Updated: May 3
Classical singer, Sarah J Lucey, talks to us about her love of opera, life at Juilliard School of Music, her recent film debut in Road of Bygones and why she’d love to duet with Nicki Minaj.
When did you first discover your love of singing and what made you decide the genre of opera was going to be your focus?
I started singing in elementary school in the choir and I found that singing made me really happy, music for me just brought this sense of joy. At high school my choir teacher ask me to sing an Italian aria (a piece for one voice), I sang it for her and I thought it was so beautiful, I loved it and that’s what started my love of opera. I was in my senior year, I loved the complexity of opera, learning another language and how all the songs are really poems with music.
Has learning opera helped you learn different languages?
Yes, I’m currently studying Italian, French and German, because that’s what we sing a lot of in classical music, those are the three main languages. We also study a lot of diction for singing, singing is definitely helping me learn the languages. I still have a long way to go because singing and speaking are very different, but I do hope one day to be able to speak all three languages.
Which language do you find the most difficult to sing?
French is the most difficult because it has so many mixed vowels, its so hard to replicate some of the inflections within the music. French is so beautiful the way it flows together but it is hard to perfect.
When singing have you ever been told you don’t sound like you have an American accent?
In school I have a fellow student who is German, she’s a mezzo-soprano and she was telling me, the last time I sang a German piece, that it sounded like I was really German. That was the biggest compliment she could’ve given me. They do teach us in school about how to erase the American accent when singing.
How did you enjoy vocal training with Karen Nimereala?
Karen was the one who really got me into this world of classical music, she helped me to develop all my aria’s that I needed to do for auditions. She helped me lay all the groundwork and taught me for the first time how to develop a technique with singing and breathing. I will always be grateful to her for helping me to get started.
Tell us what a typical day studying at world renowned Juilliard School of Music is like?
The first thing I do when I wake up is think, did I do all my assignments, did I practice enough. I normally have 3 or 4 classes to go to, music theory, diction training and your voice lesson. Between those you’ll always be looking at your music and preparing for your main performance class, I look forward to that all day. It’s the time when you get to perform, you study all day which is fun but what you really want to do is perform, to touch other people with your art. After your performance you get feedback from the professors and fellow students, sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s amazing, but it’s all to make you perform better.
What do you like to sing other than opera?
I like to sing musical theater songs, I love Anything Goes, Cabaret and anything by Julie Andrews!
Do you play any musical instruments?
I first started with the trumpet which was fun, then I played the violin for a long time and I know some piano but once I got into singing, I stopped playing.
What are your greatest hopes for your musical career?
My greatest hope is that I can touch other young women with opera music, just like I was when I was young. I really don’t feel our community is being touched by this music, especially women and lesbians, I would love to be able to give them that. I want to create unique classical music and make them feel they are not alone.
Who would you love to duet with?
That’s a tough question! I love mixing genres like classical music with contemporary music. I think it would be awesome to have a classical track with a rapper, so I would choose Nicki Minaj.
You recently filmed Road of Bygones, how was it acting and singing alongside your wife Astrid Ovalles?
It was amazing! We would work on the film at home until 3 in the morning, going over everything in such detailed, so when we got on the film-set we were in the moment with each other. She gave me a sense of safety; she had my back and I know she always wanted the best for the film and for me. I loved working with her.
When you’re not singing yourself, which opera’s and musicals do you most like to watch?
I love Anything Goes, I’ve seen it multiple times on Broadway and I love tap dancing, I love the jolliness of that musical. For opera I would choose Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, it’s a comedic opera, it’s in Italian, I’ve studied it intensely and I love that it’s fun, it makes you laugh, and the music is beautiful.
For any girls dreaming of attending the Juilliard School of Music, what advice would you give to them?
I would definitely tell them not to give up! Don’t give up if you don’t get in the first time, don’t give up if you have a bad audition. They do give you second chances; you can try again another year. Nerves are a big hurdle to overcome and you need to practice in front of other people to help get your nerves out. Don’t give up because I could have many times, I got rejections, but I am there now. Just keep working.
During this time, when so many people are self-quarantined, where can people see you perform?
During this time, I’m going to be uploading some video’s to YouTube, not just music but also some fun chat and skits. I’m also working on an album that will be available on Spotify but that will be a few months away.
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