Our Alumni: Anna '12
Meet Anna ’12, who credits her time at ASH in helping her navigate her experience as freelance opera singer and budding musical marketing entrepreneur.
What is your background at ASH?
I came to ASH in 2009 as a Sophomore, not having a clue about the expat world. I hadn't wanted to move, and I thought that I would go back to Houston after a year. That is where I'm from and had lived until having moved to the Netherlands with my dad. I quickly realized that something about my life here just made sense, and I decided to stay until I graduated three years later.
How did ASH help shape your path in life?
When I arrived, everyone was incredibly accommodating - which made it possible to continue studying music almost as intensely as I had in Houston (I went to a specialized arts school there for one year). I really felt like I was able to come into my own at ASH in so many ways. I discovered a love for fitness which I definitely didn't have before, took my Dutch from very basic to fluent, and was able to perform on stage in musicals as well as sing in the choir, which as a (now professional) singer, obviously I loved. My life in the Netherlands is basically a combination of doing these things on a daily basis, so my time at ASH was pretty formative.
What are you doing today?
After graduating from ASH, I threw myself into classical singing at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Training to become a professional singer became my life and I worked for a few years after my Master freelancing and trying to find my way in this career. Covid was a gigantic setback for both me and the profession, and to flex my performing muscles while we were in lockdown, I decided to start a vlog, OperaAnna. I talk about opera and the life of an opera singer in an attempt to pull back the veil of mystery that has shrouded the genre for a while. I want to make the genre more accessible to people who don't understand what's going on but would like to. Classical singers and instrumentalists tend to get really serious about what we do, but opera itself isn't serious. It's messy and funny and chaotic and that's what I try to give to people.
The experience of learning how to run a Youtube channel led me to experiment on social media in general, and I got pretty good at it. I find that a lot of musicians and cultural organizations struggle to find their way on social media, even though it's a great way to build a community, so I've recently started doing more work in social media management both for individual clients and for organizations like the NTR ZaterdagMatinee and the International Vocal Competition in 's-Hertogenbosch. I speak more about that in a recent interview I did for OperaWire. I love the creative work that goes into it but that gives me a break from the very challenging industry of classical singing and opera. Eventually, I would like to start a social media agency specialized in managing musicians and cultural organizations and balance it with singing as a freelancer, but that will take a few years! I
It's been a hard transition from full-time singing, especially with a new path that seemingly popped out of nowhere. If anything, though, my move to the Netherlands and being pleasantly surprised by my experience at ASH, I've learned that allowing life to guide you can be the change you didn't know you needed.
What is one of the most valuable things that you took from your time at ASH?
Coming to ASH and discovering the expat world as well as the Netherlands made me realize how shared experiences can bond people, no matter how different your background. I was really surprised by how genuinely nice everyone was and quite literally pulled me into the ASH community. I struggled a lot at my middle school in Houston because of a very unwelcoming group of friends, and I was not expecting to feel so at home with the other students at the school. (I'm literally tearing up as I write this.) This experience made going into a career where I continuously meet new people feel familiar. I do my best to help people feel at home, like the students at ASH did when I first got there.
Are there any standout moments or people from your time at ASH?
I'd like to shout out to (my fellow alum) Shani Arad - this was who pulled me into the ASH community. She kept me from feeling sorry for myself in being somewhere I didn't want to be, and gave me the courage to give ASH and the Netherlands a chance, which I'll forever be grateful to her for. Secondly, (ASH teacher) Mr. Yarnell and everyone in the IB Music course, as well as the course itself, became the highlight of my week. Mr. Yarnell still encourages me to this day and comes to my concerts as often as he can. If that's not the most supportive teacher ever, I don't know what is!
ASH is proud to celebrate the achievements of our alumni, who are committed to build a better world as we become better human beings.
*Photo credit: Edoland