Far and Near Artist Interview: Jane Hoffman

 Photo credit: Billy Bustamante

Photo credit: Billy Bustamante

This summer, we are reuniting with wonderful artists from past projects. Soprano Jane Hoffman sang with us in our first season in MOZART AND MASSENET and returns now for FAR AND NEAR, a concert of classical and popular music that explores 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?

Well, I'm a musician, and in my free time I also like to bake and cook, and I'm an avid reader. I'm originally from Pasadena, California. I moved to the New York area to go to college and graduate school, and I liked it so much that I decided to stay. I probably spend entirely too much time on Twitter, and online in general. And above all, my most important purpose in life is to be a human can-opener for my cat, Roxy.

 Roxy. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

Roxy. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

 Roxy. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

Roxy. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

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

I live in Hamilton Heights. I actually don't know if anyone was calling it Hamilton Heights until pretty recently; it's just south of Sugar Hill and Washington Heights, just north of Morningside Heights, just west of Striver's Row and Central Harlem. I think the craze for the musical Hamilton sparked some interest in his history with the area, and that led people to revive that name. That's one of the things I like about this neighborhood: you can see and feel the connection to New York history, from Alexander Hamilton's summer home (Hamilton Grange) to the Harlem Renaissance.

Do you share in the Hamilton craze? And if so, what's your favorite number?

HamiltonBroadwayInChicago.jpg

I am definitely a Hamilton fan, although I haven't seen the show yet; I might have the worst ticket lottery luck ever. I've listened to the cast recording hundreds of times, and the song that sticks with me the most is the final number "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story," precisely because you'd think it would be a pretty straight forward song about what Hamilton accomplished, but instead it's about what his wife, his colleagues, his friends and his enemies, what they did and how he affected them.

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?

This summer I combined a work trip to London with a trip to Germany to visit a friend! I had never been to the UK before this trip, and I had only visited Germany when I was a child. It reminded me how exciting it is to traveling to somewhere you've never been before. And then once you return home, you can look at your own city with fresh eyes, seeing things in a completely different way.

Could you share a few pictures of your London and Germany trip?

Sure! Here's a picture of Passau, where I was visiting my friend, and a photo of Westminster Abbey. Also a picture of me attempting (and failing!) to spin at the Museumsdorf Bayerischer Wald in Tittling, which is an outdoor museum with a bunch of historical country houses and buildings.

 Passau. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

Passau. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

 Westminster Abbey. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

Westminster Abbey. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

 Spinning at the Museumsdorf Bayerischer Wald in Tittling. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

Spinning at the Museumsdorf Bayerischer Wald in Tittling. Photo courtesy of Jane Hoffman.

In what ways did you see NYC differently after your London/Germany trip?

Well, sometimes New York can be ... a lot. Anyone who lives here will admit that it's a tough place that can really grind you down! I was definitely in need of a vacation when I left for London, but towards the end of my trip I found myself missing New York, and even missing the things that can be overwhelming and exhausting about such a huge, bustling city. Being in a very quiet, small city in Germany made me miss the busy streets, the crowds of people, and the fact that everyone has somewhere to be and something they have to be doing. When I returned, I honestly felt glad to see New York, warts and all.

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

 Jane Hoffman as La fee in Cendrillon. Photo credit: Liang Pan

Jane Hoffman as La fee in Cendrillon. Photo credit: Liang Pan

I think the main thing that music has taught me is the importance of simple human connection. I think that what most people like about music is that it makes them feel something. A good song can make you feel as though you and the singer or player have shared an experience together, even though you might be completely different. In this day and age, when politics and current events push us to view other people as different or less than ourselves, I believe that the simple power of music to move us is incredibly important.

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

There are so many options that this is an impossible choice! But I can think of some living people I'd love to have dinner with, especially if I could pick their brains about art and creativity: Barbara Hannigan, Caroline Shaw, Elizabeth Gilbert, Janelle Monae, Greta Gerwig.

Dream vacation destination?

At this point, any place with a beach, drinks with tiki umbrellas in them, and no cell phone service!

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?

When I think of communities that music has built, I think of the other staff singers and the volunteers at my church choir. Everyone comes from different walks of life, some of us are employees and some are not, but we all come together twice a week to simply make music. The bond we share goes beyond rehearsals or performances; when a singer's husband was gravely ill, our director and other members rushed to the hospital to be with her. When a long time volunteer passed away and could not afford any music at his memorial service, all staff singers and the volunteers sang at it anyway. Making music together can be challenging, but it makes the bond we share stronger.

 

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

 Jane Hoffman as La fee in Cendrillon with Viktoriya Vita and Alexandria Lang. Photo credit: Liang Pan

Jane Hoffman as La fee in Cendrillon with Viktoriya Vita and Alexandria Lang. Photo credit: Liang Pan