Fine Arts instructor again shares her singing talents
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Rachel Velarde had rested her voice long enough. It was time to return to performing.
For the last few years, she had judged student competitions at the Cal-Western Regional Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). For the last year, she had abstained from singing.
But the Professor of Music and Director of Academic Excellence in the College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP) at Grand Canyon University decided to participate in the NATS event by performing a recital she has had prepared since 2019. Because COVID-19 protocols limited the event to online presentations, she was able to prerecord her performance and submit it to be showcased on Sunday.
Prerecording gave her an added advantage: It allowed her to get the technically challenging pieces out of the way first — she didn’t have to record in the order of the performance.
“It allowed me to do some things that otherwise I possibly would have chosen not to do if I had had to do them in an order that made a little more presentation sense,” she said.
Velarde’s recital was based on women composers and incorporated a compilation of pieces from several of them, mainly from the classical arts.
She had help from both GCU students and faculty.
Maya James, a graduate of COFAP’s Digital Film program, helped film the performance, and Luis Rodriguez-Morales, a professor in the Music Department, accompanied her vocals with a piano performance. Velarde also had the assistance of two COFAP students, including her daughter Tyler Velarde, a freshman choral/voice major, and her mother-in-law — they turned pages and acted as a small audience to provide a sense of intimacy.
It made it that much more meaningful for Velarde.
“I always try to dive into the poetry and kind of think, ‘What do I think is going on in the poetry?’ And then I use the compositional elements of the music to say, ‘Well, I think about what the composer thought about the poetry and the clues of how they set these words to music and what the words meant to them,” she said. “Generally, while I’m singing, I’ve gone through that enough and found the auditory indicators of emotion. Knowing those things allows me to know how to express the emotion while I’m singing.”
The emotion in several pieces hit especially close to home for Velarde because she had her daughter alongside her.
“There was one song that was written for her (the composer’s) 1-year-old daughter where she’s talking about ‘let’s go to the ocean and I’m going to teach you all these wonderful things, and when you grow up maybe you’ll find that life’s not bad and I’ll still be her,’” she said. “My daughter was off in the corner of my eye, and I couldn’t look at her at that point.
“I started to, and I was like, ‘Nope, nope, I’m going to cry.”
In addition to her recorded performance, Velarde also gave a presentation earlier in the weekend conference. Her goal with both: Learn that there is more to classical music than just Bach, Beethoven and others.
“This is a women’s composer recital and deliberately programmed with people of color and also very contemporary music,” she said. “It allowed me to bring some really timely things and to really highlight the really high quality of music written by composers that a lot of people don’t know much about.
“The standards are wonderful, but there’s so much more out there.”
Velarde’s performance is available for viewing on her YouTube page.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].