Student Spotlight: Isabella Luchi and Cristian Guzman

Isabella Luchi MM, Vocal Performance

How did the opportunity arise for you to be invited to sing at Carnegie Hall?

The opportunity came through Kristof Van Grysperre. He was hired to prepare and conduct the Spring 2019 Opera production of “Too Many Sopranos” at APU. I was part of the cast and Cristian was playing the piano for us. Kristof will come back to coach and conduct Cosi Fan Tutte this spring. He is the Artistic Director of Angels Vocal Art, a non-profit organization that promotes summer festivals with opera programs and masterclasses. I applied for this past summer and got a partial scholarship, and Cristian was hired as a rehearsal pianist.

By the end of the summer program, they announced they would give a concert at Carnegie Hall later in September. They asked who would be available for that, and then selected twenty singers from the past five seasons. They brought to Carnegie their strings quintet and Cristian to play the piano.

What was your experience like leading up to the performances?

We had some rehearsals in LA with local singers before going to NYC. There we had three days of rehearsal, and a stage run the day of the performance. It was intense! Most singers were familiar with the repertoire and had done it in the past. I did two scenes as a lead role, and two as ensemble. The scenes I performed as a lead were Pronta io son and Saria possible both by Donizetti - and a great fit for my voice. We also had an amazing stage director, Mark Lamanna. Kristof and Mark conducted very enriching and productive rehearsals. The cast was very friendly and it was a very supportive environment.

Were there any experiences that impacted you?

One day in between rehearsals, one of the singers asked me how long I had been here in the U.S. I responded, "About a year and a half." And she said, "Wow! Less than two years and you're already singing at Carnegie!" I guess I hadn't realized it until she told me. I felt very fortunate and honored to be there. The hall was beautiful, with great acoustics and full audience. The orchestra and singers sounded wonderful. It was a warm and lovely night I'll never forget.

Cristian Guzman MM, Keyboard Collaborative Arts

How did you first come to Azusa Pacific University?

My musical journey began watching my father (pianist) and mother (singer) performing in many commercial music events back in Colombia when I was young. However, they wanted me to be a classically trained musician who would practice Beethoven, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff. I took lessons at a music conservatory which led to my performing with orchestras as a soloist but I was also collaborating with instrumentalists in recitals and auditions. These opportunities enabled me to grow as a musician which eventually led me to the APU music department, which I still think was the best decision for me.

How did the opportunity arise for you to be invited to play at Carnegie Hall?

At APU under the instruction and support of Dr. Joel Clifft, I eventually was connected with Krystoff Van Gryspierre, a conductor who hired me as an accompanist for his opera summer camp. Here I played almost three operas in piano reduction plus performances. The summer camp went so well that he eventually asked if I would play for him at Carnegie Hall.

What was it like performing there?

Carnegie Hall is an amazing venue to perform in. The acoustics there are amazing, and the opportunity to perform there was such a crucial experience for me. It was hard work, but I’m so glad that I did it!

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