By Tim Leininger
May 22-23, 2021
|Tim Leininger / Journal Inquirer
|‘That’s my vision, to try to bring the joy of
music to the community and be part of it’
OCCUPATION: Music professor at Manchester Community College, chorale director of Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale.
HOMETOWN: Meriden. Originally from Zaragoza, Spain, moved to US when she was 21 to go to college.
BACKGROUND: Started studying music when she was very young. Her first instrument was organ: she was so tiny that her feet couldn’t reach the pedals.
FUN FACT: Comes from a non-musical family, although many family members are artists, painters, and sculptors.
REPERTOIRE BUCKET LIST: The Duruflé ’Requiem;’ Brahms’ ‘Requiem’. Mahler’s ‘Second Symphony, but you need a huge orchestra and tons of big voices; Czech composer Zelenka’s pieces.
Q: When did you start studying vocal technique and singing?
A: I finished my career, or as far as you could go in those times in Spain, which was the equivalent of a master’s degree and I got a scholarship to come here. I went to New York City I went to Manhattan School of Music.
In those years, they did not validate the degrees from Spain, so I had to start all over. I didn’t speak English. I had to take eight hours of English in my first semester on top of 18 credits. I spent six years in New York, and I did another bachelor’s and another master’s.
When you’re in New York and you’re a student, you don’t have money, you have to find jobs. I had organ skills. I don’t remember how I landed my first church job, but I did. It was in Harlem. The pastor was from Spain. I was like, “What?!” He was from my city too.
I started working again on my organ skills, there was a little choir. I had three music ministry jobs in New York while I was getting my degrees.
Finally, I landed a full-time job here in Connecticut, and they had a choir. I found if I want to help these people get better at singing. I have to get better and need In go back to school So, I did.
I went to the University of Hartford’s Hartt School, and that’s when I started my doctorate in choral conducting.
I still play the piano of course and I love what I do. I never thought I would be teaching full time. I love teaching. I’ve always taught privately or as an adjunct but I never really thought about academia until I was the Hartt School. When this job (at Manchester Community College) opened up. I jumped on the wagon. I’m happy. I love it here helping so many students.
Q: How big is the choir at Manchester?
A: It’s really small this year, 10 or 12. We normally do collaborations with Hartt or with Manchester High School. We’ve done two international tours during my tenure here. I’m trying to give the students the same opportunities that they would find in a four-year school that has more means. We do that by means of collaboration.
We collaborate with the Manchester Chorale. That’s been so great. That’s one of the reasons why I applied for the job. It gives me an opportunity to be more involved in the community. My students belong to this community. I think it has been a win-win for both for the symphony chorale and for us.
Q: How is it different working with a college choir versus working with a volunteer community choir?
A: I think the two main differences are people from Manchester Chorale — the volunteer choir — are there because they 100% want to do this. That doesn’t mean that kids in the choir don’t want to do this They do, but they’re so busy with other things.
The big difference too, is the ages. You have a young voice, it is very different than older ages’ voices I cannot demand the same thing from a 75-year-old soprano than from a 19-year old soprano.
The flexibility is not there, whether you want it or not. it’s just physiology. It’s different parameters. My priority is to keep their voices healthy, no matter what age they are and keep them singing.
Q: What’s your vision for the music program here at MCC and the Manchester Chorale?
A: For MCC, my vision hasn’t changed since I started. My vision is to create an experience that they can take and develop for the rest of their lives. This is just the beginning. I want them to appreciate their colleagues. Collaboration is crucial. As soon as this pandemic is over, we’re back singing with other people.
My vision for the Manchester Chorale is, as of today, to keep growing in numbers. I think there’s going to be a thirst for being in person and making music in person. That’s my vision, to try to bring the joy of music to the most people as possible in the community and be part of it.
Q: What are your personal ambitions for the future?
A: My plan is to stay here. The only ambition that I have is to have more time to do research. I’ve always loved doing research. I only started recently to have more time to do so because I finally retired from church work. My last job. I was there for 23 years. I retired in October, later than I thought I would.
At this point in my life, I just want to help other people get better at what they do, musically speaking. I’d like to spend more time with my family. I would like to have more time to be outside.
Singing is so healthy for you. If more people sang, they would be healthier, less stressed. I don’t have ambitions of being number one. That’s not what life is about for me. I’m just happy with what I do.
Note: This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.