Elena Naumova is the 2021 Creative Fellowship alumni from North Macedonia. Her vocal skills and hard work during the preparation stage of our program secured her a scholarship covered trip to the Young Singers Project in Salzburg. By the time of this trip Elena has been studying opera singing for almost 6 years in her hometown in North Macedonia and was very motivated to further develop her artistic career. Since then, she became a winner of two international music contests and made her international entrance at the The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City.

We invited Elena to talk about how her “getway to the star drome” was developing since she attended the Young Singers Project workshops and met with one of YSP voice coaches two years ago in Austria.

CFF: Where did we catch you for this little get together?

EN: Well, first of all, thank you for inviting me to this talk. I am a school graduate this year and therefore I’m currently preparing for my final test.

CFF: How was your singing career developing since you won the scholarship?

EN: At the moment, my singing schedule is quite busy. To tell the truth, it is too busy. I don’t have time for myself. My life is only about schooling and working these days.  I’m working on some songs, and I am performing a lot. For many people, I think by the way, this would be kind of a dream life.


CFF: We heard that you won the International Youth Music Competition in New York City, tell us all about it?

EN: Indeed, I did. This and another one, the Rocky Mountain Music Competition. Maria Maxima, one of my teachers from the music school, offered me to apply for IYMC and I did. The procedure was not that difficult. You do it all online. The most difficult part is to put your portfolio together. You have to send them a YouTube link to your recording as a part of audition process. There is also an application fee of 50 USD.


CFF: We can all thank your teacher for the happy ending then?

EN: We have a very good communication with teachers at the music school and it is certainly beneficial for students.


CFF: Is IYMC a signing contest only?

EN: Oh no! There are many categories. You can apply if you play instruments, sing or even write songs. IYMC is the chance to show your multiple talents. There was another participant from Macedonia who applied as a pianist and won as well. So, there were two of us coming to New York City from my country.


CFF: Not every winner gets to go to NYC then?

EN: Only first and second prize winners go to the in-person Prize Winners’ Recital. You have to win a monthly competition first, get invited to the in-person recital by the organizers and pay USD 200 as a registration fee. Then you can apply for your visa and book a ticket to NYC. As a minor you also must come with a supervising adult.


CFF: Did you travel alone to the US?

EN: I travelled alone, but I stayed with my cousin, so I had an on-the-site supervisor.


CFF: What impressed you the most in this trip?

EN: Being a part of something big! And the Big Apple itself: tall buildings, a lot of lights, billboards, a lot of people. Totally different culture. Very impressive.

CFF: Do you often participate in contests and recitals?

EN: I do participate a lot. I wish I could do more, but the schedule is too tight.


CFF: What is your biggest professional challenge today?

EN: My biggest challenge is getting myself out into the bigger scene. My strategy is trying something different every time: different style of music, different singing, different makeup, different image. I wish I had more time to think of something new and more detailed, but I am always in a rush.

CFF: Let’s talk about Creative Fellowship a bit. Why did you decide to apply for and participate in Creative Fellowship program?

EN: I decided because it offered the perfect mix of what I like and do best. It also allowed me to improve my English. I love speaking English. You know, through this initiative I met a lot of international people and learned the great deal of new things. And it turned to be a milestone in my artistic development.


CFF: Tell us about your overall journey with Creative Fellowship from the moment you knew about the opportunity to participate, to winning the scholarship.

EN: From the very beginning it was a very exciting journey. You don’t know who will get the scholarship and go to Austria till the very end, so you are there to meet people and learn something new. And that was the most overwhelming part.

CFF: Was it hard for you to compete against other participants?

EN: It wasn’t hard because I didn’t apply to compete. I went there to enjoy the company and get to know new things. I did my best and was lucky to be awarded with the scholarship by the end of the preparation stage, and it felt really great but wasn’t the initial motivation for participation.  I just left the competing side of me on the side and went to make friends.


CFF: Could you share your impressions on the Salzburg trip experience in one word?

EN: Indescribable. The city, the program… In just a few days we did a lot of inspiring and useful things. It was really a life changing experience! You know, I was born and grew up in a small city. And then, with Salzburg I started discovering the world. Like you get to visit all these great places you have never been to before and your parents never told you about them and it feels like your world is extending. As soon as you experience this, your life is never the same.


CFF: What was the most remarkable outcome of your CFF journey?

EN: You know, I have been studying opera for 6 years by the time of my trip and have never been to a real opera. That was my first ever introduction to a real performance. And that was stunning. As a scholar, I was invited to a number of workshops for young singers including the voice coaching session. The latter was led by Laura Nicorescu, I think, she is a chief of the Young Singers Project at the Salzburg festival, but she is also an opera singer (soprano) herself. I found talking to her very useful because she gave me a lot of advice on my future and technique, so I would like to thank her for that.


CFF: What was the most useful advice on technique?

EN: They taught us how to breath. No one has ever taught us the connection between anatomy of the body and singing at school. At the workshop they showed us how to use your lower ab muscles to free throat from tension and reach the higher notes. That was very useful.


CFF: What else did you bring out of that trip?

EN: I was recommended Mozarterium University in Salzburg to study to advance my singing career. I really fell in love with Salzburg, but we shall see.


CFF: What would you advise young people who are pursuing their singing career?

EN:  First of all, to follow their dreams and never give up. Be patient, wait for your right moment to come, follow your heart. There will always be people that will try putting you down. Disregard. They will claim you are not good enough – just prove them wrong. And be persistent! Persistence always pays.