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Cassandra Douglas

How would you describe your music?

The music that I focus on are Operas and Art songs from the Baroque, Romantic, Classical, and 20th and 21st centuries. Much of the music I study and perform is rooted in harmony and rhythm. The melodies are usually melodic and set in such a way to unify the meaning of a chosen text from poets or from librettos written by librettists who worked closely with the composers.

What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?

I like to think of my self as a politician. I am in charge of my own talent. (A singer is not called a soloist for nothing.) It is my job to be focused in regards how I'm doing vocally or how much work I'll have in the coming months. Like all singers I have help. I ask for feedback sometimes on a daily basis from my voice teacher, my vocal coach, my accompanist, conductors, and colleagues. It is my job to take in all this information and sift through what works and what doesn't work without offending anyone. It is a delicate balancing act that every singer goes through.

Describe your gear.

That can range from opera costumes to gowns for a recital performance. I always envy a man. He can just wear a suit and he looks great for a recital event. Where as a woman has to find the perfect dress that's not too tight around the waist so that you can breathe comfortably without anyone seeing how much your working. Then there are shows to consider, makeup, hair, nails, the list could go on and on. For opera I feel that the costumes always require so much more work for women than for men. However, in the end I personally enjoy the process of getting that dressed up. I guess it is the equivalent of getting dressed for one's wedding day. One wants to look perfect because everyone will be focused on just you.

Related Themes: Gear

Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?

Yes!!! Being a woman specifically a soprano voice is extremely competitive. The men don't nearly have to work as hard simply because their men. Males don't have to be fabulous in every area of singing in order to gain lead roles in operas simply because there are fewer men to compete with. I will say that the Tenors have a more difficult time as the tenor parts are coveted and widely appreciated almost as much as the Soprano voice. However, I cannot count the number of times I've heard an awful tenor singing in a lead role. I can't help but wonder how they managed to get the part. A female singer would never be hired if she didn't sing her languages with perfect diction with full understanding of the style, or have beautiful phrasing, or even just stage presence. Whereas, I've seen men perform with inadequately and they think they can get away with certain things because their charismatic. I'll close with a something a wonderful Baritone colleague of mine said to me after we found out that I didn't get cast for an opera that he did get cast for, "Don't feel bad Cassandra, you know they only cast me because I'm a man."

Related Themes: Behind The Music She's Got The Look

Do you see differences between generations of women musicians?

In my profession I would have to say no. The world of music that I live in is based in old traditions that continue to recycle themselves. It's rather like Comedia dell'Arte's characters where the archetypes are recreated in a different medium. They are still the same personalities but with a different setting. The generations of musicians in opera have not changed much. We've only been updated with better access to resources and connections with other people. Otherwise it's all the same.

Related Themes: Off The Clock

Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?

"Yes!!! Every week I sift through advice about what to do next. I am my own manager and I like to think of myself as a private company of one! I have my own best interests at heart. It is essential to surround myself with people who believe in my ability and have the tools to help me attain my goals. The sooner a young singer does this the better. Classical music is a hard profession and one needs really strong people along the way to help embolden a singer. Ultimately, it is up to the singer to really come to terms with whether or not singing is something they really want to do. It is truly the life of a starving artist and the rewards come in the actualization of a performance where you bear all the pain, love, or joys you've ever had to a group of people who are paying you to move them into an emotional state of ecstasy. Being that vulnerable is not for everyone. There are also too few people available to support singers financially. The idea of a patron is a thing of the past and the money to pay for all the coachings, voice lessons, accompanist fees, audition fees, headshots, audition and performance attire, and music scores has to come from somewhere if ever one wants to come close to actualizing their dreams of performing professionally. The real joy for me in singing is that it actually feels wonderful to sing and sing well. I also love the drama of opera and the chance to connect with an audience. After 14 years of study under my belt, it wasn't until last year that I felt I must sing because there is nothing else that I love to do more! Being a singer is one of the most personal journeys one can make. For me, I've come to discover that it is worth the struggle to be able to share so much of my self with others. "

Related Themes: Advice

Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?

I would say my voice choose me. I never woke up one morning and decided to be an opera singer. It was something that I came into gradually. One main reason is that my voice simply felt more comfortable singing the beautiful melodic lines in opera and art songs. I was never able to really sing musical theater or pop song with any sort of ease. I also was very moved by some of the profoundly beautiful poetry with which inspired the composers to set the music in the first place. I also fell in love with this art form over time because as I gained my own plethora of life experiences I realized that I could offer more in my own performances. It is a demanding task to draw on emotions so that one can express an emotion without being drawn up in the emotion itself. In other words, I can't sing if I'm crying. Art songs gives a singer a chance to draw on those personal experiences and in turn offer the chance for an audience member to recall their own life experiences. For a moment in time, music allows one to look on their intangible emotions as the music and the words recall all sorts of memories. Opera, on the other hand, is about an emotion felt in a period of time by the character(s). It can be funny, sad, devastating, love-filled, or any emotion that man-kind can feel in a given moment. It is the culmination of the human emotion in the form of theater and drama. When watching a great performance I feel as the character feels and when the music is added to it I feel that my soul opens up and it soars.

Related Themes: The First Time