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Q&A: 'Who’s your diva?'

Week 2

Posted: August 10, 2011 - 5:21pm
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Heather Mitchell   Photo by Seanna O'Sullivan
Photo by Seanna O'Sullivan
Heather Mitchell

This fall, for the first time, Juneau Lyric Opera will hold a special fundraiser. Called “Who’s Your Diva?” the event will showcase 10 of Juneau’s best-known voices, who will compete for the chance to be named Juneau’s official Diva. Each competitor will perform two songs, and then community members will vote for their choice.

Each week through the month of August, the Empire will present brief Q&As with each of the 10 divas in preparation for the event, scheduled for Sept. 10.

This week’s featured divas are Heather Mitchell and Kari Groven.

For more information on “Who’s Your Diva?,” visit www.juneauopera.org.

Heather Mitchell

How long have you been singing?

My earliest memories of singing involved my father encouraging me to “sing louder” from the backseat of the car when I was a preschooler!

Who do you draw inspiration from as a singer?

My children – they intuitively understand the joy of singing and don’t sweat things like always getting the words right.

What has been one of your favorite roles or events to participate in as a performer in Juneau?

I really enjoyed performing in JLO’s recent “Broadway Splash” workshop and performance. It was my first foray into public singing in a long time.

What has been one of your favorite performances to watch as an audience member in Juneau?

Our community has so much talent that it is impossible to pick a favorite. However, I do love listening to choral productions. There’s just something about a chord sung well as it fills a hall.

If you could trade places with a performer for a day, who would it be?

Wow, that’s a hard one. I wouldn’t mind doing one set in Billie Holliday’s stead, but I wouldn’t want to live her life. Far too tragic.

What has been your favorite part about being a diva?

Being a diva lets me share a part of myself that most people in Juneau haven’t ever seen. Working on the songs, doing the photo shoots, picking costumes and shoes (thanks to Shoefly) has been a guilty pleasure. What’s not to like?

What is your diva style like?

I sang with a jazz band in high school, so I tend to gravitate toward band standards.

When you are not being a diva, what do you do?

For many years I was a full-time banker, but now I spend most of my days raising a budding diva and divo — my children are 6 and 9, very dramatic, and every day is a production!

Other than on stage, what is your favorite place to sing (the shower, the car, the trail, etc)?

The acoustics in my garage are pretty good.

What songs (or performers) give you goosebumps when you hear them?

“Stardust” is an all-time favorite. I have at least half a dozen versions of it in my music collection.

What songs are you singing for the competition and how did you choose them?

I picked “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. I have always loved 70’s R&B and remember singing this one with my dad. I’m also singing “Whatever Lola Wants” from the Broadway show “Damn Yankees” because it’s just plain fun!

What tips do you have for inspiring divas?

Being a diva is about finding your voice, regardless of whether you sing. It lets you tap into your inner strength and confidence and share your talents with the world!

Kari Groven

How long have you been singing?

Can’t remember when I didn’t.

Who do you draw inspiration from as a singer?

Ella Fitzgerald, Radka Toneff, Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone to mention some. Also of great influence are various Norwegian folk singers, and the wonderful singers and musicians of the Groven Clan.

What has been one of your favorite roles or events to participate in as a performer in Juneau?

Had some fun gigs with the Wristrockets last year, like opening for John Lee Hooker Jr., and playing the Xtratuf party at the Inaugural Ball. Playing the Witch in “Hansel & Gretel” and Susan in [title of show] was a blast. (Oops, that was more than one wasn’t it..)

What has been one of your favorite performances to watch as an audience member in Juneau?

“Metamorphoses” at Perseverance Theatre (the one where the stage was turned into a swimming pool) during my first visit to Juneau as a skeptical and probably somewhat arrogant Norwegian. It made me realize what wonderfully ballsy creativity exists in this community.

If you could trade places with a performer for a day, who would it be?

Hmm... How about Dolly Parton? Actually, from the little I know, she seems to be an artist and business woman with great integrity, as well as a great songwriter, and excellent performer, and seems to always play with superb musicians. Then of course there’s Ella.

What has been your favorite part about being a diva?

This is a really fun and creative way of raising funds for an organization, and then as a bonus, JLO, with the generous help of Seanna O’Sullivan, Brenna Hall, Brendan Sullivan and Sara Race (1st Impressions) and Shoefly, have given us the opportunity to look our absolute best. Don’t we look magnificent?

What is your diva style like?

Oh, it’s very mysterious. It shall only be revealed to those who witness the big show on Sept. 10. Be there, or remain in the dark.

When you are not being a diva, what do you do?

I work as program coordinator at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, give singing lessons when possible, and spend time with my lovely family.

Other than on stage, what is your favorite place to sing (the shower, the car, the trail, etc)?

I tend to sing in the kitchen while cleaning up or cooking (although the recipe may suffer from the last combination). Singing into the windshield of the car while driving is very satisfying, and the bathroom does of course have great acoustics.

What songs (or performers) give you goosebumps when you hear them?

Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Bjork, Merril Garbus of the TuneYards. They all have insanely flexible voices, are all incredibly gifted, versatile and fearless musicians, songwriters and lyricists and have a depth and sincerity to their deliveries that make for some serious goosebump experiences.

What songs are you singing for the competition and how did you choose them?

“Lilac Wine” by James Sheltonand “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” by Jeff Buckley.

I have loved both of these songs for years, for their lyrics, their music, and vast emotional capacity. This is a great opportunity to work on and perform these wonderful songs.

What tips do you have for inspiring divas?

Breathe deep, fly high, have fun and keep being the lovely person that you are.

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