything that we've talked about, I think we're going to leave it on that note. Angela, thank you for joining us today and for sharing your experience and thoughts with us, we look forward to seeing the amazing things that you continue to do for our community. Thank you, Angela.
AS: Thank you very much, Kristine, and thank you all!
Kristine Dizon is a multi-faceted performer, teacher, writer, author, linguist, and entrepreneur. She is Founder & CEO of the Music & Language Learning Center, The Modern Artist Project and co-founder of the Gran Canaria International Clarinet Festival and American Single Reed Summit. She is an artist for Uebel Clarinets and Silverstein Works. Learn more at www.kristinedizon.com.