Vocal instructor Christine Brewer is a Grammy-award-winning Opera singer. Her residency week at webster started on Feb. 28, with a recital on March 4.
On Feb. 28, music students gathered in the Thompson Music Building Recital Hall for the first night of vocal instructor Christine Brewer’s residency week at Webster. The purpose of Brewer’s residency is to shine a spotlight on Asian artists and to explore their cultures through singing and poetry.
Residency students have immersed themselves in vocal arrangements by Asian composers. They will perform these pieces in a recital on Friday, March 4 following a week of private lessons and master classes with Brewer.
One focus of Brewer’s educational approach is amplifying voices of composers and artists from marginalized groups that students may not have experience studying, including composers of color, female composers and LGBTQ+ composers.
“I had a female student one year who said that she could count on one hand how many pieces she had sung by a woman composer. She followed up by saying that she had decided to spend the rest of the semester singing music only that was written by women,” Brewer said.
Professor of voice and director of Vocal Studies Martha Hart agrees that drawing attention to a diverse range of composers is important for breaking down industry barriers and fostering artistic communication between students.
“The main goal of these residencies is to bring attention to and explore music by composers that have perhaps been overlooked and to expand our appreciation of these voices, find commonness in expression and provide options for repertoire choices and inclusivity,” Hart said.
Brewer says she always looks forward to these residencies, which Webster has hosted since 2015, because she knows they promise a week of great experiences. As a believer in the universality of music education, she learns about her own identity as a singer when she mentors vocal students.
“I always say that when I work with young singers at Webster and in universities around the country, I always learn something about myself and my approach to singing … When I need to explain to a student how I do something vocally, it confirms what I am doing and it makes me more aware as a performer,” Brewer said.
In an effort to exercise her own voice and amplify student voices, Brewer practices honest storytelling through music. She encourages students to identify and sing music that resonates with them and reflects their unique experiences.
“I want students to learn how to tell their stories with their authentic and honest voices – not to copy what they’ve heard in a YouTube video, but to really think about what they are trying to communicate,” Brewer said.
As the daughter of a gospel/jazz singer, Brewer has been exposed to music for most of her life. During her childhood, she played violin and sang in church services, school choirs and with her mother’s family. She said she cannot remember a time in her life when music wasn’t present.
Brewer started her career as a K-12 music teacher in Marissa, IL after graduating from McKendree University with a degree in music education. Then, she transferred to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1981.
Now, Brewer is a Grammy-award-winning opera soprano who works with college students around the country. She also works with sixth graders in Marissa, IL in a program known as “Opera-tunities.”
The Christine Brewer Residency Recital will take place on March 4 at 4:30 p.m. in Winifred Moore Auditorium. The event is free for Webster students and staff with ID, and general admission is $10 for the public and $5 for senior citizens. Brewer and Hart encourage music and non-music students to attend the event and share in the discussion about music.