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Get to know your local divas

Posted: August 12, 2011 - 12:14pm
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Photo by Seanna O'Sullivan
Alaska’s Kit

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 Alaska’s Kit and Eve Dillingham. Check back next week for Heather Mitchell and Kari Groven.

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

Alaska’s Kit

How long have you been singing?

I’ve been singing since before I could talk, but publicly since the age of 5. The Alaska Youth Choir, directed by Missouri Smyth, was really where I learned about singing.

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

Being the Student Symphony’s singer and singing with my band at the Alaska Day Ball at Centennial Hall.

What has been one of your favorite performances to watch in Juneau?

The Alaska Folk Festival of course!

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

I would trade places with Taylor Swift because she does a lot of tours and performances and that’s what I want to do.
Otherwise Celine Dion or Barbra Streisand because I think they are totally amazing.

What is your diva style like?

Reserved, happy, classy, loves music, and tries to be nice to everybody.

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

Well, I go commercial fishing with my family in the summers and this year I’m going into my junior year at Thunder Mountain High School and continuing to be a part-time student at UAS. Go Falcons and Spike!

Other than on stage, what is your favorite place to sing?

I’d have to say out on the boat with my family where I try out the songs I write on them.

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

Lots of songs give me goose bumps if they are done well. I like pop and rock music like any other teen, I like Irish and Celtic music though too. But the performers who give me goose bumps are definitely Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand by far!

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

I am singing “At Last,” made famous by Etta James, and “Midnight Sun,” written for me by Mike Maas. I chose “At Last” because It is my absolute favorite song to sing — It has so much power. And “Midnight Sun” because Mike Maas, along with the wonderful band, is the one who will be working with us. So I thought it would be really cool to debut one of his songs he’s written for me with him.

What tips do you have for inspiring divas?

Well I am the youngest diva — I just turned 16 — and I really haven’t been around that long so I’m still learning the reins myself. But divas like Kari Groven are a real inspiration to me and if you can get a diva like Kari to help you, like I was lucky enough to get, then you really have a boot leg up. But most of all, follow your dreams and never stop believing, because your drive and ambition holds the key.

Eve Dillingham

How long have you been singing?

I’ve been singing since longer than I can remember. My mother and grandmother interacted with me as a child through touch and song. To this day, I am constantly imitating sounds I hear and filling the spaces of my time with a melody or soundscape.

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

Most recently, I played the part of the assistant to Dulcamara, a traveling snake-oil salesman in the opera “The Elixir” by Donizetti. In fact, I had no set singing role for that part, although I chose to join in with the chorus. What was exciting about the role was that it gave me the opportunity to use my body to mime and interpret the Italian dialog while interacting with the characters on stage. At one point, I am washing a Vespa in time to Dulcamara’s aria. It was a joy to take on a role with so many possibilities.

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

This last season I especially enjoyed “The Importance of Being Earnest,” but [title of show] was great as well — hard to say finally. We’re lucky to have a community that is so active in the performance arts. There’s something for everyone and never a dull moment.

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

Gosh, if you asked me that question tomorrow, I might have a different answer. It’s a fluid idea. When I watch or listen to someone perform, I can’t help imagining their experience and often fantasize about what it must be like to study for the stage moment and then present it, whether it’s acting a part, playing or singing music. Because I resonate to singers and actors, I’d have to say Kari Groven, Ed Christian, and Flordelino Langundino are some of my favorite local performers.

What has been your favorite part about being a diva?

I know most of my diva peers fairly well. They are beautiful and talented singers who love what they do and work hard to make the audience experience enjoyable. They surprise me every time they get on stage. So my favorite part of being a diva is being their audience and supporting and encouraging the gift they give to me.

What is your diva style like?

I prefer not to peg myself or be pegged, but I enjoy material that tells a story so I can feel the song more deeply and express the emotion.  I consider the style to be somewhere between a cabaret singer and a vocal musician.

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

My “day job” is a professor at UAS in the School of Management. I teach business communications and computer applications courses. I also bicycle, roller blade, and love traveling.
Other than on stage, what is your favorite place to sing (the shower, the car, the trail, etc)?
The shower is a great place to sing because the acoustics are often so fun to play with, but you’ll more often find me singing in the car while I’m off on an errand of one kind or another. So if you see me with my mouth open at a stoplight, I’m rehearsing or just having fun.

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

Most of my goosebumps come from live performances. In fact, the biggest draw for me about live music is when either the lyrics or the resonant note stands my hair on end. What a thrill! I can get that from just about anybody live.

What tips do you have for inspiring divas?

Just sing. Don’t worry about hitting the pitch exactly. Worry about what the song you’re singing means and means to you in your heart and then express that as honestly as possible. You can always work on the technique of singing and improve that as you go. Just sing.

•••

“Who’s Your Diva?,” a fundraiser for the Juneau Lyric Opera, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at the JACC.
Contestants are Alaska’s Kit, Eve Dillingham, Heather Mitchell, Kari Groven, Laura Haywood, Malinda League, Megan Felts, Patricia Hull, Sarah Johnson and Shona Strauser.

For more information, visit www.juneauopera.org.

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