Good afternoon, YouthMundees!
This week YouthMundus sat down with professional Opera Vocalist Kasey Cwynar-Foye. During this interview the Marylander explains how she fell in love with song and the rigorous structure require to properly execute such high level pieces of music.
Cwynar-Foye's passion for music came at a young age, which prompted her parents to enroll her in both a children's choir and private voice lessons. It was during this time that she was introduced to opera and was drawn to it instantly. The vocalist later went onto study the art form professionally at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. Here she earned a BM in Vocal Performance, as well as a MM in Vocal Performance and Vocal Pedagogy. Although Cwynar-Foye primarily focuses on opera and classical music she's also trained in Jazz and Pop styles as well.
1. What inspires you and your creative process?
Growing up, my inspiration to sing just came from being happy. I remember being too young to even talk, but feeling the impulse to just open my mouth and “sing” out of pure joy. It’s such a natural reaction. To this day, if I find myself in the right mood, I catch myself singing without even realizing I started.
Of course, now that I am a professional, I have to be a bit more mindful about my voice. If I am beginning a new piece, I have a very structured way of going about learning it. Discovering the dramatic intention behind the text and the music is the most important part of this process. Music is meant to tell a story and build connections. I feel that all performers must have a sense of character or emotional warrant infused into their work to effectively communicate to an audience.
Kasey's Musical Process Rough Outline Step 1: Translate and write in IPA. Step 2: Practice speaking the text in rhythm. Step 3: Put the text to the music. Step 4: Discover for myself who this character is that I am portraying. Step 5: Infuse dramatic intention into the music.
2. What is the connection between your art and social justice? Why?
In general I keep my art and politics separate from one another. However, with today’s political climate growing ever more segregated, this can be difficult to maintain. There are most definitely works that I have performed and studied that pulled these two worlds together. As I become more immersed into the world outside the confides of music conservatory, I see connections between the music written out in front of me, and what is happening in real time around the world.
3. What inspired you to pursue your art? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
In short, I feel as though this is what I was put on this earth to do. There has not been a single day that has gone by where I have not thought about music. The stage, and everything it stands for is constantly on my mind. It is a platform for me to share myself; vulnerable, real, and authentic. It is a goal to constantly work towards that encourages me to strive for excellence. It is a platform to inspire and connect with others.
The most difficult part of this pursuit is getting to the stage. As a soprano, I am one of many. The competition is fierce, cut throat, and never ending. To be given the opportunity to perform on stage takes patience, practice, and diligence. For every “congratulations” I have received, there have been at least a dozen “we regret to inform you”.
While in this way my journey is standard, there are aspects of it that are unique. With a diagnosis of dyslexia and dysgraphia, I have at times struggled to learn music. It can be frustrating and exhausting to stare at notes on a page that never seem to want to reflect what is actually written.
Yet, this makes it all the more sweet when I finally get the music in my voice.
4. What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists?
Recently, I auditioned for the contemporary Opera, Émilie by composer Kaija Saariaho, for which I had to learn an extremely difficult excerpt. When I began learning the piece I didn’t think it was possible to sing. The music was challenging in a way I had never experienced. But, like always, I put in the work.
The audition panel was made up of Peabody faculty, all of whom had seen me perform in some capacity over the past five years. This made the experience more nerve-racking. It was as if there was something more for me to prove. After the audition I was called by my voice teacher, Elizabeth Futral. She informed me that everyone on the audition panel was extremely impressed with how well I did. What was more rewarding than knowing that they enjoyed my performance, was that they appreciated the work I put in not only to this audition, but my entire musical journey.
This panel knew my struggles. They have seen me falter, struggle and fail more than once; they have seen me at my worst. Despite it all, my best was enough to convince them to give me a chance. Being cast and given the opportunity to perform, it feels like nothing else. The notion that all of this hard work has been recognized is satisfying beyond compare.
Be sure to catch her in the Peabody Scenes Program production of the Opera Kuma this October.
Thank you for your continuous support and kindness.
Lots of love, #Team IVA
Interview by Tessa M. Dobrow