Arts Fest feature: TJC voice alumna Julianne Casey returns to teach master class | TJC

Arts Fest feature: TJC voice alumna Julianne Casey returns to teach master class

When she began studying vocal performance at Tyler Junior College, Julianne Casey had raw talent and a desire to succeed — but no previous musical training.

At TJC, she flourished. The Whitehouse native was a two-year Mewbourne Choral Music Scholarship recipient, performed in the annual spring musical and was a member of Harmony & Understanding, TJC Chamber Singers and the TJC Choir.
“Being involved in so many music groups at TJC and sharing the stage with my colleagues felt very natural to me, but what didn’t feel natural to me was learning music theory and ear training,” Casey said. “There were many tough, teachable moments involving these two subjects; and that was when I realized that if I wanted to study music that has withstood centuries of time, I could not simply ‘be good’ at the things that came naturally to me and forget the rest.”
So, she immersed herself in the material.
“The real lessons came from embracing the absolute struggle of understanding music academia,” she said. “I had to work very hard to understand what music actually is, how it is written, and how to read it well. This led me to develop a real sense of character and integrity within myself which, I believe, is where real artistry comes from. I am absolutely still learning new ideas and techniques in music every day.”
Those early lessons paid off. After graduating from TJC in 2016, Casey moved to New York, where she earned her bachelor’s degree from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and her master’s degree from The New School’s Mannes School of Music.
Since then, Casey has been living her dream as an opera singer in New York and around the world.
“I was in Bulgaria last month, and I performed the opera ‘La Boheme’ and sang my first time in the role of Mimi, which was such a dream for me,” she said.
She earned the role while participating in a summer program last year at the Bologna Opera Academy in Bologna, Italy.
“This is one of the oldest universities in the entire world,” she said. “It’s where [Italian composer] Respighi was a professor of music; and Mozart took his last music theory test just down the street from there. There was amazing history at every turn.”
After performing in Bulgaria, Casey went on auditions in Albania and Italy.
New York City is her current home base.
“Living in New York, there are many advantages, if you want to be a performer,” she said. “I was born and raised in Texas, and my good friend (and fellow TJC alumna) Sylvia D’Eramo encouraged me to move to New York. I wouldn’t be doing what I am now without having moved there.”
In addition to her singing engagements, Casey has worked as a background actor for the HBO’s “And Just Like That,” which is the new “Sex and the City” series, and the Showtime series, “Billions.”
“I was also very briefly in the movie, ‘Maestro,’ with Bradley Cooper, who was so amazing and inspiring to work with,” she said. “I was in the Carnegie Hall scene in the very beginning.”
The student becomes the teacher
Casey recently returned to work with current TJC students who hope to someday follow in her footsteps.
“I felt very fortunate to be invited by TJC to teach a master class and to perform in recital,” she said. “To be able to share what I have learned musically and artistically over the years with the community that supported me from day one is so special. The Tyler community genuinely cherishes and actively supports their local artists, which could be why I felt so confident and compelled to journey into a performance career in my earliest days at TJC.” 

Julianne Casey master class

From left, Isaac Lerma, TJC vocal music major from Humble; Julianne Casey, TJC voice alumna; Sophie Breen, TJC vocal music major from Tyler; and Crisalyn Bootie, vocal music major from Jasper.

During the hourlong master class, Casey listened intently as each student performed a selected piece and then she offered her advice.
Isaac Lerma, a TJC vocal music major from Humble, sang an aria from Mozart’s comic opera, “Cosi Fan Tutte.”
After he finished, Casey said, “Mozart’s operas are hilarious and very comedic and elaborating on what happens in real life, but in a ridiculous way, so we want to hear that in the language. You can really access the comedy through the language, and that really makes it hilarious for the audience. You definitely want to dive in and over-exaggerate the Italian accented syllables. You can really be over the top with that.”
She also advised the students to form a deeper connection with the audience by stepping out from behind their music stand.
“What also helps me is to move around while singing,” she said. “If we stand still, we cut off so much of our power as opera singers. So, relax and be funny and charming. Just walk around and give yourself a bit more freedom and let it go.”
TJC Professor Andrea Trent relished seeing her former student assume the role of teacher.
“The most gratifying thing to me is when I hear her sing, I can still hear the underlying, ‘true’ and unique quality of tone that I heard in her beginning stages of study,” Trent said. “I appreciate her ability to hold fast to her individual technique and style and the individuality that comes with it. I so appreciate her willingness and the generosity she shows by coming back to her ‘roots’ and sharing with us.”
For her final bit of advice to the TJC students, Casey stressed the importance of authenticity.
“What you must always do is to be a horse with blinders on and focus on what feels right to you,” she said. “All of art and music and performing is about being your most authentic and natural self and to forget about what everyone else wants you to be. It’s all about what is your own calling and staying true to that.
“People will gravitate to you because you live your life in that way, so I think that’s the most important thing.”

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