By James Pruitt
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but sometimes a voice can be just as powerful. For former Bryan resident Veronica Richer, she is learning to use her voice to tell stories through opera. The 21-year-old is a student at Boston Conservancy, studying for a bachelor’s of music degree in vocal performance.
“This degree is critical toward building my foundation as a professional vocalist,” Richer said via email. “Over the course of four years I have studied theory, music history, languages, and acting while building strong vocal technique. The truth is though, that my bachelor degree in vocal performance is just the starting ground toward my education as a professional vocalist.”
Boston Conservatory was always one of her top choices. “Not only is BoCo a fabulous school – the environment is nourishing and productive – but Boston is a wonderful city filled with endless possibilities,” Richer said. “For example, in January I will be singing the leading role or Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus with Harvard Opera, which will be my first BIG role.”
Richer, obviously excited about the role, wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity if it weren’t for her being in Boston, and for her instructor, Patty Thom, who has taken her voice to the next level. “I also performed as a cover for Mabel with the MIT Gilbert and Sullivan Players production of The Pirates of Penzance, and I’m joining the Odyssey Opera Company production of Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orlèans (In Russian) on Sept. 16.”
Richer’s love of music and singing comes from being a child of two parents and an aunt who sang as a trio. The three adults performed as The Stovers. “I grew up in a rich musical heritage with parents who traveled and sang adult contemporary Christian music<” Richer said. “From a young age I sang gospel tunes and musical theater selections, but over time I fell in love with opera.”
Richer’s parents encouraged her passion for singing and the arts. While she primarily grew up on gospel tunes and musical theater selections, over time she discovered opera. Veronica’s mom (Leisa Stover-Richer) encouraged her to attend Eastman’s Summer Horizons music program for high school students, and it was true love ever since. “Opera never gets boring to me, either,” Richer said. “It’s amazing to be a part of a story line; to take on a different character, embody that character, and share a story to an audience who could be listening for the first time.”
Her parents and my aunt inspired her, Richer said. “The group they formed, called The Stovers, always brought so much happiness and love to everyone listening and I knew I wanted to someday be a part of that experience,” Richer said. “Music communicates in a way words simply can’t; it speaks the inner most thoughts of your heart and soul.
“I have also had some incredible mentors and teachers along the way who have helped guide me and encourage me to keep going. A support team is crucial in this field. Without that, there is no chance.”Richer has had many chances to perform in her young career and now she will be a part of Harvard College Opera’s production of Die Fledermaus as the leading lady, Rosalinde.
The show will take place in January and February in the Agassiz Theater on the campus of Harvard University in Boston. “There is always something to focus and work on, whether it is performance, theory, characterization, vocal technique, orchestral knowledge, language skills, text, emotion, or simply trying to get a coloratura run in tune and in tempo,” Richer said. “I will be working on my craft my whole life, and that alone excites me.”
When Richer attended Eastman, she met Cecile Saine, a teacher she describes as “fabulous.” “I knew if I wanted to continue my operatic/ classical studies, I needed someone who had previous experience in this field,” Richer said.“In other words, I needed someone who had a vast understanding of French, Italian, German, and English pronunciation, someone who had previously performed in an opera, someone who previously lived this life I am chasing after, and someone who could take my vocal technique to the next level. Cecile Sainme was that person. Technology has played a role in Richer’s development as a singer.
“I chose to continue my studies with her via Skype, and thanks to a fantastic sound engineer and technician (my dad), that was made possible,” Richer said. “I was honored to be the very first Skype student for the Eastman Community School of Music. Recently, the national Classical Singer Magazine printed a feature article on me and Cecile. The article was about how Skype propelled my vocal education forward. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity and loved working with the Magazine editors.”
Richer’s next step will be attending graduate school. There she will focus more on vocal development with her core studies out of the way. She will continue auditioning for Young Artist Programs. The YAP programs help train young artists toward their opera career while providing them with the necessary skills toward being hired by a professional opera company.
Richer pause to consider what the past four years been like for her. “In a nutshell, eye opening,” Richer said. “I have learned more in the past four years than what I have learned my entire life.
“I have studied four languages, memorized and become a professional at IPA (international phonetic alphabet), can successfully analyze an atonal score, have learned about my body and about the pedagogy of the voice and what is happening while I sing, and have grown immensely in my musicianship, singing, piano skills, diction, and self as a whole. I have met some incredible friends along the way. “That is the best part about this career path is the people. It is a small world, and I will without a doubt run into everyone again.”
Even though she lives in Boston and see the world as her place of employment, she hasn’t forgotten about her hometown. Her community has shown her nothing but support. She said she was blessed to have a wonderful hometown that has helped me along the way.
“Judy Lewis took me under her wing and taught me theory when I was a senior and piano when I was younger,” Richer said. “Brandon Gordon, Ben Lupo, Paige Miller, Rachel Lehtonen, and Lori Schultz all played a part in aiding in my growth as a leader, musician, and person. “I have loved growing up in small town, Bryan, Ohio, where the love of music is vast, the talent is tremendous, and the people are kind and supportive. I would never change that.”
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