St. Olaf College | News

Shining a light on the sounds of Latin America

A faculty-mentored project that Vanessa López ’17 is working on this summer aims to bring Latin American music to a broader audience.

Last summer, St. Olaf College student Vanessa López ’17 spent time in Barcelona studying alongside renowned Colombian-born soprano Patricia Caicedo.

This summer, she’s creating a website that brings the Latin American music she studied to a broader audience.

Working alongside St. Olaf Professor of Music Nancy Paddleford, who specializes in Latin American music, López is designing a website that will include Latin American music recordings, English translations, a note on the meaning behind the songs, and information about individual composers.

“I’m creating the website to expose people to the wonderful music of this region,” López says. “It’s not well-known because there is no easy access point, and this website will enable people to have that place where they can enjoy all the Latin American art song music that they want.”

López, a member of the St. Olaf Choir and president of the St. Olaf Student Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, is pursuing this project as part of the St. Olaf TRIO McNair Scholars program, a graduate school preparatory program funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by St. Olaf since 2007.

López, who is majoring in vocal music education and music elective studies in Latin American and Iberian vocal music at St. Olaf, received funding from the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund that enabled her to spend last summer in Barcelona under the tutelage of Caicedo and others, including highly acclaimed Brazilian tenor and musicologist Lenine Santos.

Vanessa López ’17 performs at the prestigious National Library of Catalonia as part of the 2015 Barcelona Festival of Song, one of several events that capped her summer in Spain.

She was one of only four students selected from around the world to study with Caicedo, whose program is typically reserved for established vocal performers.

López first met Caicedo when the famed soprano came to St. Olaf in 2014 to give master classes and lectures in Latin American and Iberian vocal music. That experience prompted López to apply for the program in Spain.

The two-week intensive program offered classes in an array of different areas, all designed to increase participants’ overall musical knowledge. Several hours of classes in vocal literature, history, and diction filled most of López’s time in Barcelona.

She also worked with linguists to learn to speak a range of different languages, including Brazilian Portuguese, Catalan, and Spanish, in order to be able to sing the songs that she was learning about.

López’s experience in Spain culminated in two performances — one of which was held in the prestigious National Library of Catalonia — that enabled her to showcase both her singing talent and the language skills she learned during the program.

Vanessa López ’17 with the website she is creating this summer to bring Latin American music to a broader audience.

“The most enjoyable experience of being in Barcelona was being able to collaborate and work with musicians from all over the globe to present beautiful music in two final concerts, some of whom have become lifelong friends that I still am in contact with,” she says.

López continues to use the connections she made in Spain to track down and translate the music for her website.

“I am in constant connection and utilize resources from both Dr. Caicedo and Dr. Santos to aid in the creation of the website,” she says. “They help me in finding scores, performances, and granting access to digital libraries.”

Despite studying Iberian music under Caicedo and Iberian music being a component of her major, López decided not to include music from Spain and Portugal as part of the website. The reason?

“Most composers from Spain and Portugal are more well-known worldwide and their music is more easily accessible and found compared to Latin American composers,” she says. “Only a select few Latin American composers are known worldwide, and others are not known at all.”

She’s hoping her website will help change that.