The roommates that stay together play together, but do the roommates that room together Zoom together? Yes!

Nate Bear, Mary Buckingham, and Katherine Krebs are first-year master’s students in the Bienen School’s Voice and Opera program. They also happen to be roommates.

Like many other students around the country, the trio began their graduate studies online, with a few hybrid courses mixed in. Unlike some other new students, however, they have been able to navigate their online classes together from their three-bedroom apartment.

Bear and Krebs, both students of W. Stephen Smith, already knew each other from high-school all-state choir; and they found Buckingham, who studies with Nancy Gustafson, on a student-run Facebook page for Bienen School graduate students.

With three opera singers giving concerts in the shower, speaking through Italian recitative at the kitchen table, and doing lip trills while they wait for the microwave to heat up their lunch, there is rarely a quiet moment in their shared home. As loud as it may get, this seemingly chaotic living arrangement gives the students something that performers everywhere are craving: human connection and expression.

“We are all eager to experience the magic of live performance again. However, given the circumstances, we agree that living with one another is the next best thing!” says Buckingham.

The trio also share an assigned practice room in the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. This sanitized practice space provides them with another location where they can work on their repertoire individually, and also provides a much-needed change of scenery from their apartment.

Attending Zoom classes from one location has served as an unexpectedly useful tool for the group’s coursework. In graduate opera workshop class, a hybrid acting class for voice students, the singers have been able to work on their acting techniques collectively even when studying remotely. They all sit in the same room and share a Zoom screen so they can work together. When the course meets in person in the Bienen School’s Ryan Opera Theater—an expansive black-box performance space— students rehearse and sing through repertoire while wearing masks and explore staging possibilities in a socially-distanced environment.

“Being able to do some work in person has been incredible and has given us the excitement of live collaboration that we’ve missed these last few months,” says Krebs.

In sharing an apartment, Zoom screen, and practice room, Bear, Buckingham, and Krebs have found a way to connect and navigate an unprecedented start to their journey as new Bienen School of Music students. The trio’s collaborative and positive support system allows them to work toward their shared goal: improving themselves as students, musicians, and performers every day.

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