From Russia with Love: Music Alum Stephanie Rhodes Receives Fulbright Award
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012
Stephanie Rhodes, a 2006 Utah State University graduate, is the recipient of a U.S. Student Program scholarship to study piano and opera in Russia. The award was announced by the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Rhodes is one of more than 1,700 United States citizens who will travel abroad for the 2012-13 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Since graduating from USU with a bachelor’s degree in piano performance, Rhodes has been an active coach and collaborator, working with opera companies and singers around the world. She continued her education and is a graduate of the prestigious Houston Grand Opera Studio and she earned a master’s degree in collaborative piano from the University of Michigan.
Rhodes is spending the 2012-13 season in Moscow, Russia, furthering her research of Russian lyric diction and her specialization in the Russian operatic repertoire. Additionally, she joins the music staff of the Bolshoi Theatre as a principal coach for the Young Artist Program, teaching diction courses, masterclasses and preparing singers individually for operatic and concert programs.
Prior to her Fulbright award, Rhodes worked as a pianist and vocal coach and has been employed at several opera companies. While at the University of Michigan, she was asked to prepare Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin.”
“That meant not only playing the score, but learning how to pronounce all the Russian correctly,” Rhodes said. “Given the fact that I spoke NO [her emphasis] Russian whatsoever, that was a daunting task. I’ve long been an admirer of the music — the Russian repertoire for piano is technically and physically demanding, but so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s worth every hour of practice.”
From that experience, Rhodes developed a love and interest in the Russian language and repertoire, she said.
“While in Moscow I will continue my research on Russian Lyric diction, the special pronunciation of the language for singers,” Rhodes said. “There are surprisingly few resources available to non-Russian singers to help them with their diction, and I feel that those which exist are inadequate.”
With that in mind, Rhodes has begun work on a book on Russian pronunciation and repertoire that she hopes will be a useful aid to both singers and pianists who perform Russian opera and art songs.
In addition to her Fulbright, Rhodes was awarded a Critical Language Enhancement Award that enables her to study the language intensively at the Russian State University of the Humanities.
Communicating from Moscow through email, Rhodes said she looks at her years at USU as some of the most formative of her professional life.
“It was there that I really learned how to play the piano, something that sounds so deceptively simple,” she writes. “I think of all the early mornings and late nights I spent in those tiny practice cubicles and am grateful for the foundation they gave me. In those rooms I failed time and again, agonizing over difficult passages and getting frustrated beyond reason!
“But in those same rooms I also felt the excitement and joy of achievement, of overcoming difficulty, and of self-discovery.”
She credits her mentor, Gary Amano, with the guidance and inspiration for her effective learning and success.
“There is not a day that I’m at the piano that I don’t think back on professor Amano’s teaching,” she writes. “Now, six years after graduation, I often feel that I’m still learning from him.”
Rhodes also said it was at USU that she learned to “listen,” a crucial skill in her discipline.
“I had so many talented colleagues to learn from that it was as if I had a myriad of teachers,” Rhodes said. “We also had the advantage of hearing some of the greatest pianists in the industry, thanks to Dennis Hirst and his work with the Wassermann Festival. It’s another concept that sounds basic, but when you’re working in the business of creating sound, learning how to listen is invaluable.”
And, like many successful USU music graduates, Rhodes explored campus life outside the music building. She said she had “amazing experiences” in the Honors program and in her academic coursework.
“I really do believe I received a complete and comprehensive education in my time there,” she concluded.
About the Fulbright Program:
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.
Contact: Stephanie Rhodes, Stephanie@stephanierhodes.net
Writer: Patrick Williams, USU Public Relations and Marketing, (435) 797-1354, firstname.lastname@example.org