Finding my voice

Until recently, Alicia Waller was a classically trained singer on a well-trodden pathway. The traditional route to classical success has been well mapped-out, but her latest endeavour deviates from the norm into new territories.

In 2018, Alicia’s debut EP Monde Grande will be released. Partially funded by New York University, the album is an exercise in music diplomacy. She describes it as, ‘a curated trip around the world’ and seeks to expand the use of the classical voice, and the potential for cultural collaboration. Here, for Ditto, Alicia writes about her change in direction and her experience of bringing creativity, and, most importantly, herself, into her craft:

These days, discovery and newness seem to be recurrent themes in my life. Up until fairly recently, I might have told you—and anyone else, for that matter—that these sensations were directly correlated to my recent completion of a two-year graduation program and the resulting 90° pivot in the direction of my career interests. Note that I am intentionally a quarter-turn shift as opposed to a full about-face. This is because despite the considerable shift in my interests, I was, am, and will likely continue to remain steadfast in my commitment to the quadrant of music and the art of singing, upon which I first set my sights at the tender age of two.

Indeed, this pursuit has been a long time coming. Yet, the course of my pursuits have taken a turn as of late and there is none more surprised to see this most recent evolution in my career and creative trajectory than me.

As much as I'd love to share the nuisances of my childhood musical life, I will refrain from doing so here. Instead, I will begin with the period in which I was introduced to opera as a career path. This happened while I was enrolled as an undergraduate in the University of Maryland at College Park. Here, I learned about the magnificent capabilities of the human voice, and I also learned how a career in opera was to be made:

 

Step one: Find the best teacher

Step two: Find the best coach  

Step three: Get accepted to the best summer music programmes  

Step four: Get master's degree... from top school, of course  

Step five: Get into a young artist programme

Step six: Get managed  

Step seven: Win voice competition, if you haven't already

Step eight: Get to Germany and finally, maybe, if you're lucky, get career

 

The standard deviation from this path for a career in opera is very low. Of course, sometimes the above listed steps are slightly inverted or even occasionally bypassed here and there—there are also incremental steps that must be taken in between—but, for the case of forging a career in opera in America, the course laid out above is the most widely accepted and practiced model.  

Fortunately for me, I was utterly committed. I was ready to do whatever needed to be done to let me sing ‘like that’. But, much like a relationship, sometimes you can want something, but if it isn't right, or if it's premature, then it's not going to work.  

Over the course of the past couple of years, I've learned that my desire to create and to have a hand in the creative process runs a thread stronger for me than it does for many of my fellow opera singers. Moreover, once I got a taste of seeing a dream transform from idea to reality, there was no turning back.

 

All the time I was studying opera and classical voice—pursuing my training in earnest—I was playing with an idea in my mind. Of course, I didn't realise it then, but if hindsight isn't 20/20, I don't know what is.

The idea was to adapt the classical vocalism to all sorts of musics and languages from around the world. Even as I develop projects now, or explain the inspiration behind my work as artists so often have to do, I look back to remember just how much I enjoyed my world music course at the University of Maryland, and just how much I sang along. But, it never occurred to me that creating an artistic concept and seeing it to fruition might be an option for me, as a classical singer...

Read the full article in Volume One of Ditto >

Photos by Brittany Buongiorno