The Catholic University of America

Oct. 20, 2010

Blind Doctoral Candidate Blossoms at CUA’s Music School

Jessica Bachicha to Play Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute

 
  Singer Jessica Bachicha with her voice coach Sharon Christman, associate professor and chair of the voice program.

 

Catholic University doctoral candidate Jessica Bachicha stands next to a grand piano in Ward Hall, rehearsing the Queen of the Night’s difficult vengeance aria for the upcoming production of The Magic Flute at Hartke Theatre. As her voice rises, so do her hands.

A beaming Sharon Christman, associate professor and chair of the voice program, says “That was beautiful.” But Christman notices that her student’s hand movements do not reflect the drama in her voice. She takes Bachicha’s hands in her own as she demonstrates more expressive gestures. Bachicha focuses on memorizing the movement of her teacher’s hands.

As the practice session ends, Bachicha turns and reaches for a water bottle. Her hands rest for a second on a bottle of hand sanitizer, and then she finds the water bottle.

The winner of a concerto competition at CUA earlier this year, Bachicha happens to be blind. (To watch a video of Bachicha rehearsing, click here.)

Eroica, which recorded Bachicha’s “Illuminations” CD, notes that Bachicha “sings with the freshness of Charlotte Church, the vigor of Maria Callas, and the resonance of Kiri Te Kanawa.”

A resident of Baltimore, Bachicha expects to graduate in 2011 with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. She was accepted at CUA’s Benjamin T. Rome in 2008 following an audition that amazed Christman and other music faculty. At the time, Christman knew that she wanted to work with Bachicha, but she realized she would need the support of other professors.

“When I heard Jessica, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind,” says Christman, herself a renowned soprano who sang the Queen of the Night role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. “Jessica has a potential performance career. Her voice is lovely; she is beautiful and personable — the total package — but her stage experience had been somewhat limited.”

Bachicha says, “At Catholic University, it’s been so refreshing to work with musicians who recognize me as a peer and realize that’s it not that different from working with a sighted singer. The thing that matters most is musicianship and the faculty here judge me on that alone.”

 
Jessica Bachicha


 

At the conservatory where Bachicha earned a master’s degree in vocal performance before coming to CUA, she notes that she learned a lot from the faculty. She performed as a soloist in recitals and in concerts with orchestra and chamber groups. But she did not have the chance to perform a major opera role.

With a voice like Bachicha’s, Christman notes, there’s a responsibility to provide the opportunities she needs to realize her full potential. “We have no right to set limits on Jessica when she doesn’t set any on herself,” Christman notes.

And what better place to grow as an artist than at Catholic University, where faculty members routinely go the extra mile for their students, says Christman.

David Searle, assistant professor, director of orchestral activities and conductor of the CUA Orchestra, says that when working with Bachicha, he sometimes gives her an audible cue — a loud breath — “when there’s no audible pulse in the music.”

Bachicha’s academic resume is impressive. In addition to earning her master’s in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory, Bachicha spent a year as a graduate research student at the University of Leeds in England, and earned bachelor’s degrees in music and foreign languages from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

As part of her doctoral work at CUA, she is designing interdisciplinary courses that explore the ways in which music reflects philosophical and theological truths. As she explains, “music is a door between the worlds of intellect and affectivity. Beautiful music infused with meaning can bridge the gap that often exists between the two and, more importantly, the longing for realization which moves the will to moral action.”

Bachicha notes that her role in The Magic Flute and the opportunity to work with the music faculty has enabled her to grow significantly as a musician.

“I have a lot more confidence in myself and in what God wants to do through me,” she says. “It’s so important to be an instrument of the music and to ask ‘how can I do that better?’ The more confidence you have to have in yourself, the more you have to let yourself go and just think about how can I serve better as a musician.”
 

 

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