Far and Near Artist Interview: Angela Dixon

This summer, we are reuniting with wonderful artists from past projects. Soprano Angela Dixon took part in HER STORY, our showcase of women composers and writers, and returns now for FAR AND NEAR, which brings classical and popular music together to explore distances both big and small. 

Far and Near

June 25th @ 7:30pm

United Palace of Cultural Arts

1410 Broadway, NYC 10033

Free admission, please RSVP below!

Tell us a bit about yourself - who are you and what do you do?

 Angela Dixon in Her Story. Photo credit: Laura Mitchell

Angela Dixon in Her Story. Photo credit: Laura Mitchell

I am a woman of African American and Thai descent. I love to sing, dance, play the piano, knit, read, and be out in nature. I love to sing many genres of song but I particularly love singing African American art songs because the poetry is vivid, strong, and speaks to my heart. When I pursued my bachelor's degree at the University of Michigan, I worked with Dean Willis Patterson who exposed me to the world of African American art songs. I've also studied many forms of dance including modern dance and Flamenco dance. My master's thesis at NYU was about the connections between Flamenco and African American music. 

I also love the adventure of learning to play other instruments such as the accordion, a West African xylophone called the gyl, and most recently, the folk harp. I try to connect all of my own music-making to my students at the Ethical Culture School where I have been teaching music to children ages 4-9 for 10 years. I am also a wife to David who is a guitarist and a music educator like me. We are the proud parents of two amazing beautiful girls, Luna, age 6, and Rose, age 3.  

Can you share a few Flamenco pieces and African American art songs that are especially meaningful to you?

For Flamenco pieces, I really love Estrella Morente singing "El Lo Alto del Cerro" and "Volver."

My favorite African-American art songs are "Soliloquy" by John Work Jasmine Muhammad and "Three Dream Portraits" by Margaret Bonds.

What part of NYC do you live in? And what’s your favorite thing about living there?

I live in Washington Heights and my favorite thing about living up here is Fort Tryon Park. The heather garden is magical and the views of the Hudson River are breathtaking. I also love stepping back into history and imagining that I'm in a medieval monastery at the Cloisters.

The theme of Far and Near is the distance between where you are and where you long to be, both literally and figuratively. Have you been on any interesting journeys lately?

My journey of motherhood has changed me forever. I've never experienced a love so pure and strong such as the love for a child. Because of it, I find myself having a deeper empathy for all children and humankind.  

 Photo courtesy of Angela Dixon

Photo courtesy of Angela Dixon

What has been the most surprising discovery you've made as a mother? 

I would say one of my most surprising discoveries I've made as a mother is that I can feel many things at once including exhaustion, bliss, stress, joy and love!

We believe music is meant to be shared and can be life-changing. How has music shaped your life?

Throughout my journey of life, music has sustained me. I did not grow up in a musical family but it somehow found me. When I make music, I feel as though I am connecting to a deeper part of myself and to a higher purpose. I have learned musical traditions from all over the world that have inspired me. This led me to have the desire to share the beauty with others and especially young people. This is why I have chosen to teach music to children. When I see the smiles on their faces because a song has touched their heart, I feel a warm sense of fulfillment.

 Angela Dixon in Her Story, with Mary Rose Go. Photo credit: Laura Mitchell

Angela Dixon in Her Story, with Mary Rose Go. Photo credit: Laura Mitchell

If you could travel back in time and have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

I would love to have dinner with Frida Kahlo. I admire her strength, resilience, and ability to use art as a means of healing from emotional and physical pain. I also think she is very beautiful.  

Which piece by Frida Kahlo is your favorite and why?

I really love this painting "Me and My Parrot." Frida was never able to bear children, however she had such a need to love and nurture.  She showed that love to her pets, flowers and dolls.  

 Me and My Parrot, 1941 by Frida Kahlo

Me and My Parrot, 1941 by Frida Kahlo

Dream vacation destination?

My dream vacation destination is anywhere with beautiful lush nature, fresh food, and an opportunity to see local culture.  When I'm not exploring the sights, I would relax outside with my journal and a good book.  

Far and Near is part of the Lobby Series at the United Palace of Cultural Arts, an important arts and community resource, and also the Uptown Arts Stroll, a month-long festival celebrating the arts in Northern Manhattan. Can you share an experience you've had in which music helped bring a community together?

After having my first child, my husband and I were asked by friends to give a baby/family music class. It was one of the best things we have ever done. Being both music educators, we were excited about the idea and adapted the activities and songs we knew to make it family friendly. Friends and neighbors came to our home and we led everyone in singing multicultural folk songs, drumming, percussion instrument instruments, folk dances, lullabies, and rounds. Afterwards we often shared a meal together. The little ones played together and friendships formed between families. Our family music class lasted for two years and it was truly a joyful time.

 

Join Angela on June 25th for FAR AND NEAR. Please make sure to RSVP for this event!

 Her Story. Photo credit: Laura Mitchell

Her Story. Photo credit: Laura Mitchell