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Opera singer’s career helps to inspire students

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With nuanced pitch and a sensational vibrato, Bay Area opera singer Heidi Moss captivated the crowd of students, composers and music-lovers with “Die Nacht,” a piece about love as light extinguishing itself in nightfall.

The song was part of a talk that Moss gave to students at Cosumnes River College on Feb. 11. Music, science and life were key themes in the singer’s speech.

“I want them to think of the voice as a more complex instrument in terms of the text and the sound,” Moss said, still jittering following her performance.

Kurt Erickson, a music professor at CRC, said the presentation was intended for everyone, but its focus was on inspiring vocalists and members of the Composer’s Ensemble.

The ensemble allows musicians to “create new and original works” and perform them
at the end of each semester, Erickson said. This spring, Moss will be acting as both an advisor to the composers and vocal accompaniment for their works.

“How often do you get to work with a professional singer?” Erickson asked as he stressed the valuable experience in working with a professional musician and learning their lifestyles and background.

Reflecting on her own experience as a music student, Moss informed the audience that she had no recipe for success.

“If there is any one thing I want to tell to all of you, is that there’s no formula to following your bliss,” Moss said. “I’ve had people who talked to me, who are famous in science, who say they joined the circus when they were seventeen.”

Before filling opera houses across the country with that bliss, Moss said she started
her adult life as a researcher, attending various institutes including Rockefeller University. She enjoyed some prestige when her breakthrough on DNA telomeres was published in Cell magazine and reprinted in The New York Times.

“My science career was a way of funding my music habit,” Moss said.

In her journey, Moss found that her scientific pursuits were synonymous  with her music life.

“To me, they are really the exact same thing,” Moss said. “With music, you need a technical foundation. You need your chops, and what gets you to the next level is creativity and artistry. The same is with science.”

In 2007, Moss was struck with Bell’s Palsy, a facial disorder which disables the seventh cranial nerve, paralyzing the right side of her face. The disease affects one in 4,000 Americans, said Moss, and 15 percent of those affected may never recover.

“I had my neurologists saying I would never sing again and my directors saying I would
never work again,” Moss told the audience.

Moss said that despite the discouraging reality of those words, she pressed on, and has since overcome her disability.

“It’s a Disney don’t-give-up story, but it’s true and I’m very lucky.”

The showcase concluded with a live performance, Erickson helming the grand piano and Moss supplying her voice, two virtuoso musicians wooing the audience with tonal harmony.

CRC students can look forward to hearing Moss and the Composer’s Ensemble on April 29 in the Recital Hall.

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Opera singer’s career helps to inspire students