A! Magazine for the Arts

Catherine Raible

Catherine Raible

Opera career is just getting started for Catherine Raible

June 29, 2020

Catherine Raible was just about to start on her musical career when the coronavirus shut down began.

“Even though I now have my masters, my career has not quite started. This is a difficult realization for many young singers. A career in classical music, especially classical singing, is difficult and even more difficult if you are a soprano. With the shutdowns that the coronavirus has created, many singers are losing hope or are making difficult career changes. Before most of this started, my teacher and I had talked and agreed that the best thing for my voice would be to continue training and polishing before pursuing auditions. This waiting game is one of endurance and patience. Many successful singers now had to go through these few years of their voices finally maturing. In general, it will be difficult to have to wait to perform again - both waiting on my voice and on the changes that the virus will cause. However, I’m in this for the long game,” she says.

Raible grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, and attended St. Dominic’s Catholic Elementary where her music education began.

“When I mention to people that I grew up in Tennessee, I often comment about the musical heritage of the area. Music is important to those in the Tri-Cities. I can’t think of a single time growing up when music seemed to be devalued. I think this importance and inherent love of music in the community helped cultivate my love for music.My music teacher, Mrs. Mullins, taught a well-rounded musical education. I remember covering topics of music history, basic music theory, instrumental music (recorder, bells and Orff instruments), choral singing and musical theater.

“Annually, the school would put on an operetta of folk songs to a script Mrs. Mullins and her husband would write for the fifth grade class. This was one of my favorite traditions combining music and history together.

“Throughout middle school and high school, I sang with Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy. This organization has done tremendous things for my musical development. They encourage their students to bring themselves to the choir, not just to blend in. They also encourage their students to audition for solos and opportunities, often reminding them that the worst thing that could happen is that you won’t be picked. As I have now become a teacher, I see this last skill as a true blessing. As a musician and especially as a singer, you have to be comfortable standing up and performing in front of people. This skill is one of the most difficult to learn and takes years of experience to overcome any fear associated.

“Looking back, I’m proud of the MECCA choirs for creating a safe place for their students to strengthen this skill. Many of those going through the choirs did not pursue music, but this skill is versatile and used in every profession. Lastly, I remember one of my first times singing for Ms. Beth (McCoy) during an East Tennessee Children’s Choir rehearsal. She looked at me and said ‘You are so quiet during rehearsals; I would have never known you had that voice. It’s like a diamond in the rough.’ I’ve always remembered that and think that is how my voice has been throughout my years of training. A little rough but something really special,” she says.

Raible graduated from East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, with a Bachelor of Music degree. She then moved to Denton, Texas, to pursue her Master of Music degree at the University of North Texas. UNT became the largest music school in the country in 2017-18, her first year there. Although most of the students are in the jazz department, the flagship department of the school of music, the college has created many opportunities for classical musicians.

“Many of my opportunities came through UNT Opera for which I have sung, directed, stage managed and served as a teaching assistant during my degree. This last semester was a whirlwind of changes and events. I started the semester in January performing and directing in the Student Director’s Scenes Program, a program with UNT Opera that I had the privilege of choosing the repertoire and assisting in the casting. We had about 30 sopranos cast in the Scenes Program, which is not atypical in the vocal world. For this program, I chose eight scenes, some of substantial length, that featured our sopranos. Many of the scenes were from operas that are not often performed in colleges such as Strauss’s Elektra’ and Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz.’ I had the opportunity to direct the openings of Strauss’s ‘Elektra’ and Britten’s‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ as well as sing in Dvorák’s'Rusalka’and Poulenc’s end scene of ‘Dialogues des Carmélites’as the New Prioress.

“Immediately after this program, UNT Opera began staging Marc Blitzstein’s ‘Regina,’in which I sang the role of Birdie Hubbard. This was the largest role I did at UNT, and I absolutely loved her. ‘Regina’ is set in Alabama around the turn of the 20th century. Birdie is Regina’s sister-in-law and is in an abusive marriage. We learn in the opera that she was married to Oscar Hubbard (Regina’s brother) because of the cotton plantation his family owned - that the Hubbards now own. However, Birdie has one love — music. She drunkenly stumbles on stage at the beginning of the opera and after a few lines sings this aria all about the beauty and power of music. Her musical line often sits in the upper register, and she tends to just break out into song — sometimes in not in the most appropriate situations. Through music, she found solace in a tragic situation,” Raible says.

While working on the opera, she was preparing her master’s recital. On March 16, she performed her recital for her family, a very small audience and her teachers. It was the last public performance given at UNT this past year.

“I guess I was the season closer. COVID-19 has greatly affected the music industry. I’m lucky that I was able to perform my recital while many of my friends either were not able to perform theirs or are hoping that they might be able to perform them in the fall,” she says.

You can see her performance in “Regina” on her YouTube channel.

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