Artist Profile: Melissa Gerstein

In this series, Artist Profiles, we invite you to get to know our artists beyond their bios and headshots. You may be surprised at what you learn...

How did you become involved in music? In singing? 

My first voice teacher was an opera singer so I immediately gravitated towards classical and opera music through her instruction.

What to you do when you're not practicing and performing? 

I work full time at the Bard Graduate Center in public programming for their Gallery/Graduate School. I specialize in developing and coordinating all programmatic aspects. I am also the Publicity and Marketing Director for the Art Song Preservation Society, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to preserving, revitalizing, and promoting the art song repertoire and the art song recital. I also enjoy reading, cooking, baking, and running! Actually, I'm a bit of a running geek and have run the NYC marathon twice so far...

How did you come to be involved with the Art Song Preservation Society?

I became involved through one of my dearest friends, Courtenay
Casey. I came on board around 2011 and have been enamored with ASPS
ever since. There is something intimate and personal about art songs
that I feel a certain response and devotion towards. The work that I
do with ASPS is hugely important to me, and the fostering of younger
singers is part of that mission. It adds a lot to my life as a working
professional and also as a musician. It has been great getting to know
the wonderful guest artists through the years... Thomas Muraco, Thomas
Grubb, Carol Kimball, Dalton Baldwin and many more!

And since you brought up art songs - are there particular songs that everyone should go and have a listen to?

I think the art songs that I keep coming back to are Mahler's and Debussy's. Mahler's Rückert-Lieder and Debussy's Les Chansons de Bilitis are two of my favorite sets. 

What's on your playlist now? 

My playlist is a bit on the eclectic side... lately I've been listening to Richard Strauss, Schubert, Debussy, Major Lazer, Radu Lupu, Low, Glasser...

Favorite movie?

The movie I have watched the most is probably... Waiting for Guffman (classic).

Most interesting role you've ever played? 

One of the the most interesting roles I've played is Auntie in Peter Grimes. Actually, I'm going to go with... Britten roles are just fascinating for me, period.

What is it about the Auntie in Peter Grimes that makes her such an interesting role?

I like Auntie because although is a bit curmudgeonly... she is a
giver and cares about people in the Borough... I think she sort of
looks for the silver lining in situations. She dislikes Grimes but
still manages to be somewhat sympathetic towards him. I like that her
vocal lines really depict her personality (which is something that I
really admire about Britten's writing, in general)

Role/character you've performed (or studied) that is most like you? Least like you?

I think one of the characters I can most relate to is Hansel. He is a quick thinker (i.e. gathers stones when he overhears his parents talking about ditching them, leaves breadcrumbs through the forest, etc..). He also comforts his sister in the woods when it is dark outside. I think he taps he is nurturing but very strong. I also probably relate quite a bit to Dorabella... she is an erratic thinker yet a romantic at heart. She has a large heart and spirit to her. A character that is least like me... well, I try to find bits and pieces that are maybe like myself in more ways than I care to admit!!

Favorite not-classical music genre? 

My favorite non-classical music genres are probably Jazz and Brazilian music.

Who are some singers you look up to/admire, classical or non-classical?

Singers I still listen to and worship are Christa Ludwig, Maria Callas, Jussi Bjorling, Leontyne Price... and on the other side, Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder, Chet Baker, Nancy Wilson. They have mastered the art of phrasing.

Dream role and why - doesn't have to be in your fach.

My dream role is and always will be Carmen... she is rôle de la durée de vie!! I am thrilled when I can participate in scenes and her arias are also really great to program into concerts. The "soprano-singer" in me would love to perform Aida or Isolde.

If Aida and Isolde were contestants on Survivor, who would make it longer on the show?

I'm not sure who would win.... both are pretty powerful women!

Learn more:

Melissa sings Cherubino in Project 2 and has gained considerable notice in the New York City music scene. Her background includes training and performance at the American Singers’ Opera Project in New York City, Académie Internationale d’Eté de Nice in France, University of Miami’s Summer in Salzburg and the Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium in Italy. The past several years, Melissa has been specializing in public relations, marketing and artistic administration. She serves as the Public Relations and Marketing Director for the Art Song Preservation Society, a company where she helps produce concerts, masterclasses and special events. In addition to her work in public programming at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Underworld Productions Opera Company and is also the Public Relations director for her own group, the Voices of Women quartet. Previously she served as the Publicity Director on the Amore Opera Board of Directors. Melissa esides in New York.