'Who's Your Diva?' Q&A week 5

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.

 

This week’s marks the final installment in the Empire’s brief Q&A’s series with each of the 10 divas in preparation for the event, scheduled for Sept. 10.

This week’s featured divas are Sarah Johnson and Shona Strauser.

Sarah Johnson

How long have you been singing?

Since the age of 8 when I joined the Alaska Youth Choir under direction of Missouri Smyth.

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

One of my favorite events that I have participated in a couple times would be Tom Locher’s Diva Nights at Zephyr.

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

There have been so many great performances I have been to in Juneau and I would have to say that the JDHS musicals have always been my favorite to watch.

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

Taylor Swift is someone I look up to and aspire to be like because she is a performer I can really relate to. She would probably be who I would pick.

What is your diva style like?

My diva style is just being myself and having a great time doing what I love to do.

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

Other than singing, I take guitar lessons, play softball, run, attend Thunder Mountain High School and hang out with my friends.

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

I love to sing all the time no matter where I am and I always have a song stuck in my head.

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

Songs that I can relate to and have meaningful lyrics are songs that always give me goosebumps.

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

I will be singing “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston and “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry. I chose these songs because I really like singing them and they are beautiful songs. I hope everyone will enjoy them as much as I do.

What tips do you have for inspiring divas?

I say just have fun, be yourself, and grab every opportunity to sing in front of people as you can.

Shona Strauser

How long have you been singing?

Uhhh…I guess since I could talk. My mum used to sing to me all the time…The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits. I’m surprised I don’t sound more like a British man.

Who do you draw inspiration from as a singer?

I like narrative songs. Stories of people and characters always inspire me.

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

Geez. Singing with Riley Woodford is really fun. Doing plays at Perseverance Theatre is a blast. MC’ing Wearable Art is great. Working with kids and performance is my favorite.

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

I like watching tight bands, so the Alaska Folk Festival always has something amazing to see and hear.

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

Helena Bonham Carter is amazing. Stockard Channing blows my mind. If I could be half as graceful and sexy as Tina Turner, that’d be cool.

What is your diva style like?

I don’t know if I have a “diva style.” It’s important for me as a performer to go big every time. Go big or go home. If that’s diva-esque, then I guess that’s the style.

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

I’m a theater performer, director and educator. I like to play outside.

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

I sing on trails and on the beach all the time. If I’m practicing high notes on the beach, my dog thinks it’s his cue to run like crazy. He cracks me up.

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

Aretha, Pat Benatar, Blackalicious, Carole King, The Carpenters

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

“Crazy On You” by Heart and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. I can’t think of two better female musicians than the Northwest favorites, Ann and Nancy Wilson. They can wail. And then there’s Adele — this very young, very cool white girl from England that sounds like a Motown queen. I couldn’t resist. One of my students said the other day, “That song is so overplayed.” And I said, “Yes. Because it’s so durn good.”

What tips do you have for inspiring divas?

Be gracious. Go big. Have fun. Listen.

•••

“Who’s Your Diva?,” a fundraiser for the Juneau Lyric Opera, will be held at 7:30 p.m. on 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, visit www.juneauopera.org.

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