Singer and Performer
Julia Wade is a singer and performer who has had a very eclectic career, working in the classical, theatrical, and pop music worlds. She defines her own style by combining these elements. She says, "I've found a muse in my husband Peter Link, who has been writing specifically for me. He understands my emotional range and my love of 'fusing styles.' This is a very special collaboration." In our discussion, Julia shared ideas and experiences relating to different aspects of her career -- performing, auditioning, being prepared, teaching, dealing with competition, and having success when everything comes together. She also shared how the Bible has inspired her career and influenced her latest CD, "Upon The Mountain."
How and when did you know that you wanted to be a singer?
In high school. Though I started my early musical education as a flute player and was in heaven when I could do both band and choir during my first two years of high school, I had to make a choice my junior year when we moved. Without a moment's hesitation, I knew I had to be in choir. I didn't know what I was going to sing, but I knew I had to sing! It's been an adventure ever since. I trained early as a classical singer and sang opera professionally for about 15 years. Then, I found what my heart wanted most to do. I began to cross over into other genres at the concert level, in theatre, and especially in the recording studio. I began fusing different styles of classical, folk, pop, and theatrical music. I feel that this fusion best defines me at this moment.
You've had a successful music and performing career. What has driven your success?
I have a deep driving desire to realize my individual potential as an artist. The world of the performer is capricious. When it rains, it pours, and I joyfully embrace the projects that come. When the jobs don't come as easily, I just "go to work." I work really hard. I continue to train and hone my craft, network with industry folks, audition, and most importantly, I develop my own ideas and projects. I also remember that I keep at it because I love it. I love being expressive in a unique way that comes from within. Persistence is key to success, which is true of any career. I've found that the more you get into the world, the more you have to support yourself along the way. The one thing I've discovered is that I can learn a skill on the job if I have a reasonable opportunity. I'm grateful for those opportunities because they've made me stronger and more flexible.
What other type of work did you do?
In college I waitressed, which helped me work under pressure, multi-task, and gain all sorts of skills that I apply to performing. I also got into teaching. My high school choir teacher recognized in me a natural capacity to teach, so he encouraged me. He brought me back to my high school while I was in college to give lessons and workshops to the students. When I moved to Los Angeles, I became an Artist-In-Residence with both the Los Angeles Music Center and an educational company called The Performing Tree. I performed for and taught thousands of children of all ages for 6 years while performing professionally. To this day, I count that period of teaching as one of the most precious and important in my experience.
Why was teaching such an important experience?
It made me think deeply about what I did and what I wanted to do artistically. It helped me break down my craft and make it simple so that children could understand. I really liked communicating the goodness of my art form. During this time, I worked with children from every different socio-economic level and ethnic background. I taught in Watts, South Central, Pacific Palisades, San Bernardino, Riverside, and all points north and south. That whole experience culminated in my teaching for a year and a half at an arts-driven multi-cultural pre-school. I gradually realized that I had found a way to teach the same material -- songs, operas, theatre stories to all ages, from pre-schoolers to college students. I loved using great works of art as my teaching material because they are universal in that they can speak to any age.
Can you expand on what makes a work of art great?
Well, I think works of art that have the innate capacity to touch any receptive heart -- a grandmother, a CEO of a major corporation, or a five year old -- in a personal way defines great art for me. It's like the concept I've grown up with -- that love meets you right where you are, fulfilling your specific need. For instance, at one school in South Central, the teachers of the first through six graders and I put on a kid's version of Mozart's Magic Flute opera! Students from each grade were cast in the lead roles, and everyone participated in all aspects -- auditions, props, performance, resume writing, and programs! This experience was such a beautiful expression of a timeless piece of material working at a level where the children could learn and fully participate, and the teachers and families loved it as well. You know, I think of music as a complete circle of expression. Music is created to be heard and experienced. The composer, the lyricist, the performers, and the audience all complete the circle of expression by bringing their own expectations, thoughts, emotions, and receptivity to the table. And as a performer, one of my missions in life is to "allow" creativity, inner thoughts and emotions, to come through me.
What do you mean by allowing the work to come through you?
First I have to know where inspiration comes from. I like to borrow a phrase from my husband. As a composer, he says that his worst songs come "from" him and his best songs come "through" him. My best work comes through me as a result of getting myself and my preconceived notions out the way. I liken myself in inspired moments to a clear windowpane -- where I am letting the sunlight of inspiration, God's soulful ideas, shine right through me. My job is to keep my window clean -- free from fear, self-doubt, self-consciousness, or ego. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). That idea is very powerful because it takes the responsibility off of me personally and puts it into God's hands, which is the only place it really is.
What challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you handled them?
I've had to overcome colds and illnesses and still "go on with the show." I've had to overcome fear and self-doubt and learn how to get along with other people who don't manage their egos well. When I'm faced with self-doubt because I didn't get that "perfect job," I always go back to knowing who I am (God's child), what I am about (my "Father's business"), and why I'm doing what I'm doing (because I love this work and want to bless others). Whenever I'm doubtful of my abilities and wondering how I'm going to get the next job, I just keep on going and trust that God is always preparing the way for me. I also do what's practical: I stay in shape physically and as a performer so that I keep my instrument in tune. Most importantly, I try to maintain my spirituality and affirm that God is in control.
How do you deal with the competition that is so present in the performing world?
It's really easy to get suckered into thinking that I'm competing with hundreds of other people. The odds of actually getting work in New York are staggering. My job is to do my best work, keep my motives pure, be open to all possibilities, and know that God is taking care of my career and everyone's career. It's not my responsibility to worry about everyone else, but it is my responsibility to love them and to know that there's "radiant room" for each individual to express herself in a unique and God-given way.
One of the Bible stories that has helped me is Jesus' parable of the ten virgins who were supposed to keep their lamps full with oil so that they would be ready to go to the marriage ceremony when they were called. But some of the virgins don't take care of business, and when the call comes, their lamps aren't filled. They ask the other women to give them oil, but they say, "No," because if they give away their oil, they won't be able to trim their own lamps and be ready (Matt 25:1-13). Readiness is knowing yourself and your material, being prepared, being on time (which means being early), being mentally alert. If I have not done everything I know to prepare for a particular job or audition, then my lamp has not been filled properly. I can't lean on others' preparation and work. I also love the Bible verse, "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isa. 55:12). This has helped me in numerous situations just before I "go on" or walk through that door. I ask God to lead me and trust that whatever I have to give will be received in the spirit of giving. I also like the idea of the Christ going before me. The Christ is receiving me, and the Christ is flowing through me, so there are Christ-like qualities being expressed between the audience and me.
Your new CD, "Upon the Mountain," is inspired by the Bible. How did you develop it?
Peter and I sat down to do a sacred album to appeal to all kinds of people coming from diverse religious backgrounds. The Bible, for me, is a universal book filled with timeless truths about God and the nature of our relationship to Him. This book is a communal gathering place where people can get together (in church) or find the truth individually to apply to their own lives. As Peter and I talked about many Bible stories, we discovered that some of our favorites had to do with people who were struggling, searching, or on a spiritual journey.
One of the songs on the CD, "A Hole in My Life," (listen to a sample) is based on the woman who wants to touch the hem of Jesus' garment -- for healing and redemption. When she manages to press through the crowd and barely touch the edge of his cloak, Jesus knows somebody has received spiritual strength from him. I've always thought that the woman was afraid to reveal herself in front of the crowd, but the courage of her convictions prevails, and she presents herself humbly to Jesus. He praises her for going the extra mile -- for demanding healing. And she gets her healing. The woman in our song doesn't actually touch the hem, but she does touch the Christ and gets the answer to her problem. Solutions come because we ask, seek, and strive for resolution to our problems. Anyone's life can be changed by getting even just a glimpse of the truth.
The song "Prodigal" was, of course, inspired by the story of the Prodigal Son. I believe this song represents the experience most of us probably have had at least once in our life -- the moment when we wake up and realize, "Wow! I really blew it! I need to clean up and prove myself and get back into God's grace." This is a universal and timeless theme anyone can relate to. God's love is so universal and complete that He will hear us and answer us! My hope is that this CD communicates the idea that it doesn't matter who you are or what you're facing -- there's an answer to meet your need. You simply have to open your heart and be receptive.
How did you come up with the title for this CD?
One of the reasons we called the CD "Upon The Mountain" was that the songs, like Bible stories, chronicle different individual experiences of the journey up to higher understanding, or Truth. The songs represent different points along the climb up the mountain and culminate in the title song, "Upon The Mountain," whose message is very universal. After a long climb, when you get to the top of the mountain, you are rewarded with a higher view. You can see for miles and miles. I just love the idea that when you get to the top of the mountain, inspiration comes in a higher, clearer, purer way. I'm a mountain climber, so that has special meaning to me. I know what it is to keep going when the going gets tough, to get through adverse weather, and to climb up steep rocky slopes. You have to make wise decisions when you're out in the wilderness.
Are there any experiences that have been particularly rewarding for you?
Recently I had a great opportunity. I sang at the 13th Annual Movie Guide Faith and Value Awards in Hollywood. There was very little time and a lot of pressure. I had to be ultra prepared. I was performing at a live show which was being taped for TV at the same time. I worked really hard to make sure I knew what my role was in doing the show. I checked my thought constantly to keep fear out. On the day of the performance, I only had one fifteen minute rehearsal on the stage. In those short minutes, I had to be very focused and get comfortable in an unfamiliar environment very quickly. I needed to feel confident that when I walked out on stage in front of 600 industry professionals and a broad television audience, I would be in top form.
I performed a song from the new CD, which was a marvelous opportunity to share this album with a very interesting audience. My performance on stage was only the tip of the ice burg. All the preparation had been going on for a full month down to the tiniest detail. I really had to consider every single element, from the artistic and performing aspects to the logistical ones as well. The day of the performance was one that required many hours of focus and concentration: get my hair done at 10 a.m.; get warmed up and do my sound check at 2 p.m.; then have my make-up done at 4:30 pm; get warmed up again; and keep hair, make-up, and myself fresh for a 10 p.m. performance! It was an exercise in everything I had learned up to that moment in my life. It was ultimately an exercise in being balanced for that particular day which started at 8:00 in the morning and lasted until 1:00 that evening. I had the time of my life doing it, working on all the different elements that got me to that 5-minute spotlight in which I had the opportunity to step out confidently and move an audience. I was especially proud of that performance because all the elements were in place. I had worked hard. I put my hand in God's; I trusted; and I prevailed!
Do you have any last inspiring words to share with us about the world of performing?
I love the idea Jesus continually emphasized, that God is in control of everything and everyone. He said, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). It's helpful to acknowledge that nothing we do happens without the inspiration, strength, and ideas that come from God. And God is communicating to us 24-7. Our job is to listen for His direction, take those ideas as evidence of God's abundance, and do something with them!
Samples of Various Songs from Julia's "Upon the Mountain" CD
Visit Julia's website at www.juliawade.com and purchase her CD at www.peterlinkcreative.com/cdshop.html
About Julia Wade
Julia Wade is a performer who spans a number of different musical genres -- from classical to Broadway to pop. She has performed nationally and internationally in opera, cabaret, concert work, and musical theatre. Currently, Julia just finished her new solo album of inspirational songs, UPON THE MOUNTAIN, with music and lyrics written by composer Peter Link. The album is a wonderful fusion of classical, pop, and folk stylings.
On the opera stage, Julia was featured at the Rome Opera in Kurt Weill's LADY IN THE DARK. This production was conducted by Steven Mercurio and directed by Italian stage director, Giorgio Marini. Julia also appeared in a LADY IN THE DARK at Teatro Massimo, the Palermo Opera, where it was televised on RAI TV throughout Italy.
Other highlights of Julia Wade's operatic work onstage include leading roles in COSI FAN TUTTE, DIE FLEDERMAUS, LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, LA BOHEME, THE MAGIC FLUTE, THE MEDIUM, HANSEL AND GRETEL, MADAMA BUTTERFLY, SUOR ANGELICA, THE TELEPHONE, and THE FACE ON THE BARROOM FLOOR. In addition, Julia created principal roles in two world premieres: Eve and The Emcee in Henry Mollicone's HOTEL EDEN, and Anna in WEST OF WASHINGTON SQUARE by Alva Henderson.
Julia has performed with the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Keith Lockheart at Carnegie Hall. She has also been a guest artist at Merkin Concert Hall and CAMI Hall in New York City. Julia's solo cabaret concerts have taken her across the country as well as numerous performances at Don't Tell Mama, a well-known cabaret in New York City.
Julia recorded her debut solo album, THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD -- a contemporary classical CD of original inspirational music by composer Peter B. Allen. The album features Julia's performance of a forty-minute oratorio for soprano and orchestra, written specifically for Julia's voice. Mary Chun conducted the chamber orchestra composed of members of the San Francisco Symphony. (www.pbamusic.com)
Julia recently recorded 3 Broadway cast albums. She sang the leading role of Olivia, in POMPEII, the story of what happens to her on the day that Mount Vesuvius erupts -- book and music by Dorothy Papadakos. Julia also recorded the principal role of Sister Peggy, a children's shelter director in AFRICA PLUMBRIDGE, by Sue Carey and Karena Mendoza. In addition, Julia performed Woman In Black for the cast album SUNDOWN, by Joe Bravaco, Peter Link, and Larry Rosler. SUNDOWN was voted one of the Top 10 Theatrical Albums of 2004. Julia joins a wonderful cast of Broadway singers including Steve Blanchard, Judy McLane, and Patrick Ryan Sullivan. SUNDOWN is the story of the historic showdown at the OK Corral.
Most recently, Julia performed at the televised Movie Guide Awards Show in Hollywood. The show will air on the PAX Network. Currently, Julia is the principal soloist at the The First Church of Christ, Scientist at the world headquarters in Boston, MA. There, she performs in 3 services each Sunday, both in English and Spanish. Julia can also be heard on the internet broadcast of the English and Spanish services weekly. Julia is featured on regular airplay on the internet radio station www.healingmusic365.com.