, / Singer Spotlight: Neal Ferreira, Tenor

      1. Neal Ferreira has become a familiar face to BYSO, having performed in six of BYSO's operas. We sat down with Neal to learn a bit more about the life of an opera singer and his experience singing with BYSO.
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    BYSO: What is a typical “day in the life” of a professional opera singer?
NF: For me, my typical day varies greatly depending on whether I am working at home or on the road. I have three children and my wife works full time, so when I'm home much of my day revolves around getting the kids off to school in the morning, cleaning up around the house, helping them with homework when they get home, cooking dinner, and shuttling them to practices and lessons in the evening. I also teach voice lessons and sing regularly in churches all over the area, so my wife and I are often juggling our schedules to make sure one of us is home for the kids. No matter how crazy my day is though, it is very important for me to find time to exercise and practice. Those two things help to keep me grounded and feeling good. When I'm traveling for a show, there is much more time to spread out. I allow myself to sleep in a little bit more, then after breakfast I always start the day with some kind of exercise (running, lifting, cycling, yoga). Before the day's rehearsal I give myself some time to get caught up on emails, do a little warming up and practicing, and spend a while going through the music and scenes we will be working on that day. Depending on the schedule for the day, I like to get out and explore the town a bit, visit a coffee shop, and make sure to get in some reading or score study for upcoming projects. If there is a performance that day, I try to take it easy as much as I can so that I am rested and ready to give my best performance. Establishing a routine is important for me when I'm on the road. I think that is true for most singers I know, although everyone certainly has their own individual needs and preferences.
      1. BYSO: When did you decide to pursue a professional life in music?
NF: I remember the exact moment - it was my senior year of high school. One afternoon I was driving from jazz band practice at my school (I played the clarinet and saxophone) to our sister school where I was rehearsing for their spring musical. The weekend prior I was lucky enough to perform as part of the RI All-State Festival Chorus. I had all of these musical experiences running through my head and I thought, "I love all of these things so much. If I can make make my life in music, whether it be playing in a band or performing on stage or singing in a chorus, that would be pretty amazing." I never thought for a moment that I would end up as an opera singer, but life has a funny way of working out the way you least expect it and putting you exactly where you're supposed to be.
      1. BYSO: How is it different to sing with a youth orchestra versus an adult professional orchestra?
NF: I need to start by saying that I am so beyond impressed by these kids every single time I work with them. Their level of musicianship and dedication at that age is awe-inspiring. They play incredibly well, and I love that they seem to really enjoy the process. The biggest difference I notice is rehearsal time. With a professional orchestra, you probably only have two or three rehearsals with them prior to performance. There is little time to work things extensively and truly gel as an ensemble. Of course everyone is a pro and you know the final product will be good, but it often feels rather rushed. Working with the BYSO is a real treat for us to be able to spend many hours over multiple weeks working with the orchestra. With opera it is important for the kids to learn how to listen to the voice, and this helps the singers to feel settled and confident that we know what to expect. By the time the performance arrives, we are all actually feeling the music together as opposed to just doing our part and hoping for the best.
      1. BYSO: What are your other hobbies and interests?
NF: I really enjoy reading, although I don't get nearly as much time to do it as I would like. I tend to focus on books about music or religion and spirituality, but I am also a big fan of novels. I try my best to keep up with what my kids are reading, but that's a losing battle. When the weather is nice, I am an avid frisbee golfer. I keep my discs in my car just in case I have an hour to spare and can pop out for a quick round. In the last few years I have taught myself to play the guitar and ukulele, so I'm often learning new songs and fiddling around late into the evenings. I am a serviceable carpenter and home handyman, which is good because I own a big old Victorian house. I always have a number of projects going at any given time. Oh, and I'm a Boston sports nut.
      1. BYSO: What advice do you have for our young musicians?
NF: Practice. Practice for yourself. Practice for the sake of practicing. Make it a daily habit and enjoy it! If you're really passionate about being a professional musician, keep working towards your goals and don't give up. This business is tough and the attrition rate is high. The people who succeed are usually the ones who stick with it long enough for their opportunity to come along. Be open to what comes and don't be afraid to forge your own path. Your career does not have to look like anyone else's for you to be happy. Above all, make music because you love it. You can come hear Neal perform in Bizet's Carmen with the Boston Youth Symphony on Sunday, January 28 at Sanders Theatre! Neal's roles with BYSO:
      1. Le Remendado, Bizet’s Carmen, 2018 Roderigo, Verdi’s Otello, 2016 Amelia’s servant/Judge in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, 2015 Spoletta in Puccini’s Tosca, 2014 Borsa in Verdi’s Rigoletto, 2013 Bardolfo in Verdi’s Falstaff, 2012
      3. Pictured: Neal performs the role of Roderigo in BYSO's production of Verdi's Otello, January 2016. Also pictured: Weston Hurt. Photo by Michael Lutch.
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