Musician Andie Whitewing is among the performers in Opera Popolare's upcoming production of "Semele" by G.F. Handel, which opens with a preview at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at Glen Echo Garden, 4390 Y Road.
Handel's opera is the classic story of a mortal who wants to become a goddess. The production, directed by Rob Viens, is staged at 7:30 p.m. Aug 7-9 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 10 at Garden Street United Methodist Church, 1326 N. Garden St. For more on the show, see operapopolare.com.
Question: Why is music important in your life?
Answer: I've been singing my entire life, but only for the past year and a half with the intention of nurturing my identity as a singer. In that time I've performed jazz and classical voice with Bellingham Sings, been in the chorus for Opera Popolare, sung R&B with Rhapsody in Blues, performed with my family in a music show in south Louisiana, played at a house party with guitarist and record producer Myles Boisen in the San Francisco Bay area, and am learning traditional Cajun music locally with The Happy Valley Sluggers.
Q: So you came to music more seriously late in life?
A: We all have music inside us, but I had to give myself permission to embrace mine after being discouraged by a well-meaning family of natural professional musicians. Music is the language by which love and spirituality were shared in my family of origin. It has coursed through my veins until I've grown weary of being a musician with no instrument, and at last have gifted myself with voice lessons with Ann MacDonald, which have transformed my life.
Q: What influences did growing up in Louisiana have on your life?
A: Southwest Louisiana provided a rich musical nursery. From early childhood I was steeped in traditional Cajun, swamp pop, blues, soul, r&b, and Southern gospel.
Witnessing the success of other young musicians whose parents played music with my family has inspired me to embrace my own musical heritage, and to pass that legacy on to my children.
Growing up next door to my Cajun great-grandparents and living with my grandparents has deeply informed my personal values and identity. I am a product of their struggles and triumphs, and carry them in my heart as well as my DNA, striving to tell their stories in the process of telling my own.
Q: What's your educational background?
A: As a first-generation college student it has been important to me to get as much education as I could because it was denied to my agrarian Francophone forebears. Enrolling at Harvard at 16 provided the satisfaction of defying those odds as a representative of my people. I've since completed the coursework for a doctorate in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and taken a year of business administration courses at Whatcom Community College.
Q: What's your job history?
A: At the age of 8 I was working as the receptionist in my grandfather's busy land office during the early '80s oil boom. By 25 I was fully trained as a petroleum landsman. I've been working continuously in one capacity or another for the last 30 years, going from petroleum land and resource management to retail, teaching English, administering grants and providing social services in higher education, and recently spending time in arts administration and nonprofit development.
Now I'm an entrepreneur taking my diverse skill sets and experience into the world to empower people, and expect to expand my work with music production. My business, Whitewing Services, Consulting and Entertainment Productions, is up and running at www.WhitewingServices.com, and https://www.facebook.com/WhitewingServices.
Q: How did you become involved in Opera Popolare?
A: A singer busking at the Bellingham Farmers Market, with whom I stopped to sing, told me about Bellingham's amateur opera company. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the chorus of Opera Popolare's production of "Paride ed Elena."
Conceived and administered by Celie Thomas and artistically directed by Rob Viens, its goal of bringing opera to the people resonates deeply with my passions for the arts and education.