Rochelle Ellis to celebrate her 25th year at Westminster Choir College with free concert

Rochelle EllisSUBMITTED PHOTO
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Rochelle EllisSUBMITTED PHOTO

Soprano Rochelle Ellis will be joined by pianist Akiko Hosaki for a free concert in the Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College in celebration of Ellis’ 25 years at the college.

The production, titled “Endless Song,” will feature numerous pieces of music that Ellis has described as meaningful.

“I wanted to do a recital for the 25th year,” Ellis said. “Westminster is going through its own changes with possibly moving and going to the Lawrenceville campus and the Princeton campus means a lot to all of us, we have been there so long, and I wanted to the opportunity to sing one more time in Bristol Chapel, so I just thought that it would be nice to put together some songs that mean a lot to me throughout my years, both early and recent things.”

With a program featuring songs by Ravel, Srauss and John Carter, Ellis says to have something for everyone included in her program.

“I think [the program] will be something that the audience enjoys because it’s a variety of styles,” she said. “For the people who want the European classic old things, I have that. For the people who want something a little more ethnic, I’ll have that. I’m looking forward to it.”

Accompanied by Hosaki, Ellis gave credit for the collaboration that the two have shared after so many years of working together.

“I’ve been working with Akiko Hosaki, who is my accompanist and partner-in-crime,” she said. “We have been together for these whole 25 years and she pretty well has exclusively played for me whenever I do things. It’s just always fun to collaborate with people who you know so well. I’m so confident that whatever needs to be done, she’ll take care of it. There’s such a collaboration between the pianist and the singer that you really become one in many ways – it’s like a pitcher and a catcher. You can really count on each other and know what the other person is going to do. You can just relax and sing, and that’s something that I really like.”

Reflecting on her past 25 years, Ellis said one of the greatest parts of her career has been the influence she has had on her students.

“It’s been a lot of music making, that’s for sure; but, a lot of personal growth, not only as a teacher and a performer, but as a person,” Ellis said. “To see the changes in the students throughout the years, to talk to the students and keep up through Facebook and see how students have grown – it’s really humbling to feel that you have a small part in influencing them. My philosophy of teaching is really that when you’re opening yourself to being a singer, you’re opening yourself to being a person too.”

When it comes to performing, Ellis has always credited herself and her students to their ability to become open.

“There’s a vulnerability when you are up there [performing], it’s just you. You don’t get to hide behind your saxophone or your piano – you don’t have anything in front of you; it’s just you and the audience,” she said. “You have to be able to set aside your own ego to be able to concentrate on creating something. That takes a lot of commitment, it takes a lot of relief, it takes a lot of getting out of your own way. I tell my students, ‘You don’t make yourself sing, you allow yourself to sing.’”

From teaching at Westminster Choir College, Princeton University, the Princeton Festival and the Trenton Children’s Chorus, Ellis’ influence on students, as well as her influence on song, will continue to inspire.

“After 25 years, I don’t know if I’m going to be hanging up the old voice, but at the same time, it’s something that has been a really long time [coming]. I’m looking forward to just relaxing and having a good time and representing,” she said.

 

Soprano Rochelle Ellis and pianist Akiko Hosaki will present a concert titled “Endless Song” on Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, 101 Walnut Lane, Princeton.