October 8, 2020

Making a Home at CIM

Student Ella Sobkowicz and voice faculty Dean Southern

By: Ella Sobkowicz

CIM’s Newsroom will now include a student-led blog with posts covering a variety of topics, including the CIM admissions process, student life, and interviews with faculty, students and alumni. This is the first of many blog posts written by CIM undergraduate and soprano Isabella (Ella) Sobkowicz, who is currently studying with Dean Southern in CIM’s Voice program. Follow the CIM blog to learn from members of our community and to get an inside look into what it’s like to study in Cleveland at CIM!

As a first-year undergraduate student here at CIM, my first month has been filled with all kinds of new experiences. After my high school shut down in March and all students were sent home because of the pandemic, I was unsure as to what my freshman year would look like. I had assumed that we would have to complete our first semester from home, and yet here I am on campus, living in the newly-built student housing complex, having in person lessons and studying in a community with other musicians.

CIM has taken incredible measures to ensure that we can safely continue to learn and grow in our crafts despite the obstacle of COVID-19 and I am so grateful. After practicing in my bedroom for five months due to quarantine with lessons only over FaceTime and singing along with recorded accompaniment or the app, APPcompanist, it was quite a moving experience to come to CIM and sing in person, with live piano accompaniment. As a voice student, I’m taking lessons in the new low-latency studios and even outside! I prefer to have my lessons outside on CIM’s terrace, but when I can’t have a lesson out there, I “meet” with my teacher, Dr. Southern, in one of the low-latency studios. Dr. Southern and I connect over TV monitors in adjacent rooms. I sing along while he plays the piano in real-time. It’s incredible! I hope that we continue to have outdoor lessons “post COVID” when the weather is nice because I really love the experience.

Ella doing laundry in her suiteSomething I fully expected to loathe during my freshman year of college was the student housing. I thought I would be living in a small, crowded, brick wall dorm room with no air conditioning, terrible smells of which no one can find the source and empty instant meal cartons shoved into a tiny trash can. When I saw pictures of 1609 Hazel, I just about fell over; three bedrooms, a fully furnished living room, two bathrooms, a laundry room and a kitchen. It truly is beyond anything I could have dreamed! My mom has always taught me to be independent (thanks, Mom!), so cooking, doing dishes, cleaning and doing laundry for myself is not a new experience. However, it is new learning how to fit those things into not only my schedule, but my roommates’ schedules, too!  My suitemates and I set a few ground rules to help us avoid some basic conflicts:

  1. All dishes have to be done by nighttime so we can start the next day with a clean and empty sink.
  2. We each get a day for laundry (I have Thursday) with Sunday being for everyone.
  3. We each have a chore to do on the weekend and we do it together as a suite. This has been working out great for us so far!

One of my favorite places outside of my suite are the practice rooms on the first floor of 1609 Hazel. I can change the settings of the space to make it feel like I am singing in a concert hall or cathedral, but I have to say, even the practice room setting is a great choice and the one I typically use. The best part about those practice rooms is that they are noise-cancelling. I can focus on my repertoire without being interrupted by the Dvorak Cello Concerto theme or someone testing out how they sound on the “arena” setting. When I’m not in the practice room or in my suite, I walk next door to CIM’s main building to study, complete homework and do my tasks for my work study jobs. Pogue Lobby is my go-to choice when I need to focus because it is usually quiet and empty, but I also love to be outside. Sometimes, I sit on the benches at the front of CIM or gravitate to one of the tables on the north terrace where I can relive my lessons with Dr. Southern while doing some Italian or theory homework.

Learn more about CIM’s Voice and Opera program and faculty!