As Sarah Saturnino recalls, “It all just happened at one fateful meeting in Chicago.” A fateful meeting where her vocal studies and musical career took a dramatic swing. A fateful meeting where she was essentially discovered.
For years, Sarah’s musical path was fairly straightforward. She performed in junior high musicals at Union Hill School in Grass Valley. She sang in the Concert Choir and Chamber Choir at Nevada Union High School. As a senior, she studied voice with Dr. Robin Fisher at California State University in Sacramento and was set to attend Sac State after graduation. And then her life turned.
In May of 2012, she attended a classical singer competition in Chicago. There she met Juliana Gondek, a professor of voice and opera studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. After hearing Sarah sing, Gondek invited her to join the music program at UCLA, right on the spot, even though Sarah hadn’t applied. Sarah was stunned and ecstatic.
“I went to the moon!” she said. “Talk about a life-changing experience!”
Once her feet were back on the ground, Sarah headed to UCLA, where she immersed herself in music. As part of her immersion, she dramatically shifted her repertoire. While she always sang the highest soprano part in high school, with her rich and full voice, Gondek made it clear she was a mezzo soprano instead.
When Sarah was a sophomore in high school, she began taking private singing lessons with Dorla Menmuir.
“It was with Dorla,” she notes, “that I sang my first aria and fell in love with opera.”
Fast forward through a whirlwind year at UCLA, where she and other vocal students are assisted by coaches from the L.A. Opera! She’s also had multiple opportunities to perform in choral groups and as a soloist, most notably this spring when she sang the role of the shepherd in Ravel’s opera “L’Enfant et les Sortileges” (“The Child and the Enchantments”).
As she wound up her freshman year, Sarah’s dedication and ability did not go unnoticed. Music in the Mountains selected her as the 2013 winner of the Lucy Becker Memorial Vocal Scholarship — a $1,500 talent-based award granted to an ambitious and serious-minded singer who definitely plans to study vocal performance at the college level.
Sarah will be officially acknowledged at MIM’s popular Happy Birthday USA concert at the Fairgrounds Wednesday. And chances are she will delight the audience when she sings George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” a perfect number for this time of year.
Sarah is the third recipient of the scholarship that honors the memory of Lucy Becker, a lyric soprano who was a featured soloist with Music in the Mountains for many years.
The 2011 winner, soprano Kali Hardwick, will continue her vocal studies at Fullerton College for another year before transferring to a conservatory. This past February she sang the lead role of Lauretta in Puccini’s comic opera, “Gianni Schicchi.”
The 2012 winner, soprano Meagan Rao, won first prize in a Pacific Music Society competition this spring. She recently graduated from Placer High School and plans to attend the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the fall.
And now, the 2013 winner, mezzo soprano Sarah Saturnino, is in the spotlight, poised to take her song into the world.
The Lucy Becker Memorial Scholarship is administered through MIM’s multifaceted education program, which brings classical music to youth and adults through appreciation, performances and composition.
For more about MIM, visit www.musicinthemountains.org.
Julie Becker is a Nevada County resident and sister of Lucy Becker.