The Ultimate DMA Finish Line

Image Courtesy of Emily Rose Walsh

Image Courtesy of Emily Rose Walsh

Grace Mittleman, Staff Writer

Picture this: you’ve been working tirelessly to get your doctoral degree in a field you are deeply passionate about. The finish line is so close, you can taste it. Now picture this finish line stretching out a hundred miles more than you anticipated. This is what it felt like for Emily Rose Walsh, a DMA student in Vocal Studies at the Hartt School.

Emily is a DMA student about to receive her doctoral degree in voice. Her final recital was initially planned for March 13th at 5 pm. However, in a drastic turn of events, the campus was shut down due to the outbreak of COVID-19. “My recital was scheduled at the exact time that the campus closed. Realizing that we were on the cusp of a generation-defining tragedy was shocking and horrifying,” Emily writes. The finish line for Emily was pushed a hundred miles ahead and she felt devastated that her recital would have to wait longer than anticipated.

During our quarantined months and throughout the summer, Emily decided to put away the music for a while. “I’ve found that taking a break from a piece and waiting to come back to it until I really miss it, can be very restorative. Over the summer, I switched my attention to some different songs and arias that I wanted to learn, which was really fun and freeing,” Emily writes. When Emily pulled out the recital music at the end of the summer, she felt happy to see it again.  And, certain technical challenges managed to resolve themselves thanks to the time away. “As important as practicing is, sometimes the voice needs time and space to mature on its own. It was a pleasure rather than a chore to relearn everything,” Emily writes.

Luckily, Emily finally got to present her work. Her DMA recital was this past Friday, October 23rd, in the Millard Auditorium. She was allowed to have an audience of a few members, and the recital was live-streamed. Emily had the invaluable opportunity to not only sing her recital repertoire, but to sing it for an actual audience.

Emily’s program didn’t have a theme; rather, it represented her journey as an artist.  Emily wrote to me about her exciting and enchanting repertoire: “I opened with Mozart’s massive concert aria ‘Popoli di Tessaglia,’ which famously contains two G’s above high C at the end—a note virtually unheard-of in vocal repertoire. In my first recital as an undergrad at Boston College, I sang the final section as an encore, and two professors I deeply respected told me afterward that I should pursue a singing career. Now, two graduate degrees later, I can finally sing the entire aria, and it comes right from my soul. For song repertoire, I chose four early Debussy mélodies, and three of Strauss’s “Brentano” lieder—all pieces that I’ve wanted to perform for a long time. Finally, my teacher, Dr. Fiertek, introduced me to a radiant Spanish song cycle, Siete canciones de amor, by the living composer Antón García Abril. The songs are gorgeous, intimate, and distinctly Spanish-sounding, so they complemented the rest of the program perfectly, and were a thrill to sing.”

I “I’m so grateful that I finally had the opportunity to sing this program, and to Dr. Fiertek, my pianist Dr. Braun, and Prof. Kosloff for helping me make it happen,” Emily writes, “Of course I would have loved to sing for a live audience, but I still feel a real sense of achievement—those high G’s felt great! And, nearly 8 months into this terrible pandemic, everyone has lost something significant—a performance, a graduation party, a wedding, or worse, a job or a loved one. I know to keep my losses in perspective, and I’m lucky to be able to offer music through a safe medium. When live performances return, I would love to sing this recital again.”

Dr. Michelle Fiertek was a teacher and mentor throughout this whole process.  She worked with Emily to create the masterpiece she presented this past Friday. “Emily was a deeply thoughtful, very musical, and completely professional singer when we met,” Dr. Fiertek writes.  “She had come to Hartt from Longy and had studied with a teacher who is a close colleague of mine. What is so wonderful about Emily’s journey here at Hartt is that I feel she truly came into her own as a scholar and artist. She started her doctoral studies aiming to please others with the product of her vocal skills and found her way well beyond that goal. Now she celebrates and lifts the music up, in both lecture and song, at the highest level, with very specific interpretation and profound understanding. She has earned the greatest respect from her teachers at every step of her journey. When she presents herself as an artist, she exudes the confidence of an expert in her field. I’m so proud of her!”

I think Emily’s journey is so inspiring.  Knowing that she was able to showcase her art at some point gives me the satisfaction that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.  I hope we can all learn from Emily’s recital journey and her outlook on all of it because she serves as an excellent example for students and people in the workplace going through similar scenarios.  I wish the very best for Emily Rose Walsh throughout the rest of her vocal career!