Singing through a mask and a nearly empty recital hall were two of the barriers Southern Utah University senior Aubrey Thomas overcame as she took the Thorley Music Hall stage on Saturday, Nov. 14 for her senior recital.
Her usually live audience and front row seat family were traded for a mask and a livestream video. Thomas expressed that this was a challenge as she sang her English, French, Italian and German recital pieces, but was grateful to still have the opportunity to perform.
She said that support from the audience, whether live or virtual, is what calms her nerves about being in the spotlight.
Preparation for this 11 piece and four language repertoire included far more than just warming up and memorizing music. Thomas’s two to three hours of personal practice every day involves language learning, studying musical context and performance preparation. This is in addition to the ensemble practice as a participant in choirs on campus.
“A lot of people think that practicing means just the musical aspect of it but we have to be able to understand what we’re trying to convey in the music, so a lot of practice is studying translations and figuring out how I can get the message across in my performance,” Thomas said. “It’s not just practicing the performing but the emotion behind it too.”
Thomas’s 45-minute performance was precluded by a lifetime of singing, starting when she was only a few years old.
“My older sister had to have a speech therapist come over all the time, and so I would be sitting with her, and a lot of the time she would learn through songs, and that’s when I got really into singing,” Thomas said.
A homebody from Westpoint, Utah, Thomas arrived at SUU in pursuit of a degree in vocal performance from the elite music program. But after accepting and thriving in her job as a theory tutor, her vision changed.
“I started realizing that I enjoyed the teaching aspect of it,” Thomas said. “And then I started thinking back to why I loved it so much in high school and it was just because of the way the music makes me feel and how it can really connect and bring people together.”
This realized passion for teaching led her to switch to her current major in music education with a vocal emphasis. Touring with Josh Groban in 2018 for his album “Bridges” is a favorite of Thomas’s experiences on this education path.
She shared that her own love for music centers around the individuality of voices and the sheer amount of emotion that can be expressed in a piece.
“I’ve sung a lot of really emotional pieces that have taught me a lot personally about who I want to be,” Thomas said. “They just pull at your heartstrings in a way that just plain words can’t.”
Thomas believes in the importance of balancing fun with hard work, and that consistent effort will pay off.
“Work hard but don’t make yourself hate what you do. Find the time to step away from it every now and then so that you’re still getting other things in your life but put in the effort because it really makes it worth it in the end,” Thomas said.
SUU’s music department regularly holds recitals that are open to the public, including student recitals every Friday at noon in the Thorley Recital Hall. Recitals can be viewed remotely as well to comply with social distancing restrictions. Visit the department’s website for more information.
“As hard as it gets, it’s a pretty cool thing to be able to perform music, so don’t give up on it,” Thomas said.
Story by: Larissa Beatty
photos courtesy of Aubrey Thomas