Last night I had the opportunity to see Madama Butterfly performed by the Washington National Opera starring Ana Maria Martinez and Catherine Naglestad conducted by Maestro Plácido Domingo. The performance gave me chills and it was a special presentation with Young Artists of the Opera. The Young Artists are 20 and 30-something professional singers who train in residence with WNO, usually for two years; these public performance opportunities are an integral part of their training. I interviewed four of these YO’s and asked them what was their first memory of the arts as a child and how it molded them into the performer they have become today. Check out their inspirational first accounts below.......
"When I was about five or six years old and still living in the Soviet Union, I happened to overhear Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata playing on the radio at home. The music had a profound effect on me; I started to feel melancholy and nearly began to cry. At that point, I realized that somehow music and feelings were interconnected. I wasn't sure if others felt the same way, but I knew then that my special bond with sound meant that I would grow up to be a musician. Not many people remember specific events from their early childhood, but I remember this one like it was yesterday."
Sarah Mesko "My first experience with the arts was with movies. I remember sensing the dramatic capability of music very early in my life. My mom tells me that when I was really little (probably three or four), every time I would hear music, I would make up a dramatic situation to fit the mood. For example, "Here's when they're kissing," or "It sounds like someone just died." A little later, when Disney's Beauty and the Beast came out on VHS, it became one of our family's favorite movies, and we bought the sound track, too. I remember very distinctly one night in the living room, dancing to the Beauty and the Beast sound track and imagining myself in all sorts of situations. Little did I know that one day I would be on stage one day, playing all sorts of different characters!"
Jeff Gwaltney "In regards to early exposure to art and music in particular... my earliest memory is tied with the church. I grew up in a rural area of Florida where high art was not so readily accessible. So the church offered my artistic palate a wide array of satisfaction. I always loved music, so I naturally felt a connection with the music of the church. There was a fair amount of traditional hymnology and instrumental composition, but I do remember enjoying traditional spirituals and gospel music the most. As I look back, I imagine the appeal was due in part to the melodies that lend themselves to the singer's voice, giving that genre a real organic feeling in my humble opinion. Aside from the church, I do remember going to a performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" as a boy, and my memories of that first theatrical experience are quite vivid even now. I remember noticing how well the music emulated the drama in the piece, and I think that dialogue of music and drama prepared me to encounter and enjoy that relationship on a higher level once I began to study opera and art song. One final memory that sealed my desicion to study music and voice in college was my first trip to New York City where I saw many broadway shows, and was lucky enough to see the inside of the house at the Met. I remember thinking how a voice could fill such a space alongside of an entire orchestra, without amplification. As I stood in the first balcony, looking out into the house, I recall thining, I would like to be a part of such a tradition. Mesmorized by the grandeur of it all, the tour group moved on, and my friend had to grab my arm to snap me out of my day dream. I still have aspirations of singing on that stage today!"
Kenneth Kellogg "One of my first memories would be the feeling i got of being "special." At Rudolph elementary school. There were few little boys who wanted to be in choir. All my friends were focused on sports and video games and the trendiest fashion of the time. I was into those things as well but I also had this love for music. I don't know how much of it was for music or just to get out of class for choir rehearsals, trips and music related happenings in school. Either way, the choir director Mrs. Glover did a great job at making us feel special and as if we had a talent that was cherished and that we could be proud of. That has carried over today into the feeling I get when I sing. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love to do. To see the faces and cheers of those who have just listened to me pour my everything into a piece, on a good day or a bad day, I know that they couldn't get that from any other place in the world. There is no one who has my voice and it can only come from one special place."