Passion for performance sends CWU Music standout to Italy and beyond

  • April 17, 2024
  • Rune Torgersen

Ever since she was 12, Mac Sherman has been singing her heart out.

Starting in middle school, the senior vocal performance major at Central Washington University discovered a life-long passion for the stage. Sherman studied music all the way through high school, developing into a gifted vocalist and setting the stage for a highly successful college career filled with hands-on experiences and the promise of a bright future as a performing artist.

Sherman was introduced to CWU’s music program when she and her Centralia High School classmates attended the annual State Solo and Ensemble festivals. Her first impressions of the program led her to apply to CWU right out of high school—a decision that set the stage for a deeply rewarding college experience.

“My professors here have really changed my entire life,” said Sherman, who will graduate in June. “I came here because I thought it’d be a great opportunity to grow my voice and my experience, and it has exceeded those expectations in every way possible.”

During Sherman’s freshman year, her vocal coach Dr. Gayla Blaisdell encouraged her to audition for the National Association of Teachers of Singing’s regional competition. She ended up winning, and her newfound confidence led her to consider shifting her focus from music education to performance. After spending two years as a double major, she settled on the performance track thanks to her participation in CWU’s opera productions, including this spring’s presentation of Die Fledermaus, in which she held a starring role.

“Opera really convinced me that performance was the way to go,” Sherman said. “It’s always a risk, because the job market as a performer can be unpredictable, but with the experience I have thanks to CWU, I’m confident that I'll be able to make a career out of it."

Opera has fascinated Sherman since she started singing, particularly the arias that often accompany the genre. Since arias are traditionally sung by one single vocalist, backed up by an orchestra or pianist, they allow the performer to put their whole understanding of their character on display, and show audiences all the emotions of the moment they might otherwise have missed.

“There’s something about arias, the way the plot and messaging of the story is infused into the music, that’s like nothing else,” Sherman said. “It’s all I can think about when I’m singing—how my character is feeling—because most of the pieces I sing are in French or German. So, in order for the audience to understand what’s happening, the emotions under the music need to show up on stage.”

In the summer of 2023, Sherman’s passion for the opera led her to apply to Saluzzo Opera Academy, a prestigious summer arts program near Milan, Italy. Being accepted to the program provided her with an opportunity to embark on an adventure that only served to further cement her love for the art form, as well as her excitement for her future in the field.

“It was literally the single greatest experience I’ve had in my entire life,” Sherman said. “I think about it all the time. The people there were so nice, and just being able to walk down the street to get a cappuccino and speaking Italian to everyone was life-changing.”

As part of the program, Sherman worked with performers and coaches from all over the world to stage a production of Suor Angelica, an opera about a nun who has been separated from her child. As one of the show’s nuns, as well as a member of the chorus, Sherman spent almost the entire show on stage for all three nights of the production.

Aside from the main show, Saluzzo gave Sherman the opportunity to work individually with world-renowned singers and vocal coaches, some of whom she’s still in contact with as part of her networking efforts.

“This is really how you get started in the world as a performer,” Sherman said. “You have to know people and make connections to really see your career take off. Experiences like this one, where I got to sing side by side with my peers from across the world—these are what will ultimately help me find the wind in my sails as a vocal performance professional.”

After commencement, Sherman plans to take a year off to work on her repertoire and further enhance the skills she has developed at CWU, which include singing in English, French, German, and Italian. Then, she will enroll in a master’s degree program, where she’ll continue to develop a voice that has already captivated people around the world.
 

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