1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 4 - February 2022

Gould's Wall -- Philip Akin's "breadcrumb trail; orchestras buying into hope; silver linings to the music theatre lockdown blues; Charlotte Siegel's watershed moments; Deep Wireless at 20; and guess who is Back in Focus. All this and more, now online for your reading pleasure.

PROFILE The Marigold

PROFILE The Marigold Music Program, summer 2021, left to right: Manasvi Naik, Nailah Padilla, Ali Loisy, Charlotte Siegel (behind), Jadzia Elrington (in front), Kevin Mulligan, Vera Sevelka and Spencer Persad Charlotte Siegel Transformative powers and watershed moments DANIELLE SUM VIVIEN FELLEGI Nineteen-year-old opera student Charlotte Siegel is getting frustrated as she sings an aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro over and over again in a cramped rehearsal studio at the University of Toronto. She wants to impress her new teacher and is concentrating hard on getting every element right. But the more she tries, the more her body tenses and the notes get stuck in her throat. “[Singing] is not a gentle thing,” says her teacher, Frédérique Vézina. “It’s like jumping off a cliff – you have to just let go.” Siegel takes a deep breath. She turns off her brain and lets her instincts take over. The song’s energy pumps from the ground to her face; every part of her vibrates like a pitchfork.The pounding pulse of the music takes over her being, annihilating her worries. The moment shimmers. Times like these, when the “controlled scream” of opera whisks her right out of herself, make all the effort worthwhile. “It’s the most luxurious feeling in the world,” says the soprano. Learning to immerse herself in the moment has benefitted Siegel in both music and life. But it hasn’t been easy. Like many musicians, Siegel tends towards perfectionism, over-analyzing situations and undercutting actions. Letting go is another of many life lessons that music and her mentors have taught her: learning to communicate and collaborate have bolstered her confidence both in singing and in general. “I question who I would be if I hadn’t had those experiences,” says Siegel. Regent Park School of Music Siegel’s instruction in music began at Toronto’s Regent Park School of Music (RPSM), [] which offers highly subsidized music lessons for children living in the mostly lower-income and racialized communities of Regent Park and Jane-Finch. From the age of nine, when she began studying voice, Siegel says, she was transfixed by the transformative power of music. She could be upset or frustrated or tired – but the moment she started singing everything else faded away. Later, when her classically trained teacher introduced her to opera, Siegel learned to absorb her character’s perspective into her own skin. “I always try to imagine what the person I’m trying to portray was going through in that moment, and breathe it in and fully become it,” she says. These excursions into the minds of others have broadened her vision. “Everyone wants to be transformed, to go outside of themselves,” says Siegel. As Siegel honed her voice at Regent Park School of Music, her overall confidence bloomed in tandem. As a young child, Siegel says, she was “bubbly but also self-contained. I lived in my own world happily for a really long time,” she recalls. Music, where she could comfortably express her feelings, drew her out of her shell. “That’s helped me…communicate with people,” she says. 18 | February 2022

An agency of the Government of Ontario Un organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontario Of course there were times when the magic went missing, and that’s when mentors like Zorana Sadiq jumped in. During one practice session, Siegel recalls how sadness over some now-forgotten incident seeped into the exercise. The uncharacteristic quiver in her voice affected Sadiq so profoundly that she baked her struggling pupil a batch of cupcakes to console her. Siegel remembers how touched she was by the gesture. “It makes you feel seen,” she says, “and like someone cares about you.” The former RPSM grad remains close with many of her former instructors, who have become a “second family.” Performing also boosted Siegel’s morale. From the age of nine, the young girl was belting out solos in front of large crowds, and these stints in the spotlight have, for the most part, immunized her against stage fright. Her growing technical expertise in turn fuelled a sense of competence that extended into other domains. “Feeling like you’re getting better at something is …a really big part of becoming more confident,” she says. But perhaps her greatest gift from RPSM, she says, was the school’s cultivation of her speaking voice. In their youth groups, students worked actively at exchanging opinions and taking a stance on social issues. “That’s the biggest thing that music gave to me as a youth,” Siegel says. When she embarked on her music studies at the University of Toronto in 2013, though, Siegel was initially more bent on conforming than crusading. The only Black person in a sea of white faces, she recalls spending hours every weekend ironing out her thick, curly tresses in order to blend in with her straight-haired peers. Her classmates called her “Michelle Obama” (who sported a similar sleek bob). Siegel didn’t mind then, she says. But her whole world view shifted on its axis the day George Floyd, an unarmed Black Minneapolis man, was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. “I feel like a completely different person after that moment,” she says. While the former self-described “people pleaser” once ignored minor racial slurs, her tolerance ground to zero after that watershed event. “Things that you let slide before, there’s just not a place for them anymore,” she says. Siegel the songwriter poured her grief into a composition, The Dream, about a world without prejudice, performing it online with Pacific Opera Victoria. But she did more than just dream. The pandemic gave her space to reassess her priorities. She had always wanted to give back to her old music school, and, in the fall of 2020, began co-leading their youth group, facilitating delicate discussions on both personal Charlotte Siegel in the COC’s issues and current Ensemble Studio Competition, 2019 events. She was a natural. “The best part was seeing some kids start out quite shy then open up a little bit.” Marigold Revisiting Regent Park School of Music catalyzed another, more farreaching opportunity for their former protégé. After a visit there, staff connected Siegel to two other classically trained, like-minded musicians, Khadija Mbowe and Kevin Mulligan. Two years ago, the trio MICHAEL COOPER ALL IS LOVE TICKETS ON SALE NOW! February 19, at 8:00PM February 20, at 2:30PM Koerner Hall, TELUS CENTRE for Performance and Learning Opera Atelier's Valentine Celebration! A fully staged production of the repertoire we love most, featuring music by CHARPENTIER, DEBUSSY, HANDEL, PURCELL, RAMEAU, and much, much more! Members of Opera Atelier’s team Eric César de Mello da Silva, Rena Seeger, Julia Sedwick, Xi Yi / Photo by Bruce Zinger TICKETS FROM —BUY NOW! OPERAATELIER.COM Season Presenting Sponsor Season Underwriter Season Supported by David Green & Daphne Wagner, Lita and Michael Green All Is Love Executive Producers Dalglish Family Foundation Mr. & Mrs. Jerry & Joan Lozinski Mr. & Mrs. William Lambert Anonymous Radio Sponsor Media Partner February 2022 | 19

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