Rachel Wixom, Executive Director, The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts

 NMPAS Executive Director Linda Marianiello met Rachel Wixom at a Santa Fe Community Foundation meeting in 2012. They’ve been following each other’s progress with their respective organizations ever since, and have collaborated on several occasions. A few years ago, for example, The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts hosted a Native flute concert that was part of Santa Fe Flute Immersion. The two work together toward common goals and share the challenges they face in a mutually supportive way. Rachel is a valued member of the NMPAS Advisory Board.

The Story of The Coe Center

Rachel Wixom came to Santa Fe from New York City, where she had lived for more than twenty-five years. The reason she moved to New Mexico at the end of 2011 was to set up her uncle’s foundation. He passed away in 2010, and she was initially involved in settling his estate. In January 2012, she took up her position as Executive Director of The Coe Center for the Arts. Rachel purchased her Santa Fe home several months after that.

The Coe Center moved into its current space at 1590B Pacheco Street in early 2014. The artwork had been in storage, so they moved the collection into their space. She brought Bruce Bernstein onto the staff part-time as Chief Curator in early 2014, although he had been assisting her as far back as 2012.

About Ted Coe

Rachel’s uncle, Ralph T. Coe (“Ted”), grew up in a family of art collectors in Cleveland, Ohio. He wrote some wonderful stories about his art collecting, including the 2003 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalog, The Responsive Eye: Ralph T. Coe and the Collecting of American Indian Art. He collected for his entire life. Ted ended up at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, where first served as Curator and eventually became the Director. The Nelson-Atkins Museum wouldn’t be what it is today, had it not been for her uncle.

Ted’s interest in art was not limited to Native American art, which was reflected in his collecting of decorative arts, as well as African, Indonesian, Central American art and more. He learned a lot about humanity through global art. Ted considered his collection a living entity and a responsibility. He wanted to take care of it properly as he planned for the end of his life.

In 2003, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City exhibited a number of works in Ted’s collection in The Responsive Eye. This was a promised gift, and these works made their way into the museum’s permanent collection, creating the Met’s core collection of Native American Art. Ted is considered a benefactor of the museum.

Originally, the non-Native American parts of the collection, e.g., African, Oceanic, etc., were supposed to go to Oberlin College, his alma mater. Ultimately, however, he realized that their space was not sufficient for the size of his collection. All of the Native American pieces were to go to the Metropolitan in NY, but he feared that these pieces would end up in storage and be misunderstood.

So he established the Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts here in Santa Fe. Her uncle had Alzheimer’s, but she was able to talk with him about his wishes for the collection and his ideas for the foundation. He asked Rachel to head up the organization and get it started on its path.

She was head of publications at the Whitney Museum in New York City at the time, but she said Yes to his request. They had to sell a few items in the collection in order to bring Rachel to Santa Fe. But she felt that Santa Fe was the right location to realize her Uncle Ted’s wishes.

Ted Coe wanted the collection to raise awareness and understanding, to inspire and to educate. The Coe Center is very artist oriented. They’ve had wonderful relationships with some of the artists represented in the collection and with others who are indirectly connected to it. Ted didn’t want the collection to be static. Rachel also notes that some objects can spark important dialogues – people are interested in diversity today, so what the Coe Center provides is hands-on insight into other cultures and ways of looking at the world.

The Coe could have become a grant-making organization, Rachel explained. And they may still do that in the future. But their current interest is focused on engaging with people and building relationships by partnering, which is also what inspired Ted. He didn’t care if those he interacted with were the Queen of England or an everyday person. If there was interest to learn, then he was interested in engaging. Similarly, The Coe is open to everyone free of charge.

Ted wasn’t too specific about programming for The Coe Center. They have taken to loaning out objects from the collection and doing walkthroughs. It’s a very personal experience to visit their site. Students, artists, or others might be working there when someone visits. “You never know what kind of experience you may have when you come to The Coe Center,” Rachel said. Visitors’ interests, rather than those of the staff, lead the tour.

Rachel’s Background

Rachel is dyslexic, which made learning a challenge. She attended Wells College in Upstate New York with the initial thought of going into science.

Her interest was piqued by Joseph Campbell’s work on a series, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers. “Follow your bliss”*** was something that deeply influenced her life from that point on. But she didn’t actually know what she wanted to do with her life until her Uncle Ted asked her to run his foundation many years later.

In college, Rachel found a niche in art history. Her mom had spent time in Europe after college. So Rachel went to Germany, learned the language, and was an au pair in Munich for two years.

Upon returning to the US, she connected with a wonderful art bookstore on Madison Avenue in New York City, Wittenborn Art Books. This led her to a German art publishing company, teNeus Verlag, which was family owned when she worked there. She rose through the ranks of the company. Her background in German language and culture was helpful in getting the position.

This was in the 1990s. Rachel was based in their New York office, but she spent quite a lot of time in the German office in Kempen, a suburb of Düsseldorf. Being there on business gave her the opportunity to spend time in various European countries. It was a fruitful time for her.

From there, she took a position at the Whitney Museum, where she became managing editor. After her first year, they hired her to become head of publications, and she stayed at the Whitney for about a decade.

When Rachel looks back at her life experiences and the positions she has held at various companies and institutions, she realizes that all of them helped her to arrive at where she is today with The Coe Center.

Programs at The Coe Center

Rachel has now been at The Coe Center for eight years. Once they moved into their current space, they wanted to serve the public. Her first program was about giving young people an experience through the art in the collection. She wanted to work with middle school students. With the assistance of the artist Teri Greeves, the Hands-On Curatorial Program was born and is now in its sixth year. Teri’s mother was Kiowa and her father, Italian. Her mother ran a trading post in Montana. Teri now lives in Santa Fe with her family.

When the program started, they had four students from a middle school, The Academy for Technology and Classics, which is out near the Institute of American Indian Arts. The goal was for the students to develop an art exhibition. They had to acquire the skills needed to produce the exhibit themselves. Teamwork, compromise, and other skills that they need in life were a few benefits of the program. One student loved it so much that he stayed in the program for four years. He is now a freshman in college and has a very bright future, as do other participants in the program.

After a few years, Rachel hired curator Bess Murphy, who moved the Hands-On Curatorial Program from middle school to high school. Bess has been working on the program for six years and has shaped it in meaningful ways.

In the process of creating programs, they changed the name to The Coe Center, rather than Foundation, which better describes what their programs are about and what The Coe Center represents—bringing together.

COVID-19 has changed how they structure the Hands-On Curatorial Program. There used to be an exhibit on site. With all of the issues around remote learning in school during the pandemic, it has been hard to involve the students in the same in-person way as when they could meet on site. So they moved to a student-created website exhibition, rather than an on-site exhibition.

Other past programs include A View from Here: Northwest Coast Native Arts from the Richard and Joan Chodosh collection, which also featured a special event around Indian Market. Another project was spearheaded by a board director, who was interested in a bracelet by the Oklahoma artist Julius Caesar. This became the exhibit, How it was Handed to Me: The Caesar Family Legacy. The object is made of German silver, which is not silver, and is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. “It’s a difficult material to work in,” Rachel said. This morphed into an experiential exhibition, an exploration based on the bracelet. More information about the exhibition and accompanying events can be found on The Coe website: https://www.coeartscenter.org/

Another project, FUNCTION, culminated in a special event that took place in their parking lot in August 2019. Youth Works catered for them. Everyone ate together. At the end of the dinner, they smashed the plates that had been created for the event by the artist in collaboration with the public. People were reticent to smash them. But the lesson people took from this is that the journey of creation is what matters, rather than the object itself. The artist took the shards and will repurpose them into something else.

IMPRINT involved printing on paper and the art of printmaking. Artists created prints which they put into a kiosk that then traveled around New Mexico and up to Colorado. The idea was to bring art to the public for free, by placing the it in front of stores and in other unexpected places. People could simply pick up a print from the kiosk. Removing the monetary element and understanding that art is art, whether its costs a lot, a little, or nothing, was the message they wanted to convey: Art is for everyone, and print is everywhere. The Coe Center partnered with The Santa Fe Reporter, which included original artist works in the Indian Market issue that were given away for free; they were swept up very quickly.

What Makes Art, Art

Taking the monetary element out of art and providing experiences that enrich people’s lives are part of The Coe Center’s ongoing mission. They wanted to take The Coe somewhere in “a wall-less way,” as Rachel expressed it. And thinking of the collection as something other than a “traditional museum” is  working well for them. It gives people a means to process life, to understand what has happened in the past, and to understand our humanity.

The Coe Center is about taking the elitism out of art and bringing it down to earth. Rachel explained that, because of the collections they house, many large art institutions have had to cater to wealthy donors. This is understandable given the growing need to raise funds. However, this has created the perception among the general public that these institutions are not for them. But, historically, art has been part of people’s culture, cultural context and expression. Art brings people together around our shared humanity. The Coe Center chooses to bring it back to the public and to those communities that are represented within the collection.

The Impact of COVID-19

Rachel is trying to look at the pandemic as an opportunity in which The Coe Center has been able to reflect on its mission and work. “You want your core to be strong,” she said.

With this in mind, they’ve moved to a mostly online format and spruced up their e-newsletter. They are diving into the collection and sharing information about various artworks. They want to get the perspectives of the individuals and communities in which the artwork originated – why was the item made? How do those whose culture produced the artwork see and understand it?

The Coe’s Collection Spotlight enables them to connect with artists all over North America. They invite an artist to come to the collection, either virtually or in person. The artist then speaks about the material. Artists present in an authentic way – it can be earthy, human, and not super polished. The audience can participate and ask questions. Past videos of these events are found on the Coe’s website and YouTube channel. Collection Spotlight now takes place monthly, pending artist availability. Rachel mentioned that programs sometimes come together at the last minute. But these presentations are very exciting and compelling.

They have accepted some gifts since opening in 2012, Rachel explains. But just getting larger isn’t the main purpose of The Coe Center. They want people to explore the items in the collection, rather than to merely offer visitors a bunch of explanatory texts. Experience the art first and re-learn how to “see”; then, you can get more information about it, if you so choose.

Future Aspirations

The Coe is more than a job for Rachel. The collection will have a life of its own, and she will eventually step away. For now, however, The Coe Center is closely connected to her family and who Ted Coe was. A lot of what Ted collected did not involve large financial outlays. But on occasion, he borrowed money to acquire certain artworks and paid them off over time.

Staying where they are and looking for opportunities to use their space is foremost right now. The Coe owns its home, as well as the building in front of them, which could eventually be renovated. But this will be quite a few years in the future. The building in front is a 6,800 square foot warehouse. They want to possibly rent the space to help offset the expense of its care. In the meantime, they have opened it to other nonprofits for one-off projects – Chain Breakers is going to store bikes there, for example. An artist might use the space to make a film. They are still exploring the use of the space, particularly in the era of COVID-19.

Rachel added, “The thing about being small is that it lets you pivot more easily and quickly than larger organizations.”

Currently, Rachel wants The Coe Center to focus more on the collection and sharing it online while in person visits are limited. But this is a work in progress, she emphasizes.

***Editor’s note: For those not familiar with Joseph Campbell’s work, here is an excerpt from the Wiki article about him:

“One of Campbell’s most identifiable, most quoted and arguably most misunderstood sayings was his admonition to ‘follow your bliss.’ He derived this idea from the Upanishads.

[Campbell wrote:] “Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word Sat means being. Chit means consciousness. Ananda means bliss or rapture.”

 I thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.

He saw this not merely as a mantra, but as a helpful guide to the individual along the hero journey that each of us walks through life:

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Profile: Franz Vote, NMPAS Artistic Director and Conductor

Many Santa Feans may not realize how lucky we are in New Mexico to have internationally recognized conductors like Franz Vote as members of our communities. Maestro Vote is among those who have brought a lifetime of experience to New Mexico. As you will see, Franz Vote’s family on his father’s side has a long history in the Land of Enchantment, and he is writing a new chapter in their story.  

A native of Los Angeles, California, Franz’s earliest memories are of sitting next to the string bass player at a session his sister Sharon, an excellent singer, was involved in. She was much older than Franz – he was just 3 at the time. Yet this made a deep impression on Franz, whose own singing voice happens to be in that same range!

Franz’s older brother Fred also loved classical music, as did their mother. Fred used to do his homework while listening to classical music and Franz, 14 years younger, listened with him.

His formal musical training began with piano lessons, but they were interrupted until age 11, when he finally had the opportunity to study piano and master the keyboard. Franz also studied opera scores from the age of 7, including Richard Wagner’s operas. Additional study of viola and clarinet, as well as voice, helped Franz to become a well-rounded musician well before college.

Franz Vote majored in piano and composition at California State University at Northridge and received his Bachelor of Music there. He then went on to teach, play and conduct at the Aspen Music Festival, and was on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music before pursuing a career in New York City and Europe.

Maestro Vote believes in the kind of apprenticeship that produced the great European conductors of the 19th and 20th centuries. And that is how he acquired the skills that led to an invitation to join the conducting staff of the Metropolitan Opera, where he worked from 1990-2001. Prior to that, he moved to Germany and secured his first position at the Theater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen. From there, he went on to the opera house in Aachen, Germany, and took a position with an American opera touring company to conduct over 200 performances of Bizet’s Carmen throughout all of Western Europe.

Maestro Vote met his wife, flutist Linda Marianiello, in Munich, Germany while touring with Carmen. He then obtained a position as a conductor and repetitor at the Bavarian State Opera am Gärtnerplatz in Munich. A colleague at the Gärtnerplatz Theatre heard of an opening at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival and recommended Franz. He joined the music staff in Bayreuth for three summers as assistant to James Levine and Daniel Barenboim. And that is how he came to be invited to join the Metropolitan Opera music staff by James Levine in 1990.

Image: The Bayreuth Festspielhaus, home of the historic Bayreuth Festival (source: Wikipedia)

Franz Vote made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Madama Butterfly in 1995 and became James Levine’s go-to conductor when he was ill or unavailable. Franz stepped in for Maestro Levine with two hours’ notice to conduct the premiere of Tales of Hoffmann. He also conducted Elektra, Un ballo in maschera, and La forza del destino at the MET, as well as the 1996 New Year’s Eve Gala.

Placido Domingo invited Franz Vote to conduct the finals of his Operalia competition in Tokyo with the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997. In 2000, Seattle Opera invited Maestro Vote to cover the Wagner RING because their chief conductor Armin Jordan was in poor health. Maestro Vote took over performances of the first two RING operas that summer and was invited back as conductor for the complete RING cycle in Seattle in 2001.

Maestro Vote has collaborated with many of the world’s most prominent opera singers, including Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Hildegard Behrens, Stephanie Blythe, Jane Eaglen, Renée Fleming, Galina Gorchakova, Ben Heppner, Jerry Hadley, James King, Susanne Mentzer, Richard Leach, Samuel Ramey, and Deborah Voigt.

In addition to performing as an opera conductor in all of Western Europe, Japan and China, Franz Vote has been a guest conductor for many regional opera companies in the US, including Orlando Opera, Opera Naples, Opera Memphis, Nashville Opera, and Sarasota Opera.

Franz Vote’s family roots go back to the Pecos Wilderness of New Mexico in the early 20th century, where his paternal grandfather was a forest ranger beginning in 1902. Franz’s father was born and grew up in old Santa Fe. As a child, Franz and his brother Fred made many trips to New Mexico. Fred worked in Los Alamos for 5 years. Franz continued to visit him all through high school and college, traveling to New Mexico from Los Angeles on his motor cycle!

So when Maestro Vote was ready to retire, Santa Fe and New Mexico were the place he wanted to settle. In 2009, he and his wife Linda purchased a home in Santa Fe and have never looked back. The big surprise for them, however, is that other colleagues from their professional lives began to show up in New Mexico, too. They were all retiring here and wanted to continue to make music. Although the couple had not originally planned to resume their musical careers here, their friends talked them into founding NMPAS in late 2011. The New Mexico Bach Chorale, an all professional vocal ensemble of soloists, debuted in Santa Fe in May 2012.

Concerning the New Mexico Bach Society, which is central to the work of NMPAS, Maestro Vote had this to say:

“NMPAS has a unique role among performing arts groups. Our mission is to promote and discover local talent here in New Mexico. Most other organizations are averse to this concept and have adopted the attitude that great art must be imported to be valid. This mindset within artist management controls and limits what audiences can experience.”

Concerning New Mexico’s talented singers and instrumentalists, as well as fine and performing artists with whom he’s had the pleasure of collaborating, he said:

“Like all other places on earth, New Mexico has artists who have been born, raised and educated locally. Many of them exhibit real mastery of their discipline and, if given the opportunity, continue to grow in their art. There are, of course, performers who have come from other places and have chosen the Land of Enchantment as their adopted home. NMPAS is fortunate to have both kinds of artists on our roster. We are very proud to offer New Mexicans a chance to use their talents here, so that they do not have to leave the land they love.”

Franz Vote has brought NMPAS considerable recognition for the quality and intimacy of our programs. The musicians who perform with him have become a community that values the opportunities they have to perform under his direction. And they’ve had the chance to perform some of their favorite works, which they would otherwise not have been able to do, had it not been for Maestro Vote and NMPAS.

Now in season 9, Franz Vote wants NMPAS to continue well past his tenure. He will be closely involved in identifying the person who will succeed him as Artistic Director. With Executive Director Linda Marianiello, he hopes to ensure that NMPAS becomes sustainable and serves professional performers and audiences in New Mexico for many years to come.

Here are a few photos from the NMPAS 2020 Season Finale Opera Concert that took place on September 6, 2020. NMPAS is doing everything possible to offer our audiences great music this season via live stream, while also protecting our artists. Hence, even our singers are wearing special masks designed to interfere as little as possible with vocal production!

Jennifer Perez and Andre Garcia-Nuthmann perform a scene from “La Traviata” with pianist Nate Salazar (photo: Michael Tait):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Willson and Franz Vote perform the famous aria, “She never loved me,” from Verdi’s opera “Don Carlo.” (photo: Michael Tait.)

Tenor John Tiranno performs an aria from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” with Franz Vote conducting and pianist Nate Salazar. (photo: Michael Tait.)

The full ensemble performs the famous chorus, “Va pensiero,” from Verdi’s “Nabucco” with Franz Vote conducting and pianist Nate Salazar. (photo: Michael Tait.)

Jacquelyn Helin Artist Profile
by Linda Marianiello

New Mexico Performing Arts Society is privileged to feature many talented, highly experienced and internationally recognized artists like Steinway Artist Jacquelyn Helin on our concert series.

Steinway Artist Jacquelyn Helin performs Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 7 pm via Live Stream from the Immaculate Heart Chapel in Santa Fe. Of Bach, she writes:

“I really think of Bach as the touchstone of Western music. The understanding of tonality, the contrapuntal mastery, the stylistic range from buoyant to tragic – there is nothing like it. At the outset, Bach composed the WTC as an exploration of the new tuning system of Well-Temperament, which allowed composers to write in any of the 24 major and minor keys, without the performer needing to stop and return the instrument. This had huge implications for chromaticism and harmonic modulations within a piece. It opened up enormous expression of harmonic language.

I think people should listen to the emotional content of Bach, first and foremost. Of course, they can also listen his counterpoint – the fugues in WTC I range from one in 2-voices all the way up to a masterful 5-voice triple fugue. There are so many Baroque dances that Bach uses as the basis for the Preludes. It’s like a master class in the Western musical tradition.”

A Life in Music

Jacquelyn Helin grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, a North Shore suburb of Chicago. Her mother was a fine musician and had a masters degree in piano from Northwestern University. Her mom began to teach her piano at age 3.

Jacquelyn always loved playing piano. She was reading music before she could read words. As a toddler, her favorite toys were a toy keyboard and kiddie record player.

As a child, Jacquelyn performed constantly in recital and at church. Her mom was also a church musician. Everyone assumed that Jacquelyn would be a musician, too.

I asked her about her own daughter and son. She responded that her two kids are very musical, but have pursued other interests. However, they love music and grew up both making it and hearing lots of it.

Jacquelyn started college as a Philosophy major at North Park College, a small liberal arts school in Chicago. During that time, she continued to play piano seriously. She studied with a Juilliard graduate on the faculty at North Park. After completing her first year, however, Jacquelyn realized that she wanted to be a music major, which meant transferring elsewhere. Her family had moved to San Francisco when she was 12, and she loved the West. So Jacquelyn applied and was accepted to the University of Oregon in Eugene.

She also chose University of Oregon because Robert Trotter was Dean of the School of Music. Meeting him was a life-changing experience. Trotter had made such an impression on her that she felt this was where she needed to be. Victor Steinhardt was her piano teacher. Robert Trotter told her about Yale and, after she completed her bachelors in Eugene, suggested that she apply there for masters study.

At Yale, Jacquelyn studied piano with Donald Currier. She loved a lot of things about Yale, however Yale was not an easy place for women in 1974. There were five women in the Piano Department, all of whom came in at the same time. Two left almost immediately. Nevertheless, she had intended to get her masters at Yale.

But an old swimming injury made it necessary for her to have eardrum replacement surgery. After her operation, which took place in California, she was studying piano with Adolph Baller, who had played with Yehudi Menuhin in Europe. She was learning so much from him that she decided not to return to Yale. He suggested that she apply to Stanford, where he was on the faculty. She got her masters at Stanford and loved it there.

Jacquelyn then decided to pursue a DMA at University of Texas at Austin, because that is where John Perry taught piano. She had heard several of his students, whose playing she really liked. Jacquelyn went to meet him and spent three years on campus, getting her doctorate.

John Perry was a brilliant pianist himself, as well as one of the finest teachers in the world. John was fun, incredibly articulate, and opened many aspects of piano playing to her through his insights. They lived, ate & drank piano in those days. The pianists in his studio were family.

It turned out that Jacquelyn’s son William Helin-Glick went to University of Texas at Austin for college, too, a very happy association for them both.

During doctoral study, Jacquelyn participated in the Aspen Music Festival for three years and, after that, was invited back as an artist. She had met a lot of people from New York. With her new connections, she thought that she could make it in New York as a performer. Of the Festival, she said, “Aspen was so fantastic – to be surrounded by that excellence, living and breathing this musical experience.”

Jacquelyn was certain that she didn’t want to stay in academia. Although she was offered a university teaching job, she turned it down and moved to New York instead.
She spent 11 years in New York City. Initially, she played a lot of chamber music and taught privately. She was also a teaching artist at the 92nd Street Y and at Lincoln Center Institute. For performances at Aspen, she met the American composer Joan Tower, and they became friends. Tower wrote her Piano Concerto for Jacquelyn, who premiered it with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic.

She also met Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson in New York. Virgil Thomson became a friend, and they remained close until his death in 1989. Jacquelyn recorded his music on the Musical Heritage and New World labels. He was very good about telling her how he wanted his pieces to be played: If it wasn’t in the score, then the performer was not to “add it in.”

She knew Aaron Copland quite well, too. For years she played his Piano Sonata, and performed his Sextet multiple times. Copland wrote her a lovely note about her performance of the Sextet, which meant a lot to her.

Jacquelyn notes that Aaron Copland and Virgil Thompson helped to define American music in a new and beneficial way. Their compositional style is unmistakably American. And when they were young, they worked very hard to get their music heard and performed.

Jacquelyn’s performing credits from this period include London’s Wigmore Hall (1982). Lots of solo concerts and concerto dates came her way. In 1984, she won the Artists International Competition, which provided her with a Carnegie Hall Recital Debut.

Her life eventually consisted of touring, rather than being in one place. She performed up and down the East Coast, in Chicago and in the Midwest. She met her husband Robert Glick in Washington, DC, when he was working at the Folger Library. He subsequently moved to New York to be with her.

Jacquelyn and Robert relocated to Santa Fe when their first child, a daughter, was 9 months old. Robert had been hired by the Santa Fe Opera as Director of Development. Jacquelyn still remembers buying her daughter’s first pair of shoes before they got on the plane. Back then, they thought of their time in Santa Fe as their “Southwest Adventure.” They will soon begin their 3rd decade in Santa Fe and love it here!

When they arrived in Santa Fe, Jacquelyn continued touring. She was on the WESTAF roster and performed extensively throughout the Western states; she also continued to play quite a few concerts back east.

Even when their second child was born, she continued to tour with “both kids and an au pair.” This lasted until their daughter was ready for 1st grade. At a certain point, the balance had to shift and so, Jacquelyn began to teach more and travel less; she concentrated on performing closer to home. Now that both kids are grown up and no longer in college, she is teaching less and playing more.

Their children are currently living in hot spots. Her daughter lives in Oakland, CA and her son is based in Houston, TX. They are in their 20s and working from home. For kids their age, COVID-19 has been very hard. Careers are stalled, and everything is in a holding pattern.

In July 2020, William had a piece published in the Santa Fe Reporter. It’s a cover story about taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Houston and being arrested. What Jacquelyn loves about young people today is that they are very involved in social issues, even during the pandemic. She has felt the most optimistic about the major issues of the day by watching young people take them on.

Jacquelyn Helin became a Steinway Artist while still living in New York. She was originally a Bösendorfer Artist. But she still owns a Hamburg Steinway, which she bought in 1976 for $12,000. It came through the port of Oakland, and she was surprised when she had to pay an additional port tax of $1,000! (Today that piano would cost about $170,000 – she’s always been grateful she bought the piano when she did!) Jacquelyn switched from Bösendorfer to Steinway, partly because of her own instrument, and partly because so many stages in the US have Steinway pianos. There are definite advantages to being a Steinway Artist, and she loves their instruments.

When asked about her favorite repertoire for piano, she responded, “You would need multiple lifetimes to scratch the surface of the solo piano repertoire.” Yet different music speaks to an artist at different points in their life, and sometimes opportunity dictates the choice of repertoire. As a student, for example, she played a lot of contemporary music. Her DMA dissertation was on the piano music of Stefan Wolpe. On the other hand, her Master’s thesis was on several piano sonatas by Franz Joseph Haydn.

At this point in time, she is principally drawn to works for their emotional content. She wants to tackle the pieces that really speak to her. In New York, she worked with lots of living composers and enjoys the process of premiering a new work.

She likes a wide variety of music – for her courses at the Renesan Institute for Lifelong Learning, she picks one composer and focuses on his or her life. This year she chose Beethoven in celebration of the 250th anniversary of his birth. She loves talking about the composer and playing that his/her music for people. Jacquelyn’s Renesan courses draw large audiences, and for good reason!

Regarding the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Jacquelyn has always loved his music. The Well-Tempered Clavier project came up quite naturally, as a byproduct of her interest in the work. She had learned a lot of it prior to coming up with the idea of performing all of Book I. And she plans to perform all of Book II in the near future!

On Teaching

Regarding the Suzuki method, it can be a challenge for students who started with Suzuki to transition into reading music with facility.

On the topic of reading music, dyslexia is also a big issue. Over the years, Jacquelyn’s students have run the gamut from reading music very fluently to major difficulties in reading a score. She has worked with quite a few students between the ages of 8 and 13, and notes some kind of cognitive development that occurs at age 13 and helps to get them over the hump.

Starting in mid-March 2020, all of her teaching has been on Zoom. On July 1, she opened up her studio for adult students who felt they just couldn’t “do tech.” It’s a whole different teaching style with social distancing and masks, however.

The upside of COVID is that she’s had more time for her own practicing. Jacquelyn has memorized all of Book I of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, though she doesn’t plan to perform it by memory at her NMPAS recital on August 29th.

Other benefits of COVID-19 include time to think, reflect, and slow down. We have no idea how the pandemic will affect life in the long term. But “when we can once again gather for concerts, this will be so important for people in community,” she said.

Listen to Jacquelyn Helin performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (movement 3) with David Felberg, violin and Linda Marianiello, flute at the 2018 New Mexico Bach Society concert: 

NMPAS Artist Profile
Tenor André García-Nuthmann

André García-Nuthmann is a tenor in the New Mexico Bach Chorale and a professor of voice and choral singing at New Mexico Highlands University. He also serves on the NMPAS Advisory Board.

At an early age, André’s mom got him into youth choir and choral singing at their church. She was an excellent singer herself, a light lyric soprano, and she also played piano for her entire life. Thanks to his mother, singing has always been part of André’s life.

But his musical training began with piano. The family was living in El Paso, Texas. He was 5, and his mom was taking piano lessons. André wanted to play piano, too, so his mom and dad found the best piano teacher in El Paso, Mrs. Morrison. Through her, he studied piano and elementary music theory. She believed he had the potential to become a pianist and professional musician.

André’s first public performance was at an El Paso bank with a big piano. He was really nervous playing his first recital before a pretty big audience.

His parents invested a lot in his music education. He has severe dyslexia. Music became his passion and the means of handling his difficulties with reading.

André’s father was an amateur violinist and loved Bach; they listened to a lot of classical music in the evenings. At this time, André began to explore writing music, as well.

He earned his bachelors in piano performance at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. After that, he was accepted into the piano and composition program at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Karl Wagner was his piano instructor, and his composition instructor was Cesar Bresgen, a student of Igor Stravinsky.

During study in Salzburg, he also sang with the Liedertafel-Chor, whose director was Dr. Kurt Prestel. Dr. Prestel encouraged him to study voice, and his first serious vocal training took place at the Mozarteum.

After returning to the US, André started a double masters in piano performance and piano accompaniment at University of New Mexico. He had two piano teachers, George Robert, who was a native of Vienna, for solo piano, and Rita Angel for accompanying. At UNM, André played for a lot of singers, including Kurt Streit, who later became a well-known tenor. He learned a lot about singing, vocal technique and repertoire during masters study.

One of his UNM professors, David Barela, also noticed Andre’s vocal abilities and encouraged him to study voice. In particular, he noticed the lyric tenor’s facility with coloratura, a style involving ornate and florid passagework.

His first professional work as a singer was with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. He sang under the direction of founder Larry Banfield and several others, including Linda Mack. André was a member of the Desert Chorale for six years before deciding to move on.

Singing with Desert Chorale was hard for him, because the sound they were looking for was that of a boy’s choir. He feels much more comfortable with NMPAS Artistic Director Franz Vote’s preference for singing with the full voice. André’s voice teacher, Regina Sarfaty Rickless, also insisted that he learn to sing with his full voice.

In 1990, André was hired to take over the choral and vocal departments at New Mexico Highlands University. He felt that he should complete a DMA in voice, and Highlands was very supportive of that goal. He applied to Arizona State University, where he studied with tenor David Britton. Britton had sung with the Bach Aria Group in New York, which is where Andre first coached with him. Highlands gave him a three-year sabbatical to pursue on-campus study with Britton at Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona. He wrote his dissertation on Jean Berger and, in 2005, received his DMA. “Pursuing a DMA was the best decision of my life,” he said.

Other singing credits include two years with the Santa Fe Opera Outreach Program. He teamed up with Janice Felty and another colleague, and they performed at schools across the state. André particularly loved singing for young American Indian children on their Reservations and, being Hispanic, he was thrilled to sing for kids in Española. He became a role model for young Hispanic kids and wonders if any of them pursued careers in music later on.

André García-Nuthmann has also sung in three Santa Fe Opera productions: The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay, Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd, and Beethoven’s Fidelio. He performed with the Santa Fe Opera chorally and in a quartet for The Beggar’s Opera. While at the Santa Fe Opera, he met Regina Sarfaty Rickless, who became his voice teacher in Santa Fe.

Other solo opportunities include Haydn and Mozart masses with the Santa Fe Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Canticum Novum with Music Director and Conductor Ken Knight, Opera Southwest, and NMPAS. NMPAS means a great deal to André – he’s been able to sing repertoire that he would never have had the opportunity to perform otherwise.

At this point in his career, André wants to keep his voice fresh and in good condition. This is every singer’s challenge as he/she gets older.

“I am aware that the opera world is looking for younger singers,” he said. His biggest setback has always been his height – he was cast in Bedrich Smetana’s Bartered Bride as a member of the “short cast.” (The stage director had a “tall cast” and a “short cast,” because the tenor must always be taller than the soprano!)

In terms of future goals, André particularly wants to continue singing with Franz Vote and the New Mexico Bach Chorale. NMPAS is such a satisfying part of his musical life, “a real godsend,” as he put it. Doing Gounod’s, St. Cecilia Mass with NMPAS was a highlight of his career. Singing the role of Alfredo in La Traviata is something he hopes to do in the future; it would be wonderful if that could happen.

Andre’s singing career has been impacted by COVID-19, and the same is true of his students at Highlands. Everything shut down overnight. He has a teaching job that helps him to survive financially.

During the COVID-19 emergency, he’s had time to reflect on his life, to practice, to learn music, and to ensure that his voice stays healthy. For his students, who feel that their life is over, he has become more of a mentor than a voice teacher. He encourages them to take advantage of this time for their own study.

Learning how to teach on Zoom has been challenging: Voice lessons on Zoom are not ideal, because the delay makes it impossible for him to accompany them on piano. He’s been making tapes of their piano parts for them the practice with, and this has been good for his playing.

But he also asks his students to sing without accompaniment. He’s focusing on intonation and vocal quality. At the end of the semester, several students mentioned how much they appreciate the detailed work he is doing with them.

Since his Highlands and Las Vegas Community choirs have chosen not to meet next year, he is designing virtual choral projects for them. He surveyed his members, and most said they would not be comfortable with meeting in person.

A quartet of NMPAS singers hopes to present “Zarzuela in The Plaza Ballroom” again this year on September 25, 2020. Much depends upon whether they can perform before a live audience in late September or they need to present the program via live stream. André specializes in zarzuela, which is also known as “Spanish operetta,” and is very popular with audiences in Las Vegas and other New Mexico cities and towns.

Tenor André García-Nuthmann and soprano Camille Tierney perform a scene from Johann Strauss II’s “The Gypsy Baron” at the NMPAS 2017 Season Finale Opera Concert. Artistic Director Franz Vote conducts. Photo credit: John Sadd

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Willson is a native of Greeley, Colorado. His Dad had a great voice. He had begun to sing professionally in a barbershop quartet in Iowa, when the Depression hit and ended his career. Tim’s Dad was very supportive of his music education and gave Tim piano lessons. (For every musician with professional aspirations, piano is an absolute must!)

Tim says he was singing before he could speak. He took his first voice lessons at the age of 5. His family sang wherever they went. On one occasion, that was all the way to and from California!

After high school, Tim studied at the University of Northern Colorado for a year, and finished his degree at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. His major was Creative and Performing Arts, which consisted of music, dance and theater. He was very active in their theater program. Tim inherited his big vocal range from his Dad; he sang bass, baritone, and tenor roles in college. He has also taken on a variety of opera and oratorio roles with NMPAS, mainly as a baritone and bass, but occasionally as a tenor, too.

“I did not start to learn to sing until I moved to New York,” Tim said. “Since then, I have learned more about how to sing myself, and how to try to help others. It is still an ongoing process.” Tim has coached several young NMPAS singers on repertoire for upcoming concerts, and he maintains a voice studio in Santa Fe. His students have very positive things to say about his teaching.

Tim’s story of finding his way to New York and a career in voice is rather unique. For 10 years before moving to NY City, he had worked as a tile man and carpenter in Colorado. And that is what he did when he first moved to New York, as well.

He’d also been working as a professional actor in Colorado. The director encouraged him to relocate to New York City. Once there, he auditioned for and almost got a role in “Pirates of Penzance” on Broadway.

One of Tim’s former voice students had a job in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. She hooked him up with her voice teacher, Ed Dwyer, who was a highly respected voice teacher in New York in those days. After 6 months, Tim got a chorus job at New York City Opera; he subsequently won a similar position at the MET.

He had subbed at the MET before auditioning for a full-time position. The Director wanted him to promise not to become a soloist for 7 years. Tim initially declined, but later accepted the Director’s requirement and sang there for 14 years.

Tim loved being in the MET Chorus as a first tenor and also sang spinto roles at Amato Opera. In retrospect, he wishes he’d stayed in the MET Chorus for longer.
But he went out on his own as a soloist and sang regional opera for 3 years. Being on the road was fine for a while, but he began to tire of the constant travel.

We talked a bit about spinto tenor voices. Tim explained that most spinto tenors don’t have a high C and maybe not a high B. Sigmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre goes up to an A. The role of Sigfried in the Wagner opera of the same name has a couple of high C’s and is possibly the hardest role to cast in all of opera.

In addition to singing with NMPAS and the choir at First Presbyterian Church, Tim is very active at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. He learned leather working in the Boy Scouts. In those days, you could join the Order of the Arrow. They dressed up like Indians and conducted ceremonies. He had to make his own Indian costume, and that was the start of his interest in leather working and beadwork.

When asked what it’s like to experience a lack of performance opportunities during COVID-19, Tim said that he and most musicians need deadlines in order to learn new repertoire. Right now he doesn’t have any performances coming up until late summer. NMPAS hopes to schedule a video concert in June for a few of our singers, including Tim.

As a final comment, Tim mentioned that he and NMPAS Artistic Director Franz Vote worked together at the Metropolitan Opera for a number of years. They reconnected in Santa Fe when they discovered that they had both “retired” to New Mexico. Both artists continue to delight audiences with wonderful music in Santa Fe and beyond!

Photo credit: John Sadd. Tim Willson sang the pig farmer in “Gypsy Baron” by Johann Strauss, Jr. at the 2016 Season Finale Opera concert with NMPAS. Franz Vote conducts as Paul Bower looks on.  

Esther Moses Bergh, Lyric Soprano
with Linda Marianiello, Executive Director, NMPAS

*Photo: Dress rehearsal with the 2019 New Mexico Music Commission Platinum Awards. Esther is to the left of artistic director Franz Vote, who is seated at the piano. Other NMPAS vocalists are Jennifer Perez, Tjett Gerdom, and Tim Willson, with flutist Linda Marianiello. Lensic Performing Arts Center, August 2019. 

Esther sent her interview responses to me, and I think they are just perfect. That’s why I am posting them in her own words, particularly since she’s at home with her family during COVID-19, which made it hard for us to do a phone or Skype interview. Everyone at her home is doing homework online, meeting virtually, and Esther is teaching her students in the ABQ Public Schools remotely, too.

– When did you start singing?

My start in singing was with my family in church and then performing a duet as nervous adolescents with my cellist friend, Carlos L. Encinias, now a broadway actor/teacher/director/choreographer. As we did our best to sing an English version of Schubert’s Heidenröslein, we realized in that moment we were addicted!

– When did you realize that you wanted to study voice?

While performing in high school productions and ensembles under Barbara Lioce, I started studying

with voice teacher, Sandra Neel. I had studied violin in elementary public school with Mrs. Mignot, and then enjoyed orchestra in middle and high school under Ms. Rafferty and Art Sheinberg, adding grandparent-funded private lessons with Kathie Jarrett. As a child, I took private piano lessons with a client of my dad’s, Barbara Carpenter, who worked on trade, and then later with Darlene Harris. Along with piano, my solo and orchestral experiences on violin definitely enhanced my ability to learn a vocal score and follow a director, once my attention turned to singing.

– What did you learn in college and what have you learned about the profession since graduation?

I studied with great teachers like Dr. Robert C. Smith, Leslie Umphrey, and Dr. Ellen McCullough-Brabson at the University of New Mexico, and also at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) with Barbara Honn and Sandra Bernhard. My undergrad was in Voice and also Music Education, so I learned a lot as a performer, as well as completing a teaching degree.

– Share a bit about your career to date.

After graduate school I worked mainly with the Portland Opera in their Education and Outreach tours, preview concerts and as a member of the Portland Opera Chorus for over a decade. When I moved back to New Mexico, I began working with the New Mexico Performing Arts Society as well as Music Theatre SW, Opera Southwest, and as a freelancer.

– What are your hopes for the future of your singing career?

I hope to continue singing as much as possible in concerts and operas, in addition to my work as a public school choral teacher. When I am not teaching and performing, I am enjoying my growing children and sunny afternoons tending bees with my dad, Dr. Moses, who continues to help many New Mexicans in his naturopathic business. As second generation New Mexicans, we enjoy a life of health – full of music, faith and family.

– Share a bit about some of the opera scenes you’ve participated in with NMPAS: Aida, Rosenkavalier Trio, etc. What about your experiences with the music of
J. S. Bach through the NM Bach Society?

At NMPAS, I have enjoyed singing Bach and Mozart, including as soloist in the Mozart Requiem and Bach oratorios and cantatas. I’ve also been privileged to debut new and modern works by Aaron Alter, Daniel Crafts, and the late John Donald Robb. In the NMPAS opera concerts, I had the opportunity to sing some weightier repertoire in scenes from Verdi’s Aida, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and R. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier.

– Finally, if your work is currently on hold, how is this affecting your life? How can fans of our NMPAS artists help you through this health crisis?

Yes, I’ve been impacted by the pandemic and lost the opportunity to perform in four different performances as a result – some of which can’t be rescheduled. We all eagerly anticipate the day when we can gather to resume live performances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Profile Paul Bower

(2019 Winter Solstice Concert in Albuquerque – Paul is second from the left in the back row/photo credit: Michael Tait)

by Linda Marianiello, Executive Director, NMPAS

Baritone Paul Bower has been an important member of the New Mexico Bach Chorale for about 6 seasons! He is one of the young New Mexico artists, who completed his masters at UNM-Albuquerque and emerged as a professional singer at a young age. In fact, Paul had already assembled quite a lot of professional experience prior to coming to New Mexico in the late 1990’s.

Paul is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. He started singing very early. His parents said that he was already singing as a toddler. But his training officially began in 1984, when his public school music teachers recommended him for the Cincinnati Boy Choir at age 10. This marked the beginning of his love for music, which has lasted for his entire life.

In his senior year of high school, Paul says that “things came together” in his mind, and he decided to pursue music in college. He initially began as a Music Education major, but then added a vocal performance degree later on. His bachelors is from Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, which is located just across the river from Cincinnati. Her earned his bachelors in 1997 and had a really great experience there. The music program was strong then and has remained so.

Paul came to Albuquerque in 1997 to study with Marilyn Tyler at UNM. For those of you unfamiliar with Marilyn Tyler, she is a legend among singers in New Mexico, and had a stellar career prior to teaching at UNM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_Tyler

Although Paul had never spent time in the West, he was really attracted to this part of the country. UNM made him the best offer – his teaching assistantship allowed him to get his masters for free. In addition to being involved with the opera program at UNM, Paul was also able to perform in the Santa Fe Opera’s Educational Outreach Program. He pointed out that these programs really help emerging artists “to polish their performing skills before young audiences.” The performing opportunities that he had through the Santa Fe Opera’s Educational Outreach Program were very formative for him and have stood him in good stead throughout his career.

When he finished his masters in 1999, Paul moved immediately into full-time professional work. He has also been with New Mexico Young Actors since 2004. The first 10 years were as Music Director, and he took over a Executive Director in 2015.

A bit about New Mexico Young Actors … Paul says that the organization has a 3-pronged offering: education (drama and introductory acting classes), musical productions, and play productions for young people, ages 9 to 19. They perform mostly for school children. Musicals in Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre attract audiences of 3,000 children or more. They take their plays on tour to elementary schools and the occasional middle school. In addition to Albuquerque, they have done run outs to Grants, Los Lunas, Cuba, and a number of New Mexico Pueblos. In order to participate in these outreach activities, the kids who perform in their plays miss 3-4 days of school per academic year. NMPAS soprano Esther Moses Bergh has brought her 2 children to a number of New Mexico Young Actors’ shows.

Paul met his wife Ling at UNM. He was teaching a voice class and needed a pianist. She was assigned to his class. They worked together at the university and, subsequently, at a church where they were both involved in the music program. They were married in 2001 and have 2 daughters, Audrey (almost 13) and Kate (9).

In addition to singing with NMPAS each season, Paul regularly performs with Opera Southwest. His first lead role there was as Coyote in the 1999 production of “Coyote’s Music” by New Mexico composer Alan Stringer. He has been singing with OSW for 21 years now! Other roles with Opera Southwest include Marullo in Rigoletto, Mazzetto in Don Giovanni, and Chognard in La Boheme.

In all, Paul has done over 40 opera and musical theater roles, a number of them more than once. He also lived in San Diego and sang with the San Diego Opera in the Young Artist Program, including the role of Figaro in Barber of Seville. He was in the Des Moines Opera Young Artist Program, as well, and has sung with other regional opera companies, including El Paso Opera.

“I am in a happy place professionally right now,” Paul says. He’d like to continue doing opera roles, including ones that are new to him. He has no plans to leave New Mexico: his family and work are here. He loves singing with NMPAS, both for music of J. S. Bach and in our opera programs, and with Opera Southwest.

Regarding the COVID-19 crisis, Paul feels lucky that his wife Ling works as a pharmacist. She is still employed, whereas many people in the arts are not. He was fortunate that most of his singing work for 2019-2020 took place prior to mid-March. But his standard Easter engagement was canceled, and the NMPAS Season Finale Opera concerts are up in the air. If NMPAS postpones our 2020 opera concerts, due to COVID-19, Paul will be especially grateful for the support of fans of NMPAS who contribute to the Artist Relief Fund, he said.

He mentioned that his theater group has been even more profoundly affected by this health crisis. As with most arts organizations, this will be a down year for New Mexico Young Artists.

Paul hopes that we can get through the COVID-19 emergency soon and that we won’t have to prolong social distancing for any longer than necessary. He admits that humans a very social by nature, so this is hard on everyone. Whereas it’s necessary in order to keep people safe, he says that it’s not a comfortable situation. And like many NMPAS artists, he wants to return to performing live concerts as soon as possible.

Artist Profile: Jennifer Perez

by Linda Marianiello, Executive Director, NMPAS

Soprano Jennifer Perez is a native New Mexican. She was one of the first young artists to enter the New Mexico Bach Chorale as an up-and-coming professional. Mentoring emerging artists is a major part of NMPAS’s Mission to promote New Mexico’s most talented professionals. We are very proud of all that Jennifer has achieved since graduating from UNM a few years ago.

Many NMPAS artists, including Jennifer, earn their living through music. Her main performing activities are with NMPAS, the Oregon Bach Festival, and the Dallas Choral Festival. Since all of her income derives from singing and part-time teaching, the COVID-19 emergency has left her in a difficult financial situation.

Jennifer says that the psychological effect of the coronavirus has been even more devastating than the financial insecurity she’s currently experiencing. She’s trying to fill the void with practicing. Yet having rehearsal and concert deadlines provides the very structure that is now missing from her life and the lives of her colleagues. Her concern for her colleagues, as well as herself, is what makes Jennifer so special to everyone at NMPAS and the wider community.

Jennifer wants to share her love of music with NMPAS audiences during the COVID-19 emergency. She’s working with Artistic Director Franz Vote and members of the New Mexico Bach Chorale to plan a “live” concert via video link. Her idea is to create a special Thank You gift for each person who donates to the Artist Relief Fund and supports NMPAS through the remainder of the 2019-2020 season.

Although Jennifer had very little formal training before college, she has been singing since she was a child. She was born in Ventura, CA and moved permanently to New Mexico at age 10. Jennifer went to Bernalillo High School and, after graduation, pursued a bachelors and masters in vocal performance at UNM in Albuquerque. Jennifer Vanover was her high school choral teacher and the person who encouraged her to pursue a career in music. Being cast as Cosette in Les Misérables is among Jennifer’s most special high school memories.

She decided to pursue music in college, because it was the one thing she could not live without. Jennifer Perez is not alone in this: many professional musicians feel as though music chose them, not the other way round. UNM in Albuquerque has an excellent music department, and she was lucky to be accepted into their program. Her voice teachers at UNM were Sam Shepperson* and Michael Hix.

At UNM she was very active in the opera program and also sang in three different choirs: concert, chamber and jazz. Jennifer doesn’t see herself primarily as an opera singer, because she’s uncomfortable being in the spotlight for extended periods. But she has learned to adapt to the performing environment, and her current activities span several genres, including oratorio, chamber music, opera in concert version, and choral music.

Jennifer talked about how much she appreciates a group like NMPAS, which focuses entirely on local musicians. She loves singing with us, because the New Mexico Bach Chorale has a robust sound, even when singing as a quartet of soloists, or with 2 or 3 on a part. She appreciates the fact that Artistic Director Franz Vote wants everyone in NMPAS ensembles to sing with their real voice, which promotes healthy vocal production. The fact that the New Mexico Bach Chorale is an ensemble of soloists also suits her to a T – she enjoys soloing with us, but also loves being part of the choral texture.

The other thing that Jennifer has learned from being part of NMPAS is that Bach is her favorite composer. She thinks that the way his music is structured, “the way it’s woven together,” is perfect. Bach took traditional forms to a whole other level, and this really resonates with her.

Jennifer Perez loves living in New Mexico! The beauty of our state means a lot to her quality of life. She enjoys traveling out of state for work, but New Mexico will always be the focus of her life and work.

*Sam Shepperson has also been a tenor soloist with the New Mexico Bach Chorale since 2018.

Photo: JENNIFER PEREZ, Soprano, Soloist and Member of the New Mexico Bach Chorale.

 

 

On March 25, Linda Marianiello interviewed New Mexico Bach Society mezzo soprano Kehar Koslowsky, who has been singing with us for the past several seasons. Artistic Director Franz Vote calls the New Mexico Bach Chorale “an ensemble of soloists.” Most members of the Chorale are soloists for our programs and also sing the choral parts for each of the works presented.

The first topic of discussion was the health emergency, due to COVID-19, and how this is affecting Kehar’s work and the cultural life of Santa Fe in general. We talked about how strange it would be if the summer 2020 festivals were canceled, due to the coronavirus.

Then, we discussed the musicians’ relief fund organized by Thomas Goodrich, one of New Mexico’s most important music educators and musicians. Among other things, Thomas teaches at United World College and New Mexico Highlands University. Taking its cue in part from this initiative, NMPAS asks our donors to please make a donation to the NMPAS Artist Relief Fund, which will assist our artists who are struggling during the cancellation of so many concerts and church engagements. We’ll provide information on how to make a donation at the conclusion of this interview.

Kehar Koslowsky has been performing since she was 4! She has been on stage for most of her life and really loves it. In fact, the women in her family are all musically active, and her grandmother was her first teacher.

At age 13, she began to take voice lessons. Before that she had already played cello since the age of 8. The experience that Kehar gained in school orchestras remains an important part of her training to this day. For example, she mentioned that she learns coloratura passages in works she’s performing by imagining how she would finger them on the cello!

We talked about how important it is for children to have musical experiences, the earlier, the better. Kehar grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York, which had great music programs in the schools. Her high school program was particularly good and offered AP music theory, which she took.

She also participated in a music theater program at Carnegie Mellon University that helped her to choose the classical, rather than the music theater, direction. After that, she pursued a music degree at University of Maryland – College Park. Kehar mentioned that college study encourages students to narrow their focus, a directive she followed at the start of her professional career. After graduation, Kehar lived and worked in Washington, DC for 6 years. For her, this was a period of oratorio and choral work.

For the past 8 years, Kehar has lived in Santa Fe. She originally came here to work for a yoga organization, and she took a break from singing for several of those years. As a more experienced professional, Kehar has returned to singing with the desire to broaden the scope of her musical activities. Among her new areas of interest and activity are recital work, opera, musical theater, and “fusion” projects that incorporate world music and other genres.

As far as opera is concerned, she said that being a lyric coloratura mezzo dictates the choices open to her. Her voice is perfectly suited to baroque, Mozart, French repertoire, and Rossini. Nineteenth-century art song also suits her, but she will probably not venture into Verdi, Puccini, or Wagner. There are also 20th-century operas that work well for her voice.

Kehar feels that the New Mexico music environment is a good one for artists like herself, who want to perform in a variety of settings and to explore new directions. She is a part-time, professional singer, and hopes to build her career to nearly full-time, freelance work.

She mentioned that many musicians have to supplement their income with “something else.” For her, this includes web development and marketing. She began to garner experience immediately after college, when she worked for a publisher. This got her into the digital realm, and today she is able to help nonprofits and other small businesses with their web development and marketing plans.

Kehar’s professional goals thus include looking into more singing opportunities and expanding her client base. Ideally, she’d like to work with more music nonprofits, especially since she has special expertise in this area.

The coronavirus is forcing many people, including Kehar, to “get clearer on life and actualizing that.” Currently, all of her work has been canceled for March and April, and she has 4 concerts schedule for May 2020. These include the Santa Fe Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Polyphony, and NMPAS. She has no idea whether any of them will happen.

Kehar also has a church job, as do many of our vocalists in the New Mexico Bach Chorale. Now that churches are not holding services, some are moving to online worship. She works with NMPAS artist and pianist Debbie Wagner at Santa Fe’s Christian Science Church. They initially shut down, but are starting video hookup for services. She’ll have her first streaming experience this coming Sunday, March 29th.

If you would like to support the work of Kehar Koslowsky during the COVID-19 emergency, please make a donation via the DONATE button on the NMPAS website or by mailing your donation to our PO Box:

New Mexico Performing Arts Society
3201 Zafarano Dr, Suite C #236,
Santa Fe, NM 87507

If you mail us a donation, please include a note, asking us to use the funds for the NMPAS Artist Relief Fund. In that case, your donation will to go directly to our musicians during the coronavirus emergency.

To our artists and audience members: please be safe and stay healthy!

Kehar Koslowsky, fourth from left, at the NMPAS 2019 Winter Solstice Concert in Santa Fe (Nov 30, 2019)