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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Arts for Youth Spotlight

Martha Eason as Atalanta in Handel's
Martha Eason as Atalanta in Handel's "Xerxes"
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Martha Eason on her way to Carnegie Hall

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | November 26, 2013

Martha Eason started taking piano lessons when she was 4. Later she began to study voice – first in the Highlands Youth Ensemble and then privately with Beth McCoy.

She says she never really enjoyed performing, other than with an ensemble, until just a couple of years ago, while in college. She is studying in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University and performing opera.

"It is stressful getting out there all by yourself," she says. "Now that I've figured out ways to deal with my nerves – I love it. There's nothing more thrilling. I love opera because it's so complex yet completely accessible if you come at it the right way. It's fun to perform because you get your whole body involved. The more I learn about it the more I love it."

Her most recent role is Sophie in Indiana University Opera Theater's production of "Werther." Her next opportunity is singing with an ensemble called NOTUS that focuses on contemporary works.

"We recently performed Caroline Shaw's "Passacaglia' and will be performing and premiering several other works at Carnegie Hall in the spring," she says.

She has performed as the Second Spirit in Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte" with the Ash Lawn Opera, and Offenbach's "Orfée aux Enfers" with University of Virginia Opera Viva. Her recent credits at IU include Ms. Silverpeal in Mozart's "The Impresario," Serpina in Pergolesi's "La Serva Padrona" and Atalanta in Handel's "Xerxes."

During her role as Atalanta, this light lyric-coloratura discovered that she "loves singing Handel. Gary Thor Wedow conducted, and the whole cast just soaked up everything we could about performance practice when it came to Handel," she says. "We learned when and how to ornament, how to make our da capo arias interesting, and how to improvise our own cadenzas, etc. I find that there's so much freedom with Handel and a lot of music around that time, because it's all about the fireworks the performer can pull off. It took learning more about Handel to really love it."

Her biggest influences are the teachers who helped her learn and her parents.

"Beth McCoy and my choir director at Abingdon High School, Rose Payne, were big influences early on. When I went to the University of Virginia, voice teacher James Taylor (and the amazing voice faculty there in general) were very inspiring. My advisor, Michael Slon, played a big part in where I am now. He is an IU grad and the reason why I chose to continue my musical studies at the Jacob's School," Martha says. At IU, she is a student of Costanza Cuccaro.

McCoy says of her former student, "In her last opera at Jacobs, a couple of weeks ago, she was the only singer who got spontaneous applause – twice. She is auditioning for the Met in January, plus making top grades in graduate school. She is truly remarkable and very special to me, too."

Martha has performed also as a featured soloist with the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestras and the Oratorio Society of Virginia. At IU she has been heard as a soloist on several works including Mahler's Fourth Symphony, Zelenka's "Misere Mei, Deus" with Pro Arte, and Mozart's "Great Mass in C minor" with the IU Summer Music Festival.

In addition to singing, Martha also plays the Celtic harp and the piano. She "dabbles" in playing the mandolin.

Martha is pursuing a Master of Music in voice performance. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the McIntire Department of Music's Distinguished Majors Program. She plans to earn a doctorate at IU "while singing anything anywhere." She is the daughter of Mark and Beverly Eason of Abingdon, Va.

"Music means everything to me. It is what I love and also what frustrates me most," she says.

Martha Eason as Sophie in Massenet's "Werther," with tenor Michael Brandenburg as Werther