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)

 

 

For several years, we have wanted to start a Bach Cantata Series. In fact, one of our founders, Chris Ihlefeld, had this in mind when we started NMPAS in 2012.

The new NMPAS Cantata Series consists of two programs on March 1 and May 3. These concerts differ from other NMPAS series events in several respects:

– They are designed to last for an hour or less and take place without intermission. Tickets are just $25. Reserved seating is available for an extra fee on a first-come, first-served basis.

– Each concert features a Bach cantata and another work by Bach or one of his contemporaries.

– Cantata programs are designed as chamber music experiences with small vocal and instrumental ensembles.

The inaugural program on March 1, 2020 at 5:30 pm in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel features a cantata that Artistic Director Franz Vote considers extraordinary. Cantata 30, “Rejoice, redeemed flock!,” is a masterpiece that exceeds performers’ expectations. We hope that listeners will also be inspired by this music, which goes from one great chorus, recitative, and aria to another.

Featured soloists for Cantata 30 are soprano Camille Tierney, alto Jacqueline Zander-Wall, tenor Tjett Gerdom, and bass Paul Bower. They are joined by oboist Kevin Vigneau, flutist Linda Marianiello, and pianist Natasha Stojanovska.

Metropolitan Opera conductor emeritus Franz Vote leads the ensemble. Among Maestro Vote’s credits are Music Director of the Seattle [Wagner] RING (2000-2001), numerous performances on the podium of the Metropolitan Opera, including the premiere of “Tales of Hoffman” (1995-2001), international appearances throughout all of Western Europe, and opera gala performances in Japan and China.

Jamie Bernstein On Growing Up in Her Father’s Shadow

by Linda Marianiello

On Sunday, August 4, at 11 a.m., Jamie Bernstein will read from her memoir, Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein, about her life as the daughter of the famous composer, conductor, and activist Leonard Bernstein. The event at Collected Works Bookstore is sponsored by Journey Santa Fe.

Jamie Bernstein spent most of her life waiting to write her memoir, which is about living in her father’s shadow. A book agent finally convinced her that the centennial of her father’s birth was the perfect time to publish her book, and she wrote the first draft that same day!

Another reason she wrote the memoir was to “control the narrative.” Leonard Bernstein’s children wanted to tell it “in the true way they saw it.” Jamie gave her brother, Alexander, and sister, Nina, veto power over everything she wrote in the book. They read every draft, and neither asked her to leave anything out.

It took ages for Jamie to figure out who she is, independently of her father. As early as second grade, a classmate identified her as “famous father girl.” She was fifty before she found “another way to be in the world of music.” And the right path turned out to be concert narration, which she came to quite by accident.

The catalyst was The Bernstein Beat, a program featuring Bernstein’s own music and based on his legendary Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic. Jamie’s artistic partner is the conductor Michael Barrett, a close associate of Leonard Bernstein. They did a test run with the Utah Symphony. Then, Carnegie Hall invited them to do the program. Other concerts about Mozart and Aaron Copland followed. They developed a large repertoire of programs, not all of them about her father. And she suddenly realized, “This is my career. Who knew?”

So why didn’t Jamie become a professional musician? When she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter, she noticed that her father’s renown closed more doors than it opened. Record executives said her music sounded “too Broadway.” She was writing eclectic music; her father’s own works were similarly wide-ranging. Record companies wanted a hit song, a template that would guarantee future sales. Ultimately, it didn’t work out.

And there was something else: Jamie’s mother, Felicia Cohn Montealegre, discouraged the siblings from drawing attention to themselves. This probably affected her decision to abandon a performing career and definitely caused her to avoid the limelight. She was “always in knots” about being the center of attention. The image she used to describe this in the book is “one foot on the gas pedal and one on the brake simultaneously.”

Today Jamie identifies as a “fan of music.” In fact, she’s been thinking about this a lot lately. She has many musician friends, whose work spans a wide range of genres from jazz and Latin to chamber music, as well as opera and orchestral works. “Musicians can’t get very far without an audience,” she points out. Audience members are not passive receptors. Musicians need them every bit as much as the other way round. Jamie is glad to embrace the role of audience member by “being there with open ears and heart.”

Leonard Bernstein’s legacy in the life of his children is complex, but his role as a teacher was pervasive. Their dad was the consummate teacher. He was always grabbing people’s attention and saying, “Listen to this!” Whether rehearsing an orchestra, telling a good Jewish joke, or engaging in some other activity, the same sensibility was at play. He used to say, “When I learn, I teach, and when I teach, I learn.” So, it is not surprising that all three children became teachers. They love nothing more than to share their passion for learning. The youngest, Nina, teaches about food. Alexander became an educator. And Jamie, the oldest of the three, teaches through concert narration.

The picture would not be complete without Leonard’s activism. In the 60s and 70s, people were afraid to talk about politics, especially when Richard Nixon was president. But Leonard and his wife, Felicia, were committed to making the world a better place and spoke out when they perceived an injustice. The children grew up with that whole sensibility, which is part of who they are today.

The siblings are devoted to keeping their dad’s legacy alive. The centennial provided an unrepeatable opportunity to introduce young people to his life and music. While many young people have not heard of Leonard Bernstein, they are usually familiar with West Side Story. And now a movie remake of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, is in production. It features a young cast, the Sharks are Latinos, and the script has been revised by Tony Kushner.

In her memoir, Jamie Bernstein speaks openly about her dad’s identity as a gay man. After Leonard Bernstein separated from his wife, he had a very hard time being an openly gay man. This was also due to the fact that Leonard’s mother was still alive, and he was concerned about how this would affect her. So another important reason for writing the memoir was to finally talk about the things that no one could talk about then, her dad’s sexual identity being one of them. Her mother’s breast cancer was another. There was a “paralysis around calling things what they were,” Jamie said.

Jamie feels that we’d made enormous progress around the issue of homosexuality in recent decades. Once gay marriage passed, she thought that most Americans viewed gay people as normal. She believes we’re in the midst of a backlash against gay rights, and it’s as hard to talk about difficult topics today as it was in the 60s and 70s.

When asked about the future of classical music, Jamie referenced her father’s passion for teaching and social justice. Her optimism is fueled by personal experience with El Sistema. Founded in 1975 in Venezuela, El Sistema is a national system of youth orchestras and choirs that lifts children out of poverty and gives them tools for life. The concerts she heard in Venezuela were some of the best she has ever attended. “It was like going to a ball game,” she said.

El Sistema has inspired hundreds of similar programs worldwide. Jamie believes it may take 15 or 20 years to see the change here in the US. If even 1% of the children currently in an El Sistema program pursue a professional career, they will bring their entire community with them. And these communities are a brand new demographic for classical music.

Jamie Bernstein is also a featured author for the 2019 JCC Book Fest at the Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque at 3 pm on Sunday, October 20, 2019. Tickets ($10 in advance, $12 at the door) for the event are available through Hold My Ticket: www.holdmyticket.com.

Event Details:

Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein with Jamie Bernstein

11 a.m. Sunday, August 4

Collected Works Bookstore, 202 Galisteo St

Free and open to the public, https://www.journeysantafe.com