By: Kelly Wilson
Across from me in the homey Villa Musica kitchen sits Elly Roseberry, her spunky personality already infectious, even within the first five minutes of our conversation as we talk about her musical beginnings. Home-schooled as a child, she began her opera career as a chorus member in La Boheme when she was only thirteen, and she “caught the bug.”
Roseberry has been performing in one way or another ever since. After completing her undergraduate degree in Indiana, she found her way to San Diego State University where she completed her graduate studies in opera, starring in productions for the department. It was in grad school she began to truly build her own community centered around music and performance. From those connections, she was able to create her own studio, become a section leader in her church choir, and secure a teaching spot at Villa Musica.
A performer first, she tells me that she is drawn towards multi-dimensional characters. A particular favorite role sticks out in her memory, “the best role I’ve ever played was Madame Baba [in the opera The Medium]. And I had to be this wicked, embittered, terrible person and there were some many facets to her and that was so fun. I like digging into characters.” Playing a role for Roseberry is more than just singing lines and acting– it’s about using emotion to connect with those around you.
Many of Roseberry’s favorite operas- as well as many classical operas- are sung in Italian, German, and French. Though far from conversational in these languages, she is well-versed in singing them and they have never stopped her from connecting with the music or expressing the message to the audience. When I asked her if singing in different languages was difficult for her, she explained the relative ease she has experienced, “they’re just sounds – you’re learning to make these different sounds that you also learned how to make in English, and the rules tend to be more streamlined than they are in English.” But even though they are ‘just sounds’ does not mean that music does not have a language that everyone can understand. A language which Roseberry now teaches her students, and is still learning herself.
Roseberry, at the moment, is teaching more than she is performing. However, she says that she heavily stresses the necessity of expression through music to her students. “I always tell my them if I can’t understand what they are trying to communicate without their face or hands getting into it then that’s a problem. So I should be able to close my eyes and tell what is happening when I am listening to the music… like what is the emotion that is happening in this song?”
As a character actress and performer, she is a very expressive person, on and off stage. Because of this, one of her common critiques of students is not about their ability to express themselves musically, it is about incorporating communication into the piece and into themselves, “I have to have the conversation where I am saying, ‘you can do everything right musically here, but I don’t believe you, the way you look, the way you stand, the way your arms are, it doesn’t matter that you are doing everything right vocally…’ if i am not communicating correctly with body language, eye contact, expression, and internal dialogue, then I am not doing my job.” In short, her view of performance and musical expression is a holistic one and applies to her personal music career and the one she is shaping with her students; it relies on the ability to communicate.
To anyone that wants to pursue music, Roseberry says that more people need to adopt the stance that Villa Musica takes in regards to music, “which is that anybody and everybody can experience music at any level and at any age… and that no matter who you are music making, and especially music making with other people, is vital and should be a part of everybody’s life as an outlet. I think it is really important, and something you can do your entire life. There is no cap on how good you can become essentially. So there is so much growth, whether or not you just wanna play around with it or become the expert…so there is no excuse to not even try.”
Roseberry’s goals and advice sync with those of Villa Musica as they both hope to show people that music is a great way to improve any single person’s life on the whole. Music can be a gateway into higher confidence levels and social skills. It can teach us to be vulnerable and also how to listen when others trust us with that same vulnerability. By teaching, sharing, and supporting expression and vulnerability through music, Roseberry is showing her students and audiences that music is an infectious bug to which everyone is susceptible.
If you would like to learn a little (or a lot) with Elly, consider Villa Musica’s “Let’s Make a Scene” program available for high school age singers. The program, still in development, will be taught alongside with voice faculty member, Dr. Fiona Chatwin, and will give teen singers the opportunity to develop character and hone their acting skills in addition to their voice lessons. Keep an eye on our website and newsletter for more details.
“Let’s Make a Scene”
Tuesdays 6:00-7:15 PM
175$ (10 weeks)