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Alexandra Johnson: An Interview with an Award Winning MODG Soprano

Emilia DeGroat, Managing Editor

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“To really achieve the art is to know it.”

Alexandra “Allie” Johnson is an award winning operatic soprano. She has been a student of MODG since 5th grade, and is a journalist for the NHS. She loves coffee, doughnuts, and the Seahawks, and her favorite subject is philosophy.

Hey Allie! Thank you so much for making time for this.
No problem!

So I’ll just start with some basic questions. What’s your voice type?

Since I was young I’ve had a deep, throaty voice. I was always given pieces as a mezzo soprano. But last summer my voice instructor listened to a particular piece and was like, “Hey, actually you’re a soprano.” *mic drop* [we both laugh] So since then I’ve been labelled as a regular soprano.

Would you say that a mezzo soprano is less common than being a soprano or alto? Yes. For someone that’s younger. It’s more common to be a soprano when you’re young because your voice isn’t fully developed. My voice is more comfortable in higher notes, but I was always kind afraid of high notes when I was younger. As I matured, I felt more comfortable singing higher, but I have a wide range. So I’m not a typical “high” soprano, because I can still go pretty low. However, I do prefer soprano pieces, in oppose to mezzo repertoire.

When you were a mezzo soprano, did it limit the pieces you could sing? A little bit. I was putting too much weight in the middle and low range, so when the song had a higher note it was like pushing something very heavy up a hill. In other words, it took way more effort than it should have been. It was hard to just “let it happen” and feel natural and comfortable.

She went on to give several tips for singers:

Don’t smoke, obviously.
Don’t cough, if you can help it. “Coughing slams vocal chords together. Instead, drink water, and swallow it down.”
Don’t use cough drops containing menthol. Menthol numbs vocal chords. Ricolas are the best type to have. “I literally want to skip around the world and sprinkle Ricolas everywhere because they are amazing. Taking cough drops with menthol is like an NFL player taking a pill to numb their knees. Would they play well? No. Same with a singer’s performance. You just won’t do as well.”
• Don’t consume dairy before you sing. “It creates phlegm in your throat and can mess with your sound. Not too high, not too low or throaty. Getting your voice out of your throat, making it more forward and resonant, can do wonders.”
• Always talk to your voice teacher/mentor when in doubt. “That’s what they’re there for.”
• Take your time. “You don’t have to start with the most difficult piece. Start small. You can do the difficult thing, but can you do it well? Constantly ask yourself that question; it’s extremely important. Whatever you’re working on should be polished, and possible.
• Especially for opera singers and actors/actresses: “Constantly work on translation, if your piece is in a different language. Focus on its meaning, and its pronunciation. If it’s an opera, find out who the character is. Dive into the text. Become the character instead of simply acting like the character.”

 

“Singing is about being natural; you shouldn’t feel any tension, restraints, pain. It shouldn’t be hard, or feel impossible. You shouldn’t sing a piece and end feeling like you did a marathon.”

Do you do mostly competitions? Or performances? Or a balance of both? I do a mix!

Do you plan to make opera singing a career? I would definitely say God has given me a lot of opportunities for my talent. I’ve taken it very seriously since I was thirteen, when I was scouted (discovered). My parents have paid a lot of money for my classes and mentoring and everything else, and I’ve constantly searched for ways to improve. But since I was thirteen, I’ve felt a tug to the religious life. And lately, I’ve been taking this calling even more seriously. I want to do whatever God wants. And sometimes I feel like this gift from God (my singing) will be wasted, but a nun told me once that it’s not going to be wasted; it’s so great a gift that it will be worth giving back to the Lord. I will definitely use what I’ve be given in whatever I end up doing. God doesn’t make his plans for no reason. God does take things away, but in many cases he makes them greater. Once, I won an award named after a religious sister. And my talent was actually discovered and acted upon through the connections of a convent! These could all be signs pointing to my future.

How have you balanced school, work, and opera and succeeded in all of them? I cannot have a structured schedule. I put a little work into everything throughout the day. Set time for little things, rotate between all three. The more flexible your schedule is, the more room there is for the things you want to do. In the morning, I do one subject, and then go warm up and sing for a bit. Then I go back, and do some more schoolwork. Then more singing and music. I’m not giving times, because I don’t have any. It could be an hour, or it could be a quarter of that. It just depends on the day.

Any tips for other busy students with similar situations on how to be able to do the things they want to do, and do them all well? And how to lessen stress? Ultimately, it comes down to how serious you are about the profession. A true opera singer will put everything, even school, aside to make the career possible. This may result in many late nights, but that’s the business. To really achieve the art is to know it, so study! As for stress, I just don’t listen to myself! When we sing, our hearing in our own ears is distorted. It’s kinda like when we hear our voices on recording and we’re like, “that’s ME?” So don’t stress about how you sound, but just enjoy your character! Be a diva/divo and own the stage because it’s irresistible! Also, really finding an outfit that you feel confident in always helps me.

This was awesome! Thank you so much! We have to do this again soon.

Yes! Thanks again. Talk soon!

 

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About the Writer
Emilia DeGroat, Reporter

Junior at Mother of Divine Grace.

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Alexandra Johnson: An Interview with an Award Winning MODG Soprano”

  1. Elayne Piquette on September 15th, 2017 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the singing advice, Allie! Your dedication and enthusiasm are inspiring. 😉 Pax Christi!

  2. Alexandra Johnson on September 21st, 2017 4:12 pm

    Absolutely, Elayne! Blessings. <3

  3. Sarah Halas on October 2nd, 2017 3:45 pm

    Great article! It’s wonderful to hear you’re open to a vocation to the religious life. I’ve struggled with similar feelings as I love musical theater, but maybe God is calling us to give Him our talents. God bless you and congratulations on your success.

    ~Sarah
    http://www.homeschooler4jesus.blogspot.com

  4. Alexandra Johnson on October 8th, 2017 11:55 am

    God always shows us our path, and in beautiful, mysterious ways! God bless you. 🙂

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