Q&A With Alum Nadine Sierra
Making her operatic debut as a teenager was just the beginning for Class of 2006 Theatre Alumna Nadine Sierra. After graduating from Dreyfoos, Nadine went on to study Vocal Performance at Mannes College the New School of Music in New York City. Nadine graduated from Mannes College in 2010 and went on to become an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera. We caught up with Nadine before the start of her busy opera season to ask her a few questions about her thriving career, and her time at DSOA.
Q: When did you first get involved in opera?
A: I first got involved in opera when I turned 10 years old. When the VHS was still around, my mother went to our public library and got a tape of the Metropolitan Opera's 1982 production of Puccini's "La Boheme" for me. The first time I watched it I was totally hooked. I couldn't stop watching it and eventually decided I knew what I wanted to do.
Q: What was your favorite performance while at Dreyfoos?
A: I loved all of the Dreyfoos shows, but I think my favorite show was one that my senior class and I were in! We ended our year with a Senior show in the Brandt Black Box theater and I loved it because it gave us all a chance to bond as high school students for the last time. At that point, we already knew where we were going for college and knew that we wouldn't see each other for a while. So, it wasn't only about performing for our audience, but also being all together.
Q: Favorite Dreyfoos teacher?
A: I really liked all of my teachers, but if I had to choose a favorite I would say it was Mr. Gary Q. Lewis. He was the dance/movement teacher in the Theater Department and brought a lot of energy and humor into his teachings. He made every class really enjoyable, but still made us work hard.
Q: What is the most profound change you experienced at Dreyfoos?
A: I grew up at Dreyfoos; life and experiences at school with my friends and teachers helped me to. I went from being a scared freshman to a more confident woman. I think the most profound change I had was receiving my diploma on the Kravis Center stage in front of my family. Not to mention watching all of my classmates, who I had known since freshman year, receive their diplomas, as well. We were all young adults with hopes and dreams that had developed over the course of four years. It was pretty incredible.
Q: Is there something Dreyfoos could have provided that could have better prepared you for your college and career?
A: Not at all. The faculty was very supportive of my career goals and even allowed me to leave classes early in order to make my Palm Beach Opera rehearsals next door at the Kravis Center. If the faculty hadn't been understanding, then maybe my thoughts would be different. Because of their encouragement, I was able to receive all of the experience I needed before moving to New York and starting my new life.
Q: How did you arrive at your current career?
A: Ha! Through hard work and dedication! But, really, no talent can thrive and flourish without those two things. I tried to make sure I learned everything I needed to in college and also applied to many vocal competitions during my four years. I wanted to make connections outside of my school, so I figured going out there and auditioning was the best way. During my senior year, I applied and participated in the summer Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera: one of the most important opera houses in the industry. Because of this, I then was accepted into their young artist program (Adler Fellowship) for two years after I graduated from Mannes. I lived and performed in San Francisco until 2012 and made great connections with the opera house along with other houses around the globe. If it hadn't been for that program, I don't believe I would have the career or opportunities I have today.
Q: What has been your favorite performance in your professional career thus far?
A: I have a lot of favorites, but I recently had an amazing experience in Verona, Italy. A week ago, I traveled there to perform the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff in front of 16,000 people at the Arena di Verona. This Arena is almost two thousand years old (built in 30 AD) and is still used every summer for various opera productions and concerts. It was an incredible event in my life and I still play out every detail of the experience in my mind.
Q: You have had the opportunity to travel and perform all over the world, where was the most exciting?
A: Definitely Italy. It's a country full of music and art; a place that NEVER ceases to amaze me. It's history and artistic influence over the world always leaves me breathless. And, of course, I can never forget about the food.......
Q: What do you feel has been the highlight of your career so far?
A: The highlight of my career has been to sing for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court. She is a big fan of opera and is a huge inspiration in my life. Reading about her, you would think she's a tough, confident woman, but really she's a soft-spoken, shy lady! She's a total sweetheart and her strength comes from within.
Q: What is your next project?
A: For my next big project, I'll be traveling to San Francisco to perform with the opera house again! They're doing my favorite opera, La Boheme, and I'll be singing the role of Musetta.
Q: What recommendations do you have for our current DSOA students?
A: Enjoy life, but study hard. If you have a passion, then be passionate about it and work. Always be thankful to those who've helped you along the way. That is probably the most important part of success.
Q: In a brief statement can you explain “What Dreyfoos means to me”?
A: Dreyfoos means my childhood to me. It's the very place that gave me wings to fly and reasons to turn my hopes into realities. Without Dreyfoos, I wouldn't be where I am today and I'll never forget it.