Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Thus far, my career path has taken many twists and turns. It is hard to point to one source of inspiration, but one “Aha!” moment happened after I had participated in a music institute for two summers in Bridgeport, Connecticut. There, I collaborated with some of the most gifted musicians I’ve ever met. We formed lifelong friendships, and pushed each other to hone our craft to the highest level. I knew I wanted more of that. These experiences fanned my passion for music into a flame of purpose. My love of storytelling also fuelled my decision to choose music as a career. For me, telling a story transcends genre barriers. Sometimes, that means spinning a tale with strands from the classical tradition, rock rhythms and instruments, and Celtic ornamentation. Other tales call for other combinations.
This art of fusion lies at the very heart of my purpose as a singer-songwriter. I’ll never forget being sixteen — driving down the windswept New Mexico desert highway with my dad, listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” During those moments, I felt limitless hope for the power of music, and I knew that I wanted to share that same hope with others by making music that blurs and crosses genre boundaries. For a sample of what I mean, listen to this track from my soon-to-released album.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
When I first heard Loreena McKennitt’s rendering of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott,” I knew I wanted, like her, to tell stories through music. I avidly listened to any album of hers that I could find, marveling at the versatility of her musical language and power to weave it with words to create magic. Her work especially influenced this track on my new album, Songs of the Summer Realm.
Many of my other influences have been literary ones — J.R.R. Tolkien, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Louisa May Alcott to name a few. As far as role models of a musician’s discipline and work ethic, my teachers Leslie Umphrey and Sharon Christman are shining examples.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Forming a career like mine that weaves together many musical genres presents the unique challenge of answering the question, “Where do I fit?” In our highly specialized world that, in some ways, depends on genre classification, I continually have to find creative ways of connecting with audiences who appreciate my unconventional projects.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
My new album, Songs of the Summer Realm, which was released in May. On it, I use my classical training to synthesize elements of the Celtic folk tradition with elements of rock, jazz and Renaissance music. The songs on the album are based on the Celtic Arthurian tradition, and Influenced by artists such as Loreena McKennitt, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span. I wrote the music and many of the lyrics, which are based on Arthurian themes. The remaining songs have lyrics taken directly from Arthurian literature. Collaborating artists on the project include Lorne MacDougall of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the Tannahill Weavers, Mary Ann Kennedy, and Euan Stevenson.
Listen to one of its tracks here.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
In terms of classical repertoire, I have a strong affinity for singing works by Mozart and by composers who write in the bel canto tradition like Bellini and Donizzetti. I love repertoire that lets me sing lots of coloratura and to use the breadth of my range. Italian Baroque composers like Vivaldi, Monteverdi, and Isabella Leonarda, with their passion and lyricism, are also some of my favorites.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Much depends on what kinds of programmes presenters request.
Sometimes, as with Songs of the Summer Realm, I will plan performances around specific projects.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love any venue where the audience is excited about the music and where the acoustics help to tell the story. Some of my favorite places to perform are Boston’s Jordan Hall, the Teatro Municipal in Trujillo, Peru, and the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
It’s impossible to choose! Each performance has a magic all its own.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
For me, success means making a living by performing, touring, writing songs, recording, and collaborating with other musicians. It means serving others by doing what I love.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Your gift is unique — unrepeatable and irreplaceable. You owe it to yourself and to others to nurture it with discipline and passion.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
In ten years, my husband and I will be living in a renovated castle in Scotland or Wales that we have made in to a center of creativity and collaboration. I will divide my time between touring internationally and working on new recordings and other musical projects at home with musicians who come from around the world to work with me and with my creative business team.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is to know that I have found my purpose and that I am realizing it every day. It is to serve others by doing what I love. It is to awaken each morning looking forward to what the day will bring. It is to share my days with people who are dear to me. It is to bring beauty into the world through my work and way of living.
Jessica Victoria’s debut classical crossover album, ‘Songs Of The Summer Realm’, was released on May 1st 2020