Emma Lavigne is flying pretty high right now.
The soon-to-be-graduate honours student at Crescent Heights High School recently won three first-place awards at the Alberta Provincial Music Festival, nods that go quite nicely with the full scholarship she has received to the University of Toronto, where she will pursue a Bachelor of Music in voice performance.
Lavigne is a member of the Voicelliano Trio, along with Laec Lorentzen (cello) and Stirling Clark (piano), which accounts for one of the awards won. The trio took top honours at this year’s Rotary Music Festival Rose Bowl before moving on to compete at the provincial competition against four other chamber music groups. Individually, Lavigne also took first place in musical theatre ballad and classical vocals, against 22 other performers in those classes.
At the University of Toronto in the fall, she will be studying under professor Darryl Edwards, a globally renowned voice teacher.
“I will be studying voice, specifically opera performance in university. On the side I play violin and I have my piano proficiency for my Associate’s Diploma (voice performance) through the Royal Conservatory of Music.”
Patricia Swan has been her voice teacher for the past six years when Lavigne wanted to improve her singing for musical theatre.
“She had talent and she had a drive. she really wanted to do well, was eager and devoured music,” explained Swan.
While fluent in French, Lavigne loves singing in other languages, Italian, German, Spanish, Latin and she has also performed in Gaelic and Portuguese.
“Whenever we’ve had adjudications and in festivals, people are always amazed at her ability with language,” said Swan.
From musical theatre, Lavigne converted to opera, which seemed the natural path. Continuing on the opera path will require her to learn how to speak some of the other languages, particularly Italian, rather than only singing in them.
“I’m very excited,” said Lavigne, “I hope to study or do some workshops in Italy.”
Her opera journey started when she was 14 years old – Lavigne turned 18 a couple weeks ago – when she joined a class of much older students and did relatively well.
“I loved the Italian, I found it so much more dramatic and enjoyable. It took off from there. Not this year, but last, I found a Mozart aria I absolutely love and that kicked off my Mozart journey. When you start researching, performing and watching, you realize it’s enjoyable and can’t stop, it’s kind of addictive,” explained Lavigne.
To date, she hasn’t performed in a full opera yet, but the arias she most enjoys are from Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) by Mozart. She would love to perform the lead role of Cherubino (mezzo) or Susanna (soprano) in the opera at some point. Currently, Lavigne is a mezzo-soprano but the voice doesn’t fully develop until a person is around 35 years old, so hers might still change.
“Vocal chords are smaller than half the size of my pinky nail,” explained Lavigne, “and they are doing all this work. With speaking on top of a singing heavy repertoire, you can imagine the necessity of training to keep it all healthy.”
Lots of breath work is also involved, which she says continues to be a work in progress. “You can never run out of things to work on with breath control.”
Outside music, she dances, maintains her high honours at school and enjoys baking. Lavigne’s long-term goal is to perform on the stage. “My mom has been so supportive through all of this. I didn’t know I wanted to pursue music until last year. I had a phenomenal festival experience regardless of wins and marks. I felt like everything came together like a puzzle and it felt very secure in my physicality. I was so taken away, I decided I cannot be a lawyer, I have to be a singer.”
By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 19, 2023