E&H Assistant Professor of Music Jessica Spafford Performs Concert Celebrating Brazilian Independence
Dr. Jessica Spafford, Assistant Professor of Music at Emory & Henry College, sang songs of deep melancholy and nostalgia during the May production of Saudades Do Brasil, a concert in a series celebrating the years of Brazil’s independence produced by Project 88 in Berwyn, Illinois.
“This was my first time exploring Portuguese,” Spafford says, noting that classical singers learn many different languages during their careers. “These composers were trying to explore what was indigenous to Brazilian Folk culture. Many of our repertoire choices focused on the music where they were trying to find that sound.”
Elider DiPaula, a Brazilian who founded Project 88 and directed the concert series, was not only Spafford’s pianist for the performance. He was also her colleague and friend at James Madison University during their graduate studies. “We chose this music together,” she says, noting the reward of that collaboration.
Entering her second year at Emory & Henry, Spafford says that while she loves being on campus, getting out and working with other performers is invigorating. “It humbles me as a teacher and performer because when you are under professional performing pressure—the kind you want your students to excel under—it keeps you on your toes,” she says. “I try to bring that exciting energy back to my students.”
Spafford uses her performance experiences to mentor her students, sharing that she still has stage fright, too, because there are more aspects to performing than most people realize. “My body. My breath. My face. All the words. Where am I being creative in my interpretation? I am teaching them these things—how to manage all of that simultaneously,” she explains.
Students also learn about “vocal athletics” from Spafford, who teaches them how to use their voice, which she calls a muscle, safely and effectively. Her bachelor’s degree in microbiology informs her lessons on vocal anatomy–one of her teaching passions. She says, “I love seeing my students light up when they learn how cool their instrument is and the power it can have.”
Learn more about the E&H Music Department.