W&J freshman to participate in prestigious opera training in Italy

May 9, 2014
Washington & Jefferson College freshman Jesse Keruskin is one of a dozen students worldwide chosen for the Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera's 2014 Summer Program in Oderzo, Italy. - Photo courtesy of W&J

It takes a lot, according to Jesse Keruskin, to perform an opera.

Lasting several hours and normally focusing on a tragedy, Keruskin said operas are physically and emotionally draining.

“You need to use your stomach muscles and your diaphragm,” she said. “You really need to get a good night's sleep beforehand.”

Although that's normally not a problem, the Washington & Jefferson College freshman may need to make some adjustments come late June.

The 19-year-old is among 12 people from around the world chosen to participate in the monthlong Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera's 2014 Summer Program in Oderzo, Italy. In addition to daily, rigorous training, Keruskin hopes spend some of her trip exploring the country.

“I want to get as much training and practice in as I can, while still enjoying Italy,” the music major said.

While she's always loved opera, Keruskin only recently started singing it. She started taking lessons more than a year ago.

“You can't start before you're 16, or you will ruin your vocal cords,” she said. “I started when I was 17 or 18. I was always afraid to sing, but I decided to take voice lessons.”

Her most recent voice coach, Lara Cottrill, an adjunct music faculty member at W&J and a two-time alumnus of EPCASO, encouraged Keruskin to audition for the program in February. Within a month, Keruskin said a letter appeared at her Fredericktown home.

“My mom called and told me the letter (had arrived),” she said. “I told her to open it, and she told me I got in.”

The program costs $9,000 plus airfare. Keruskin said she received a $4,000 scholarship to help with costs.

Founded in 1981, the program provides concentrated study and training in voice, repertoire and langauge. Participants will also perform in several concerts in Oderzo and surrounding areas.

Susan Woodard, a professor of music at W&J, thinks Keruskin will have a successful experience. She said Keruskin is the first W&J student to participate a program of this caliber.

“Jesse took a course with me in the fall on Mozart,” Woodard said. “She asked if she could sing. When I heard her sing, heard those crystal clear high B flats, I knew we had someone special. I definitely see her growing and developing.”

While Keruskin is unsure of what her future has in store, she's exicited for what lies ahead.

“I am going to take this opportunity and run with it,” Keruskin said. “I love to sing and I want to share it with people.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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