2023 Scholarship Recipient
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been shy. Now, however, I feel more confident. The main reason for this is that I found my voice in a different way. Singing.
I was born to parents that came to the U.S from the former Soviet Union as Jewish refugees. Since birth I was exposed to the Russian language and many Russian, Ukrainian and Jewish songs. My mom noticed that I could actually keep the melody of a song before I started talking in sentences. My parents enrolled me in singing lessons when I was 7 years old and ever since, singing has been my main passion and way of expressing myself.
Normally, I am quiet and not very confident in my everyday life, but as soon as I get onto a stage, there is a 180 degree turn and I become a self-assured, passionate performer who doesn’t worry about many things in life that would normally bring one anxiety. I think that part of this transformation has roots in my discovery of the blues. Most people don’t expect me, a blue-eyed Jewish girl, to start singing blues songs often sung by African Americans, but these songs mean the most to me and allow me to be a vessel for the immense talent and achievement these people have brought to the world. From Nina Simone to Stevie Wonder, African American artists put so much soul and feeling into their music that when I sing it, it changes me. Performing blues makes me feel like I am bigger than myself and carrying the legacy of these astounding artists throughout my life has felt honorable.
The blues are different from any other form of music as they often portray the resilience and strength of the human spirit. Many blues songs describe overcoming adversity and persevering through tough times. In a way they echo some stories of hardship and survival my parents told me about my ancestors. No matter if one is listening to a blues song or performing it, it has a great impact on everyone because of the incredibly moving nature of this music. Throughout the years, blues music has encouraged me to experiment with my vocal range as well as explore different styles and techniques in vocal music. This ultimately helped me grow as an artist and performer. The blues have been an immensely powerful tool to help me overcome my inhibitions and find my true voice.
One of the most impactful songs I have performed is “Summertime” written by George Gershwin and sung by Ella Fitzgerald. The rich, soulful melody this song offers is truly infectious and the lyrics represent a mother singing to her baby hoping that her child’s life will be more rich and plentiful than her own. I can personally relate to this because I think of the many sacrifices my parents made when immigrating to the US to give their future children a chance at a better life.
Tonight was a special night for me as it was the last time I performed with my show choir I participated in for all four years of high school. I received an award for being the ‘Most Expressive Singer’ and this means a lot to me because I truly try to sing with passion and integrity every time I’m given the chance.
I will be attending the University of Cincinnati this upcoming fall and it happens to have an amazing music program. Even though I will be majoring in psychology, I will definitely continue singing because I feel that with the current situation in emotional health, soulful music would be a great tool in helping people to overcome their inner battles. I hope to connect my passion in music to my interest in the human mind and make people’s lives more meaningful.