Student musicians hit high notes in annual competition


Webster University senior Stephen Lucido picked up the flute when his high school teacher asked him to step in due to a lack of players in band. Now, it is his main instrument.

Junior Danielle Feinstein started studying opera after seeing the work of Tchaikovsky on stage. Now, she sings daily.

This year, Lucido and Feinstein won the Department of Music’s annual Concerto and Aria competition.

The competition, which is open to all students, sees vocalists and instrumentalists compete in front of a panel of judges not associated with Webster.  Feinstein said this eliminates any bias. One vocalist and one instrumentalist are chosen as winners.

The competition took place Jan. 16, 2015.

The victory means Feinstein and Lucido will be center stage at an upcoming Chamber Orchestra concert.

Stephen and the flute

Lucido was in fourth grade when he started taking piano lessons.  He wanted to give music a try because he was “jealous of all the band kids.”

He did not start playing the flute until he was a freshman in high school.  He planned to do percussion in high school band, but the instructor put him on the flute since there was only one other flute player in the band.

He was fascinated and began teaching himself to play the instrument. He said he admired the flute because it is a very “vocal” instrument.

“It kind of sounds like a high voice to me,” Lucido said.

Since he came to Webster, Lucido has worked with Adjunct Professor of Flute Paula Kasica as part of her private studio.

Stephen Lucido practices for his recital in the Community Music School. BILL LOELLKE /The Journal
Stephen Lucido practices for his recital in the Community Music School. BILL LOELLKE /The Journal

Lucido said that in the beginning, he thought about speed in playing before sound.  He remembers playing a Bach piece for Kasica once, which was supposed to be played “elegantly” but he played “forcefully.”

“She stopped me within the first couple of measures,” Lucido said.

Lucido said Kasica has helped him focus on sound when playing the flute rather than agility, because agility would eventually come.

“I really appreciate that about her teaching style,” Lucido said.

Lucido said his family was surprised when they found out he wanted to major in music.  He was interested in the field of science and technology, but his passion for music was greater.

“I still geek out about the latest tech,” Lucido said.

He said some people in his life were very fixated on the idea that the fields of science and math were the best options for financial stability, but that his family was supportive after their surprise went away.

Lucido dreams of working with symphonies that contribute to visual media, such as film and video game music.  However, he said his focuses right now are to graduate, work with Kasica to fine tune his skills and pursue a master’s degree.

Kasica said Lucido’s enthusiasm for playing helps him stand out as an instrumentalist. She said she believes Lucido will do something different with his flute performance in the future, saying he will do something more “contemporary and innovative.”

“He’s on a journey and that’s the exciting thing,” Kasica said.  “When he applies that enthusiasm into practicing, he gets great results.”

Danielle sings opera

Feinstein said she has been singing and performing ever since she could talk.  She began performing as a dancer and then started singing in choir and performing in musicals in middle school.

It was high school that changed everything, when she was accepted to the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ Artists-in-Training program along with more than 20 other students.

The program looks for high school vocalists to receive weekly voice lessons by opera professionals.  They also went to performances that ranged from ballet to symphonies.

“That was a very unique program that opened my eyes to opera specifically and helped me decide that [opera] was what I wanted to go into,” Feinstein said.

Even before the program, Feinstein had an interest in opera. Her grandmother took her to her first opera at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis the summer before her freshman year of high school.

She set her mind on performing opera a few weeks later after she went to see a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

Feinstein said one of the biggest misconceptions about performing opera is that one has to have a big voice. She said there is a lot of difficult and extensive training, but that is the hardest part.  Trying to force out a big sound can do more harm than good, as it can create tension on the muscles.  She said singing is something that should come naturally with training.

Feinstein rehearses with her instructor, Martha Hunt. MARY THAIER /The Journal
Feinstein rehearses with her instructor, Martha Hunt. MARY THAIER /The Journal

“Singing is inherently just another form of speaking,” Feinstein said.  “It should be as easy as speaking.”

In addition to the competition, Feinstein became involved with the Webster University Opera Scenes this year.  This program is a performance of major scenes from the world of opera.  She performed in three scenes: Der Freischütz, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Merry Wives of Windsor.

Feinstein has been teaching vocal students as well.  She said the most important thing vocalists need to know is to find their own voice.

“I think, especially in our day and age, it’s so easy to want to sound like Adele or sound like any of your other famous artists no matter the genre,” Feinstein said.

She said working to sound like someone else famous can deter people from reaching their full potential.

Feinstein has a goal of auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a program designed to help young opera singers in the development of their careers.

“There’s a certain expectation of the people who win that, so if you can put that on your resume, people are going to say good things about you,” Feinstein said.

Other dreams for Feinstein include traveling the world singing opera or teaching opera at the collegiate level.

Since freshman year, Feinstein has worked with Associate Professor of Voice Martha Hart.  Hunt said Feinstein has a great command vocally and dramatically when performing.

“She has something special about her when she gets on stage,” Hart said.

Hart said Feinstein’s curiosity about the industry helps her stand out as a student.  Hunt said Feinstein is always willing to learn and is always looking for ways to find success in the “unpredictable” industry. She said Feinstein is also looking to be a better communicator through her music.

“One of the nice things about the vocal art is that we deal in text,” Hart said. “She is always looking for ways in which she can be a stronger communicator.”

Feinstein and Lucido both agree that music is their true passion. Even when facing some trepidation from others, Lucido said his father told him that, while he may not be the most fulfilled financially, he will be extremely fulfilled in life.

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