Class of 2018: Samantha Long sings with body and soul

MyVU has profiled 14 members of the Class of 2018. We’re featuring their stories in the lead up to Commencement on May 11.

Samantha Long is an Eldon Stevenson Scholar. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)
Samantha Long is an Eldon Stevenson Scholar. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

Samantha Long, a Johnston, Iowa, native majoring in musical arts (voice) at Blair School of Music, came to Nashville with many interests, not certain if music would be her path. But after doing a bit of searching, she found that singing was still her passion.

“I explored a lot of things—political science, neuroscience, communications,” she said. “I was explaining this to a friend in an opera production my sophomore year, and she said, ‘Oh, so you don’t want to perform?’ And I realized right then—yes, I do want to perform.”

The soprano has performed in Vanderbilt Opera Theatre productions each year, including a featured role in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass (2015), the lead role of Jo in Mark Adamo’s Little Women (2016), and the demanding role of Countess Almaviva in last fall’s production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Last summer Long attended Prague Summer Nights, touring the Czech Republic as the Second Lady in Mozart’s Magic Flute, and spent the rest of the summer in France at Festival Lyrique International de Belle-Île en Mer in the ensemble of Elixir of Love by Donizetti. She said she finds the feeling of singing addicting.

“If I’m singing a B flat at the climax of a piece, I feel all the vibrations around me and through my voice and my body. Singing is interesting, because you can’t see what makes the sound the way you can look at piano keys as you play,” she explained. “Learning voice technique comes down to focusing on how you’re feeling tension or release or breath. Your body is your instrument, so you have to be really attuned to how you feel the music. A lot of our education is about how to access that feeling on cue.”

This fall, Long will pursue a master of music in vocal performance at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Her Vanderbilt education has included service work through a summer in Russia in 2016 as the recipient of a Nichols Humanitarian Fund grant. She valued that experience so much, she added a minor in Russian to her degree program. Closer to home, Long and fellow students in a Lyric Theater class worked with clients of the Mary Parrish Center for victims of domestic and sexual violence to create a show based on narratives about their lives.

“I think one of the best ways art can serve others is by giving a voice to those who have had their voices quieted in some way,” she said.

–Bonnie Arant Ertelt