Bailey performs in Opera Festival in Rome, Italy

Jessica Bailey spent six weeks in Italy this summer performing in the Opera Festival in Rome.

When she applied to the Opera Festival in Rome on a whim in March, senior vocal performance major Jessica Bailey never believed she would spend six weeks of her summer in Italy performing in two operas.

She sent an application and two short performance videos to the program in March and heard back from them in April, she said.

Senior Rachel Miller said many apply for programs like this, but for Bailey to apply and get it right away was wonderful.

“We were all very excited to have one of the members of our opera representing our school on such a large scale,” she said.

Director of Choral Activities Ian Loeppky said everyone in the choral ensemble was proud and excited for Bailey.

“Opportunities like this are offered to only the best young singers,” he said.

Bailey traveled to Italy in May with the chamber choir. When the choir left she spent the next week in her hotel room preparing for the operas.

She was scheduled to perform in two operas, “Le Nozze di Figaro,” (“The Marriage of Figaro,”) by Mozart and “Suor Angelica,” (“Sister Angelica,”) by Puccini, she said.

While studying and trying to learn the pieces she would perform, old doubts and fears came back to her, she said.

Growing up, Bailey struggled with reading and learning words and was put in different classes in school to help her learn.

“I was put into reading and math classes when I first started to read,” she said. “I remember playing computer games that were catered to learning. I guess that’s what really started the songs for learning and how I understood things more.”

It was not until she began working with her vocal coach, Gene Anne Gifford, six years ago that she understood why she was having problems.

Gifford, an adjunct professor in the music department who also teaches in her own studio, said she noticed Bailey’s struggles with learning.

She said she thought it may be dyslexia because she and her son are both dyslexic.

She began using teaching techniques used with dyslexic people and immediately saw an improvement in Bailey’s learning.

Bailey said she made mistakes while trying to learn the pieces for the operas, but writing things down and fixing the errors helped her not make them again.

“The main thing I have found is it usually becomes worse in times of stress,” she said.

“When I learn a new piece with a new language, my brain creates a brick wall and prevents any information from going in.”

She said she has little tricks to help her learn, such as speaking the word several times, then speaking it in sentences and recording it so she can listen to it while she drives.

Bailey said her role as Sister Genevieve in “Sister Angelica,” the third highest role in the opera, was challenging.

“Of all the nuns she is the only one that has an Aria, or a solo line,” she said.

Bailey said she remembered feeling anxious before performing but afterward felt she had done the very best she could for that character.

Though her struggles prevented her from performing the role she was originally intended to perform in “The Marriage of Figaro,” she said she was happy about what she had accomplished.

Bailey said she believes she has come a long way from where she was just two years ago, and her time in Italy has helped her even more.

Gifford said Bailey works hard toward her goals until she achieves them.

Freshmen in the vocal performance department must learn and memorize four songs per semester, she said. Bailey learned 21 during her second semester as a freshman.

Bailey said she hopes she can be an inspiration to others who are pursuing their own dreams.

“I want to be able to be so immersed in my craft that somebody looks at me and says, ‘because of you, I didn’t give up,’” she said.