Instead of writing a post of New Year's resolutions (which I may still do eventually), I wanted to share with you my 2016 holiday newsletter, complete with pix and a few (hopefully) good stories from the past twelve months. May 2017 be a year of growth and joy for each of you!
Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 from New York City! I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the holiday season. This year has been, if possible, even crazier than last. In August, I relocated to NYC to pursue a more performance-focused career and am completely thrilled with the move. I’ve since started teaching again through Highbridge Voices, an after school music and academic program in the Bronx. My seven voice students are a fun, diverse group of Hispanic middle and high schoolers, and it’s been a joy getting to see them grow every Tuesday.
With all the moving around this year, I’ve had an interesting array of musical experiences. One of the coolest was premiering the role of Young Clara in Clara, a show about the life of Clara Schumann. This was my third production with Fresco Opera Theatre, and they never cease to amaze me with their inventive programming. The script for Clara was written in collaboration with Boman Desai, the author of Trio, a novel biography about the Schumanns and Johannes Brahms. Songs by each of the three composers took the place of traditional opera arias and were woven together by dialogue. If you’re in the Madison area, I hope you’ll check these guys out!
It was especially hard saying goodbye to the Madison Choral Project, the Wisconsin-based group that has become like choir family to me. In May, we performed David Baker’s Images, Shadows and Dreams with a jazz combo band. The five poems, by Mari Evans, presented five vignettes from the perspective of the underprivileged in America, and we heard original poems written by students of the UW Odyssey Project, a program for adults living near the poverty level. It was powerful seeing a representation of homelessness and poverty from our own town. I’m glad my final concert with MCP was so special and am excited to follow the group’s continued success.
Between teaching lessons this summer, I participated in three short early music workshops. This was my second time at the Queens College Baroque Opera Workshop, where I was introduced to a beautiful aria by Jean-Baptiste Lully that helped me gain a better sense of French Baroque ornamentation. At the Madison Early Music Festival, I had the opportunity to teach beginning group voice lessons and attend classes focusing on the music of Shakespeare’s time. Then in August, it was off to San Francisco for the American Bach Soloists Academy (ABS). Our culminating work was Bach’s Mass in B minor, in which I was assigned two duets to sing with the period orchestra. Not only was it an incredibly enriching two weeks, but I met some neat people, many of whom are living in NYC!
Speaking of NYC…reconnecting with friends in the city has been great. I found an alto church job through a colleague (yes, alto!), but it’s flexible enough to let me occasionally sub around in soprano positions. I’m also a part of the New York Continuo Collective (NYCC), a performance class for early music enthusiasts. This semester, we learned about the development of the lute song with the guidance of four early music experts. A number of friends and colleagues from the aforementioned summer programs are a part of this group, and it’s proving a lovely community of early music nerds. C4: The Composer-Conductor Collective is the other group with which I regularly sing. We specialize in music of the past twenty-five years, and most recently performed a concert involving local art and electronic elements. The music is fun and challenging, and I love working with composers and helping premiere their works. Besides NYCC and C4, I just sang a Messiah and a couple other small gigs, including Vaughan William’s Mass in G minor and Victoria’s Missa O magnum for Christmas Eve and Christmas. Lots of fantastic music!
There are certainly challenges living here. It’s tough financially, but I’m hoping to feel more grounded (and more fully employed) by next year. My neighborhood in Washington Heights is a vibrant, family-oriented community of mainly Spanish-speakers. There are some neat local spots, including the Hispanic Society of America and the Morris-Jumel Mansion, which was built in 1765 and served as headquarters for both sides during the American Revolution. Besides exploring, I’ve discovered that Trader Joe’s has some of the best prices (and holiday treats) in the city, and I can name every single stop on the 1 line from 181st to Christopher Street (call me up and I’ll do it for you in 30 seconds…I dare you!). My mom and I also went to the Met for the first time and saw a stunning production of L’amour de loin by Kaija Saariaho. I can’t wait to go back!
Each December, I’m reminded of my wonderful family and friends, and I think fondly of you all as I write this. Thank you for being a part of my life, and do let me know if you’re in NYC anytime soon. I wish you a New Year full of joy, hope, and beautiful music!