Catherine Johnston – Orange County Register

As her beloved grandmother Gigi passed away with Alzheimer’s disease, Catherine Johnston contacted her through a song that Johnston says inspired and consoled the matriarch before her death.

The Orange County School of the Arts’ ability to inspire was evident to the judges who named her Vocal Music Artist of the Year.

Johnston, who transitioned from musical theater to opera while in high school, managed to combine the two talents to woo her listeners.

“I feel like I’m really emotional with these two pieces and I feel like I’m showing it through interpretation and acting,” Johnston said of his performances of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Chancun Le Sait” and “Allerseelen” by Richard Strauss.

“Allerseelen”, or All Souls Day in English, had special significance for Johnston, because of its themes of connection with the deceased.

“I feel like Gigi and I are still spiritually connected,” she said, “and this song is basically the bridge between the two of us.”

“Congratulations on your connection to the song by Strauss and your grandmother – it shows your heart,” noted Robin Buck, professor at UC Irvine in his comments.

According to Johnston teacher and nominator Ryan Reithmeier, director of classical voice at OCSA, “Catherine possesses an exceptionally powerful and sounding soprano instrument, which she uses with creative flair and solid technique.

The judges consistently praised her artistry and connection to music as well as the obvious joy she displayed.

Catherine Johnston, senior at the Orange County School of the Arts, is the Vocal Artist of the Year, performing at the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente on Sunday, April 18, 2021 (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register / SCNG)

This is fitting, because during the pandemic, Johnston launched an effort she called “The Joy Project” and partnered with the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County. Johnston called it “an online program focused on the lives of isolated older people and (teaching) the joy of music to young people with disabilities.”

View All Semi-Finalists for Vocal Music

Johnston said she intends to continue combining music and community service at the university. She plans to attend Northwestern University and earn a double major in classical voice and human communication sciences. She looks forward to being a part of the school’s outreach programs that bring music to underrepresented communities in Chicago.

See all nominees for vocal music

In this way, she could become, as Justice Louise Thomas, Associate Dean of Chapman proclaimed, “a great talent capable of changing lives in the future”.

Vocal Music Finalists

Vocal music is divided into three specialties: classical voice, commercial voice and non-classical voice. Artist of the Year Catherine Johnston is the finalist for classical voice.

The other finalists are:

Commercial voice: Ye Ji Kim, Orange County School of the Arts

Ye Ji Kim of Walnut, a final year student at Orange County School of the Arts, is the vocal music finalist in the Commercial Voice Specialty for Artist of the Year in 2021. (Photo with the kind permission of Abigail Arzola)

Kim, a senior at the Orange County School of the Arts, appears in interviews as reserved and gentle – the traditional “Asian-American trope,” as Kim calls it. Then she hits the microphone with a bass, blues, and powerful version of Etta James’ “A Sunday Kind of Love” and she went from stereotype to finalist in commercial voice. Kim says she wants to offer accurate representations of Asian-American history in music, in part because “I haven’t seen a lot of people like me in this area.”

Non-classical voice: Madison Miller, Lutheran High School in Orange

Madison Miller of Chino Hills, a final year student at Orange Lutheran High School, is the vocal music finalist in the specialty of non-classical voice for Artist of the Year in 2021. (Photo with the courtesy of Lori Miller)

Madison Miller cites empathy as one of her main qualities. Rushing through portfolios ranging from 17th century ‘Il Mio Bel Foco’, in its original Italian, to ‘Part of Your World’, from ‘The Little Mermaid’, Miller emerged as the finalist for the unclassical voice. . Miller hopes to advance in musical theater after college, where Judge Dennis Siebenaler, of Cal State Fullerton, commented, “Your stage presence would fill a theater.”

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