Artist Profile: Jacquelyn Zander-Wall, Mezzo Soprano

Mezzo soprano Jacqueline Zander-Wall was born in Highland Park, Illinois and was only a few months old when she, her mother and sister moved to Albuquerque. After the move to New Mexico, Jacque spent summers in Chicago with her Dad.

Jacque started singing with her sister, who played guitar and sang the lead, while Jacque sang the harmony. They performed quite a bit at church, for weddings and other special occasions, and at gatherings on their patio at home in the evening.

She began to study voice in high school with Elizabeth Bayne. Now in her 80’s, Elizabeth still sings beautifully, and they have remained close friends ever since. Her high school choir director, Lynn Loomis, was also a huge inspiration. Lynn’s wife, Louise, is also a beloved educator in Albuquerque.

At age 17, Jacqueline went to University of California Santa Barbara, where she initially intended to major in journalism. But fate had something else in mind: In her first semester at UCSB, she was cast in Stephen Storace’s opera, Comedy of Errors. Other opportunities in the Drama Department followed. She did summer stock in Santa Rosa and, surrounded by so many professional actors, caught the bug!

Through Syracuse University, Jacque also studied for a semester at the London Academy of Dramatic Arts. She took in as much theatre as possible, attending 36 productions within three, short months. Then, she returned to UCSB to finish her first bachelors degree in Liberal Studies, which included acting, English, and Communication Studies.

After earning her BA, Jacque went to Circle in the Square in New York, and to Light Opera Works in Chicago. She saved money for a few years, so that she could go back to school to study with Elizabeth Manion at UCSB. This time, she earned a second BA and a masters in Music.

Jacque then went to Hamburg, Germany on a Rotary Scholarship to study Brahms and Bach. She didn’t think she would ever become fluent in German without living in the country for a number of years. She stayed in Germany for 7 years, during which time she sang a number of roles with the Hamburg Konzertante Oper. She also built relationships with the most important churches in Hamburg and sang her first Christmas Oratorio the winter she arrived in Germany. More opportunities to sing major works by Bach followed.

While studying at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg, Jacque also formed a duo with a guitarist, Frank Pschichholz. The duo had many opportunities to perform in Hamburg, including the Hamburg Opera, and also toured throughout Germany. They performed at the Britten-Pears School in England and worked with Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau in Berlin. Highlights of their study with Fisher-Dieskau and his wife, Julia Varady, included an invitation to perform in Stuttgart for one of his final concerts prior to his retirement from singing.

Her time in Germany was followed by an invitation to study with Phyllis Curtin at Boston University’s Opera Institute, which she accepted. Phyllis sent Jacque to the Skaneateles Festival in Upstate New York. During this period, Jacque also received a fellowship to study with Bill Sharp at the Aspen Music Festival, where she had the opportunity to sing more vocal chamber music, an area in which she excels and has extensive experience to this day.

After completing study, Jacque remained in the greater Boston area, where she was on the faculty of Phillips Exeter Academy in NH, and Phillips Andover in MA. She also sang with the Boston Lyric Opera, with whom she toured in several roles. Other professional opportunities included Chicago Opera Theater and the 2002 Monteverdi Festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Jacque and her husband, Kent Wall, had met in high school in Albuquerque. Years later, while she was singing Monteverdi in Chicago, Kent proposed and they got married. They had a baby daughter, Annelise, and ultimately decided to move back to Albuquerque.

As Jacque continued to perform opera roles with Opera Southwest, in Arizona and Duluth, MN, her mom traveled with her and her baby daughter. She sang the role of Carmen in Bizet’s opera of the same name, as well as the Page in the Richard Strauss’s opera Salome. Additional roles with Opera Southwest include Meg Page, Zerlina, and Maddelena, among others.

We spoke about healthy vocal technique, which enables a mezzo soprano like Jacque to continue to sing into “her golden years.” She still has dreams of future opportunities to learn new material and to sing for the Santa Fe Opera.

The Vocal Artistry Art Song Festival that Jacque founded a decade ago in Albuquerque is still going strong. VAASF has awarded prizes to singers and collaborative pianists totaling more than $10,000. Each year, VAASF focuses on a particular language: 2020 is Spanish, and 2021 will be English. NMPAS Artistic Director Franz Vote took part in the 2019 Festival, where he judged the Music Education Division and taught a workshop on German diction. (Needless to say, 2019 was the year for German-language art song!)

The 2020 VAASF had to be moved from Spring to Fall 2020, due to COVID-19. They are hopeful that, with social distancing, they’ll be able to hold this year’s Festival in early September. Singers and collaborative pianists will be filmed in live performance and presented with their awards before the judges, and the films will then be shared with the public through their many venues.

Jacque mentioned that she is still teaching throughout the COVID-19 emergency, but on Zoom. Virtual lessons provide an interesting contrast to in-person instruction. Yet she wouldn’t want to teach this way long term. The silver lining to this time of self-quarantine has been that she’s been forced to slow down. Jacque especially loves having more time with her daughter, Annelise, who is 18 and will start college as a theater major at Southern Methodist University in the fall.

Jacqueline Zander-Wall has been performing with the New Mexico Bach Society and for NMPAS Season Finale Opera concerts since 2016.

Photo: NMPAS 2019 Zarzuela in The Plaza Ballroom (Las Vegas, NM). Jacque is second from the left, standing next to soprano Jennifer Perez. Also pictured are tenor André García-Nuthmann and baritone Carlos Archuleta. The event will hopefully be reprised – back by popular demand! – in September 2020.