Kate Aldrich at LA.

From left: LA Senior Sam Bailey, Choir Director Beth Preston, Kate Aldrich, and LA senior Cayleigh Hearth participated in a Master Class in singing on April 15, 2016.

Kate Aldrich is a local girl who has hit the big time. Born and raised in Damariscotta, Aldrich is an internationally acclaimed mezzo soprano who rose to international fame in 2001 through her starring role in the Zeffirelli production of Aida. In the 15 years since then,  Aldrich has performed all over the world, and now lives in Rome.

Aldrich attended Great Salt Bay and Lincoln Academy, where she graduated in 1992. “When I was a senior I seriously thought about not going to college at all, but staying here and seeing if my rock band would make it.”

After being offered a scholarship at Ithaca College, Kate decided to go to college as a music major. It was there that she discovered a love and talent for classical vocal performance. She went on to complete a Master’s Degree at the Manhattan School of Music, and then a career in professional opera.

This spring Aldrich spent several months at home with her parents, Cally and Tom Aldrich, and her five-year-old daughter in Newcastle before returning to Europe to sing Carmen, one of her signature roles. While in Newcastle, Aldrich took the time to visit her alma mater to work with young singers, conducting a master class for three members of Lincolnaires, LA’s auditioned chamber choir, on April 15.

The master class took place in the Poe Theater, where other choir students watched their peers learn from a world-class musician. Aldrich started the class with a vocal warm up for everyone, and the assurance that she was not planning to teach vocal technique as much as how to incorporate expression into a performance. She explained to students, “I’m not going to focus on vocal technique, vocal prowess, or how you move on stage. I want to see expression, and connection with the text.”

Each of the three students who worked with Aldrich sang a piece that they had prepared for their college auditions, and then were coached through the piece by Aldrich, who worked through their song phrase by phrase, pointing out how small changes in breath, diction, and text interpretation, can entirely change a performance.

Kate Aldrich and Addison Vermilion

Kate Aldrich (R) coaches LA senior Addison Vermilion during a master class in singing.

Senior Addison Vermillion, who plans to study theater and performance at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia next year, said that the most useful part of the workshop was “learning how to how to control my breathing, and how to better articulate certain vowels.”

“It was a privilege meeting Kate Aldrich,” Vermillion continued. “She was so enthusiastic about working with us, and gave a lot of helpful corrections. She is so successful yet came back and dedicated some of her time to the students in Lincolnaires, which is both a testimony to her character, and to the music program at Lincoln Academy.”

Cayleigh Hearth is an LA senior who plans to study performance at SUNY Purchase in New York state after graduation. She got coaching from Aldrich on a song from the musical Faust written by Randy Newman, and reflected, “working with Kate was tons of fun. She truly wanted all of us to embrace our character, no matter if it was classical or musical theater. Kate showed us that each note was important and the feeling you put into each note was even more so. I wish we could have kept working!”

Sam Bailey is a senior headed to the Boston Conservatory in the fall to study vocal performance. After working with Aldrich on a classical German piece that he had originally prepared for his college auditions he said, “working with Kate Aldrich was a fantastic experience; although I wish we had more time, it was helpful to get training from someone who’s already in the field I’m pursuing in the future.”

“It was so great to have Kate come to work with the kids,” said Lincoln Academy Choir Director and Music Teacher Beth Preston. “We have some very gifted and motivated singers in the choral program, many of whom study privately. The master class is usually something they would only get to experience in a college setting. This was an amazing opportunity for them to get personal coaching. Kate is a master teacher!”

Aldrich herself was modest about her teaching. “Master classes are easy; we get to do the quick-fix stuff. You get to really dig into one musical piece, tear it apart, find the essence of it. The long term learning is the hard part,” she went on, giving full credit to Preston’s teaching over four years with these students. “Master classes are a learning experience for me as well. You get to see how a single song grows in a short period of time. See how today went? It was exciting, fun, satisfying; all of those students improved so much in a few minutes. I like teaching master classes, because it’s fun to see the discovery of some of the skills that we as performers take for granted. It is fun to be a part of this kind of learning again.”