Alumna Nili Riemer '03 shares her memories of NEC and offers a closer look at what it is like to be a musician and parent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There will be room for music post-Covid19... [and] I am excited to continue bringing music and a bit of levity into the homes of our friends and my colleagues near and far."
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Why did you choose NEC?
Although I participated in musical theater and community theater and trained on the piano as a child, I did not begin studying opera until age 14. As my studies in high school progressed, I realized that I would be interested in a small music program where I would get individualized attention, but I also craved a larger university environment. At the time, there were a few premiere dual-degree programs in the United States that I researched, toured, submitted audition CD's, and performed live auditions. I decided that the NEC/Tufts dual degree program for a BA and BM in music would best fit my academic and musical pursuits.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at NEC?
Our competitive solfege class with F. John Adams was both the highlight and fright of my week. Every Friday, small groups would compete for a king-sized candy bar by sight-singing solfege of entire movements from symphonies of Mozart, Hayden, and works of Bach and Beethoven.
I have poignant memories of Tamara Brooks conducting our choir in the Brahms German Requiem—still one of my favorite dramatic pieces of choral music!
I remember racing to the St. Botolph building with my to-go breakfast from Dunkin' Donuts (Egg and Cheese on a Sesame Bagel) with at least five others who were going to try to squeeze in a few bites before the start of our earliest class of the day.
Another memory of mine is studying for our 'needle drop' quizzes in Jazz History class (Ellington, Monk, and Russell) led by Scott Sandvik. My roommate and I would make up mnemonic devices and nonsense lyrics to the A sections, so we could memorize the composer name, the title of the piece, and the starting key and main melody.
What projects are you currently working on? Is there anything you would like to share with the NEC community?
After graduating from Tufts/NEC and earning my Masters in Opera from SUNY Binghamton, I moved onto various resident artist programs in the US and managed my own performing career through early 2008. I then decided to move my career overseas — singing in Europe for 8 years with theaters such as Oper Leipzig, Theater Heidelberg, Saarlaendisches Staatstheater, Opera Royal de Wallonie and others. Our first two sons were born in Frankfurt, Germany, and four years ago we moved to Dallas.
Along with "Corona-quarantining" with my three children and being their primary teacher, I cultivate a private voice studio in Dallas with students of whom, I am proud to say, have won positions at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts, acceptances to area gifted and talented magnet schools and have also performed in featured roles with the Dallas Opera.
Most recently I joined the University of Texas at Dallas as a Lecturer in Music, teaching both applied voice students and group voice courses. I have also returned to the Northeast to present lectures and performances with Seagle Music Colony in New York and the Manchester Music Festival in Vermont. Mentoring in music is an important part of my approach to teaching, and I am always open to a conversation from aspiring singers.
How have your NEC experiences shaped your artistic approach to your profession?
The opportunity to collaborate with musicians and artists across all genres at NEC — in a small and supportive conservatory nestled in a wonderfully vibrant musical city— gave me the tools to build my career and cultivate my craft while also being surrounded by professionals who were well into their successful careers.
How are you creating opportunities to continue making music during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have been giving Zoom voice lessons and lectures to my private studio as well as to my University of Texas at Dallas students. Like everyone else, I have had to adjust to an online model of teaching. It is not as wonderful as being in a small hall, a practice room, or a classroom vis a vis the acoustic and the 'online' capabilities of iPad and iPhone microphones, but we are still doing the work. There will be room for music post COVID-19.
I have also been able to create musical offerings and rewrite musicals and operatic arias with my children (two out of three needed a bribe of cookies to participate!) I am excited to continue bringing music and a bit of levity into the homes of our friends and my colleagues near and far.
Both the "Koenigin Der Corona" (Mozart) and the "Amazon Prime Truck" (The Music Man // Meredith Willson) videos that Nili created with her children can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/NiliRiemer/