By Jovie Baclayon
When Christin Wismann opens her mouth, people listen.
Though 5-foot-9, it’s not her height that commands attention, although her graceful presence plays a role. And it’s not that the Pepperdine senior argues passionately about a pressing, controversial issue – in fact, sometimes she’s not even speaking English. Rather, Wismann enraptures her audience with stunning operatic melodies and an award-winning soprano voice that has been described as a “signature sound.”
“It’s hard to explain, but for that brief moment when you are out there in front of all those people, you become very intimate with them. It’s like letting them in on a secret and exposing your heart all at once, “ says Wismann, 22, from Camarillo, California. “It’s a perfect balance of vulnerability and confidence. Performing can be so telling of a person’s true character because you can't have too much of one or the other. It’s a rush comparable to nothing else.”
As a testament to her talent, nearly one week after winning the National Opera Association’s (NOA) vocal competition in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 7, Wismann returned to California to win the Discovery Artist competition sponsored by the New West Symphony. As the top vocal award, Wismann was awarded a contract to sing as a soloist with the symphony next season, which serves audiences in Ventura County with regular performances in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.
As the NOA’s First Place winner, Wismann was awarded the $2,000 Nicolas Vrenios Award, the top prize for singers 24 and under, from colleges and conservatories across the nation. In addition, Wismann received a scholarship to the prestigious American Institute of Musical Studies, a training program for young singers held each summer in Graz, Austria.
“I am so thankful to be recognized for something I have been working so hard at,” she says. Wismann practices nearly every day, striving to fine-tune her voice. “As (legendary basketball coach) John Wooden would say, ‘Winning is never the goal.’ If you continue to work hard to be the best that you can be, then that is success. If someone takes notice, so much the better!
Needless to say, more than just a few people are noticing this rising star.
In addition to the most recent accolades, in Fall 2005, Wismann performed with Opera of the Foothills in Cinderella and The Intimate Opera Company in Trial by Jury. Opera Buffs and Opera Nova, organizations dedicated to discovering and supporting young classical singing talent, also presented Wismann in debut concerts in the Los Angeles area. She finished 2005 as one of the Top Four winners at the Metropolitan Opera Western Regional Auditions held at the University of Southern California, a finalist in the Palm Springs Vocal Competition, and as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata for the Palm Springs Opera Guild.
“When you hear her, you will never mistake her voice for anyone else's. I think what continues to set Christin apart when one sees and hears her at competitions is the unique timbre of her voice, her poise, and striking stage presence,” says her vocal coach Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, an adjunct professor at Pepperdine. They began working together when Wismann transferred to Pepperdine three years ago.
“The voice department at Pepperdine has a disproportionate number of high quality singers for the small size of the program. Dr. Henry Price, director of the Flora Thornton Opera program at Pepperdine, brings a high caliber international career background and a wonderful teaching approach to the singers,” says Roland-Silverstein, who received a masters and doctorate in voice at the University of Southern California.
“I cannot stress how wonderful Pepperdine’s Fine Arts department and the teachers here have been. They have always encouraged me and made me feel good about the work I was doing, while at the same time, provided the perfect balance of constructive criticism to help me get better. Finding a good teacher is a really difficult task because it’s hard to achieve that perfect balance,” says Wismann.
Wismann has been featured in a number of leading roles in Pepperdine’s Fine Arts Division productions, including Despina in 2005’s Flora Thornton Opera Program production of Così fan tutte and Laetitia in Old Maid and the Thief in 2004. Pepperdine audiences also enjoyed her performance as Marian in 2004’s fall musical, The Music Man.
Her final performance as an undergraduate will be her Senior Recital in March 2006. She will receive a bachelor’s in music with an emphasis in vocal performance in May 2006.