While still a student at Juilliard, you helped conceive of one of NYFOS’s most popular shows, Schubert / Beatles; what sparked this idea?
Working with Steven Blier in my formative years as a young musician was crucial in many ways, but in particular, our work opened my mind to the possibilities of adventurous programming. The NYFOS mission is an antidote to the idea that classical programming has to be contained in a genre box. Once you break down the stigmas of genre, the programming possibilities become endless. The Beatles’ output represents a continuation of British/European song tradition, which has immediate ties to someone like Schubert. We found that these songs— in form and function, were very complementary.
You grew up in Manhattan; how did the abundant cultural opportunities here shape your development as an artist? What (or who) most influenced you?
To be honest, I was truly adverse to any culture as a young child. My parents would try as they might to get me to a museum, and I’d admittedly be kicking and screaming all the way. I don’t know what changed, but once I entered LaGuardia High School, I became obsessed with classical music. My choir director, Jana Ballard, was the person who showed me the genius of Mozart, and I still feel immensely connected to the inspiration she gave me.
Lately you’ve been doing a lot of work in Los Angeles. How are you finding life on the west coast? Do you have a sense of where you might like to settle eventually?
Freelancing in Los Angeles is wonderful. LA Opera has become a home company for me. It’s invaluable to feel absolutely comfortable at a company; from knowing the technical and administrative staff, to forming a relationship with the LA audience. That all being said, LA is not my home. Freelance singers are in a unique position in that they can choose anything, so the amount of choice I have at the moment is somewhat daunting. In an ideal world I’d probably live in the Hudson Valley. I work in major downtowns so often, I think I need to be based somewhere very pretty.
Are there any upcoming projects on your calendar that you are particularly excited about? (Other than our Killer B’s tour, of course.)
This season I get to do my first St. Matthew Passion, which is a piece that was deeply important to my late voice teacher, Sanford Sylvan. I am really looking forward to delving into a piece that mattered so much to him. He always said “you don’t get rich singing the St. Matthew Passion, you just get happy.”
What was the last music you listened to before answering these questions?
DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar.
When you aren’t making music, what is your favorite way to spend your time?
I am admittedly really bad at spending my free time. I find myself feeling very restless if I’m not working on something, and I usually make a point to go to the opera as much as I can to see my peers perform. I do try to fill time in between gigs getting out into nature as much as possible, and have been doing a lot of road tripping recently, which is a great way to see the world and enjoy the unique structure of the freelance schedule.
NYFOS is devoted to ‘song’ and the wide variety of styles that term encompasses. What is special about ‘song’ to you?
“Song” is a great word because it is all-inclusive as opposed to specific and exclusive. If we are sharing song, we are deciding to be part of a tradition that long preceded western classical music tradition, and harkens back to some of the fundamental roots of what makes us human.