The audience in Tyler Junior College’s Jean Browne Theatre felt as though they had been transported to a New York opera house as TJC alumna Sylvia D’Eramo took the stage last Thursday evening.
Sylvia, who began her music and theatre training at TJC, returned to the campus to perform several operatic selections for a TJC Foundation event.
Performing at Tyler Civic Theater at a young age piqued Sylvia’s interest in the arts, so she decided to polish her skills. At age 15, she began participating in choir and taking voice lessons from TJC Professor Andrea Trent.
“I heard some of Ms. Trent’s students and realized she was the next step to further my career and help me reach my potential,” she said.
Sylvia attended TJC as a high school dual-credit student participating in the TJC Academy of Dance and music department. During those years, she attended summer vocal programs at both Oberlin Conservatory and the Washington National Opera summer program for young singers, participated in TJC Opera Workshop and played leading roles in TJC musical productions of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Chicago.”
“TJC helped me refine my craft and grow in a safe environment and figure out if this is just fun or is it really my passion,” she said. “TJC taught me this is what I want to do.”
In 2011, she was accepted into the opera performance program at State University of New York at Purchase Conservatory (SUNY) where she graduated magna cum laude in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Performance. She performed numerous roles during her time at SUNY Purchase and received the Presidential Senior Achievement Award for a Senior Conservatory of Music student. She also performed the National Anthem at her graduation, which was attended by approximately 20,000 people.
It was during her first year at SUNY that her father passed away, but she said it was her music and pursuing the art that she loved that gave her purpose and meaning during those hard times.
Sylvia was recently recognized in Opera News magazine and on Amazon for her singing role as Abagail in Albany Records’ most recent recording of “The Crucible.” In June 2017, she placed second out of 150 contestants in the SOMA International Lois Alba Aria Competition at Saint Thomas University in Houston. She also received an Encouragement Award in the Career Bridges Competition in New York City earlier this year.
“I have heard throughout my music career that I came in with such solid technique and was asked, ‘Who was your teacher?’” Sylvia said. “When I told them I went to TJC, they asked, ‘What’s in the water at Tyler Junior College?’
“In the TJC program, you take on all areas of the arts, so you’re in theatre and not just taking acting lessons to sit on stage and be pretty, but learning to paint, to build sets, do make-up and everything that goes into making a production a production. Music is the same thing; we study all areas. The TJC music program is set up like a conservatory, and the arts program at TJC is really the gem of Tyler, Texas. It’s amazing!”
Proper practice is essential to success according to Sylvia, who practices at least an hour a day, depending on what she is learning at the time.
“Our instruments are so delicate and we’re not like a pianist who can practice eight hours a day,” she said. “You don’t want to oversing and you don’t want to build bad habits by practicing until you get tired. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. You have to be careful and conscious while you’re practicing.”
When asked what advice she might offer to others pursuing a similar career path, Sylvia said, “Take your time with it and be patient with yourself. Take the time to lay the groundwork and put in the work. You can’t just blossom; you have to put in the years of practice rooms and building sets.”
Later this month, Sylvia will return to Yale University where she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in opera performance with a 2018 expected graduation date. Her next semester will be spent auditioning for young artist programs or with opera companies.
While she hopes to stay in New York, she is open to other possibilities.
“I’m open to the opportunities but lean toward the operatic stage. Opera is my passion but I love Broadway, too.”
She added that her favorites include Rodgers and Hammerstein and “the classics.”
Sylvia is the second of five children of Mary Jane D’Eramo and the late Dr. Mark D’Eramo. Talent apparently runs in the D’Eramo family, as older sister Laura and younger brothers Tony and Aaron are TJC alumni who also excelled in academics and performing arts. The youngest son, Augustine, is a sophomore at Bishop T.K. Gorman High School. Like his four older siblings, he also has participated in theatre productions at TJC.
Sylvia said it was a sentimental journey to return to TJC and perform after five years away.
“Being in this room,” she said, “all this nostalgia comes flooding back. It was this environment at TJC that cultured an atmosphere where I felt safe to explore my artistic side. If it wasn’t for this starting point, I don’t know that I would be doing this.”