UC San Diego's Department of Music

March 28, 2007

  Note: Anne-Marie Dicce is a grad vocal student in the Department of Music
Interview by Emily Pelc

What is your musical background?
I started playing piano when I was about 5 years old, I played for almost 10 years mostly because my parents forced me to keep taking lessons. In about 3rd grade I began to sing in church choirs like the Sacramento children's chorus.
In High school I decided that knew I liked singing a lot better than practicing piano, so I stopped playing the piano and began focusing on voice. I began voice lessons at around 17 yrs old, and I knew in high school that I wanted to go to college to major in music. It was in my undergraduate years (at Loyola Marymount) that I really began to learn technique and musical theory and to develop as a singer.

Why did you choose UCSD?
In the later years of my undergraduate experience I got into contemporary music. I was the student who was willing to perform new works, and help premiere student compositions when many other students wouldn't. Faculty professors and voice teachers advised me to look into contemporary music because my voice is light and I am a good sight-reader. I figured my voice is better for early music and contemporary than it is for opera. I wanted to go to grad school to learn more about teaching. I began teaching some young voice students during undergrad, and I knew eventually that I would want to do teaching at a university level - so I knew I had to go to grad school. I looked for a place where I could do vocal performance, but where I could also do early and contemporary music as opposed to more standard repertoire of opera. I thought about Cal Arts, but never felt like it was the place for me, it was too "out there". I knew about Carol Plantamura and the contemporary/composition programs here, where it would be a certainty that people would write music for me to perform. I made an appointment to meet with Carol, and I had a sample lesson, sang some early music and contemporary and probably some arias. She wrote me a recommendation, and although I applied to a few other places, I knew that UCSD was where I wanted to go if I was accepted.

What are your favorite pieces/composers?
Because I perform a lot of early music - I love J.S. Bach, I perform his works, cantatas, and arias. These early composers(Bach, Handel, Haydn) write music that is very suitable to my voice. I love Renaissance music, as well. In the contemporary field, I love Luciano Berio's music "O King", for example. I also John Cage. There was this piece by Elliot Carter "A mirror on which to dwell" which I worked on last year, and it was the most musically challenging experience of my life. Coordination with chamber orchestra was extremely complex and demanding.

What's a type of music you're into that might surprise people?
I like sacred music a lot, I am not an overtly religious person, but I love the vocal style, it is reminiscent of the style used to sing early secular and contemporary music. Early English, Renaissance, church music is something that people don't necessarily assume I am interested in. There is a lot of solo rep. in this genre, which I love, but it is mostly choral work that I perform.

What current projects or pieces are you working on?
I am working on prepping for qualifying exams, and doing a lot of research on synesthesia (when you hear a specific musical key, you see certain colors) because I experience this to some degree (only with tonal music, and have realized that for me, E-flat is yellow, F is red, C-Major is purple) it is different for everyone. I am doing a lot of my dissertation work on finding out more about this: I am doing some research collaborating with neuroscientists and have found that there may be some correlation between synesthesia and perfect pitch (which I also experience). Connections between early music and contemporary vocal techniques is another area of research I am interested in. I have found that, even though these two styles of music sound completely opposite, the vocal style and technique is very similar. Pieces I'm preparing including a Mozart aria - he was very aware of synesthesia the specificities implied in choosing a key. My goal for my next recital is to incorporate pieces with different synesthesic effects with lighting and visual media that will portray the color-pitch relationship and how it affects me, personally.

What is your vocal range, and what does that mean about the kinds of parts that you get?
I am a very high soprano, but a very low talker, which surprises people. I can sing a low G up to a high F# or G (about three octaves). If I were to go out for opera I would most likely get more coloratura or light lyric based roles.In terms of contemporary music, the composers that I work with here know me specifically and how high I can go. Jason Rosenberg, for instance, will write crazy things for me that other composers might not (like a sustained high E flat) because he knows that I am capable of pulling something unusual like that off. I do a lot of early music (like Bach) and I like to do the works with faster, more agile passages, and pieces that are suitable to my range and type of voice.

What do you think are the unique characteristics of your voice or your interpretation of a piece?
I have a high voice and lighter sound, and I can sing a lot of music with straight tone because it is required for most contemporary music, and also for early music. This is a style that, unlike opera, is performed without heavy vibrato, and with a lighter, but not completely straight, floaty color.

What are your ambitions for after you earn your degree?
I am on my way to getting the doctorate degree. For next year I'm waiting to hear about a fellowship from Germany - I want to go somewhere and do my own singing and experience my own musical opportunities to incorporate this new personalized knowledge into my dissertation and research. I really want to teach at a university, not as a fall back career. I love the musical level of students at that stage, and I would be fortunate to have summers off so I can continue performing. I believe that a good music teacher is one who continues performing to stay current and to maintain a personal technique to give back to the students,.

What/who are your sources of inspiration-musical or artistic heroes?
Emma Kirkby, an early music specialist. She does a lot of work around the U.S. and Europe, it seems so effortless for her to sing anything. I have never seen her live, but on tape she is so captivating and I really strive to emulate that. I feel like I still need to hone my technique in order to feel as confident to perform effortlessly like she does. I love people like Dawn Upshaw, she has been an inspiration to do what I do, she has light voice, but can also produce a solid sound for opera, and it is a very controlled sound. Dawn does a lot of work with contemporary composers and is a big proponent of new music.

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