MIM scholarship winner performs on July 3 | TheUnion.com

MIM scholarship winner performs on July 3

Julie Becker
Special to The Union
Soprano Katie Thorpe is the 2019 winner of the Lucy Becker Memorial Scholarship.
Submitted photo

Katie Thorpe began singing on stage at the age of 6 with the River City Theatre Company — a troupe for young performers based in Sacramento.

Music crept into her consciousness as a toddler when she first watched River City productions. As a little tyke, she was eager to run up on stage and meet the cast members after a show, and by the time she was in kindergarten, she was begging to join the company. But patience, patience — she had to wait a whole year until she was in first grade.

As a community theater group, River City produces two musical plays a year, with performers ranging in age from six to 19. As a youngster, once Katie got to sing and dance on stage, she was hooked — so enamored with musical theater that she remained with the company for 12 years, first grade through senior year in high school.

As a teenager, she earned several lead roles, playing Griddlebone in “Cats,” the Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella,” and Marian the Librarian in “The Music Man.” Whether assigned to the ensemble, a bit part or a lead, all told, she appeared in a total of 24 productions.

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After graduating from Granite Bay High School, Katie entered Sacramento State as a music major in the fall of 2017, focusing on vocal performance. She settled into college her freshman year, taking classes, lessons and learning the lay of the land. And then she hit pay dirt this past year as a sophomore. She joined the university’s Opera Theatre program and earned a role in the comic opera, “Game of Chance,” this spring. In addition, she placed third in Sac State’s Robert Dinsmore Opera Scholarship competition (unusual for a sophomore) and received an Honorable Mention award at Opera Modesto’s Youth Competition — both in March.

In late April, she appeared in Grass Valley and was selected by Music in the Mountains as the 2019 winner of the Lucy Becker Memorial Scholarship, a talent-based award, upped to $2,000 this year, granted annually to an aspiring young singer. The judges at her audition were impressed by the strength and beauty of her soprano voice, as well as her natural stage presence.

All in all, Katie got off to an early start with her music. Besides first singing on stage at the age of six, she began taking private voice lessons at the age of eight — which was a good thing considering her singing style.

“I was a belter as a child,” she notes, which may have been charming as a little kid on stage, but without proper instruction, she could have damaged her vocal cords. “Kids’ voices are delicate,” she explains, and she had to learn how to use the big voice she’d been given.

No doubt, because of her early training and experience, she’s developed an interest in vocal pedagogy — basically the science of voice instruction and singing technique: breathing, diction and posture, as well as vocal anatomy. Her lessons with voice professor Robin Fisher have increased her interest in this field, and as a result, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in vocal studies after she graduates from Sacramento State. She’s aware of the challenges musicians face trying to craft a living, so she envisions a future that involves teaching, performing, and who knows? Maybe taking a side job backstage. Sort of a patchwork career with singing at the hub.

Although Katie’s early background was in musical theater, at this stage in her life she’s concentrating on classical music and opera.

“I have a different love of each genre,” she says. “Musical theater has a feeling of family, with ‘over the top’ acting and bolder singing — and you have to look like the role.”

By contrast, she points out, in opera, the singing itself is the focus, rather than physical appearance. And this has become her preference.

Katie is the ninth recipient of the scholarship that honors the memory of lyric soprano Lucy Becker, who was a featured soloist with Music in the Mountains for many years. Katie will perform and be officially recognized at MIM’s Patriotic Pops concert on July 3 at the Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. In keeping with the theme of Americana, she will be singing “Take Care of This House” by Leonard Bernstein, written for his play: “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

In a reference letter for Katie, prepared for her scholarship application, Robin Fisher wrote, “Given her talent for singing and her acumen for learning vocal technique and performance skills, Katie promises to be one of our outstanding young professionals very soon.”

So along with the festive hoopla on July 3, here’s a chance to hear an upcoming performer early on in her career.

Julie Becker is the sister of Lucy Becker and helps to oversee the annual scholarship.

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