CLA France Blog: First Impressions

After arduous travels, most of the singers arrived yesterday at our location: the cheateau Les Jouandis. For some, the trip was not as peaceful as the calm rolling hills that now surround us. We flew, navigated the French train system, and, due to rail construction, took the last leg of our journey by bus. One singer even left her suitcase on a departing train. On my end, I narrowly caught my train in Paris with only one minute to spare. However, I can confidently say that the hours of cramped leg room and rushed connections faded away as we discovered Le Jouandis in the heart of the French countryside.

Les Jouandis, our cozy campus for the next three weeks, is a peaceful paradise. The chateau sits atop a hill and overlooks the rolling fields of grass and wheat. The property itself features beautiful foliage and rustic charm. Despite its aged beauty, the buildings offer a variety of amenities, including a sauna, outdoor hammocks, and an impressive pool, which made us all very sad to learn that our second day will bring rain. We were greeted by the owners with a basket filled with ripe cherries - hand-picked on the property, of course. After enjoying our first nibbles on the large outdoor dining area, our jet-lagged spirits were already inspired for three weeks of beauty, music, and community. Personally, I found Le Jouandis to be even more impressive than I could have hoped.

The only excitement equal to discovering our beautiful home was the experience of meeting each other. We represent many backgrounds and personalities, including heritage from Mexico, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States, in addition to the largely French staff. It was exciting to take part in the beginnings of our CLA community, and I’m looking forward to the great friendships and collaborations that will develop. I was particularly struck by the thoughtfulness of the musicians around me. It is clear that this year’s students and faculty prioritize kindness and inclusion. Even while sunbathing by the pool, I listened to productive conversations about what it means to be an effective and authentic artist.

Finally, we celebrated all together at our first group dinner prepared by the wonderful cooking staff Benoit and Emmannuel (much more on delicious food in future posts!). The faculty welcomed us and spoke about their priorities for the next few weeks. They stressed the importance of a supportive CLA community and the pleasure of performing. These two ideas are very important to me as an artist, and I was so excited to hear that they will be the foundation of the CLA experience. I feel that competition, ego, and distrust too often seep into our educational experiences as young singers. Even more so, I find that, among our studies of technique, diction, and interpretation, we easily forget to take pleasure in our performance. CLA seems to steer clear of these pitfalls, and it is clear that this will be a time for detailed work, as well as a comfortable opportunity to take risks and truly enjoy our craft.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experience at CLA with you all through this blog. If you have any questions about the experience here in France, please reach out at with questions or suggestions. More to come soon!