March 28, 2023

Meet MSM Vocal Arts student soprano Samara Bowden (MM ’24)

First-year master’s student Samara Bowden (MM ’24) tells us about moving to NYC, why she enjoys studying at MSM, and her role in MSM Graduate Opera Theatre’s upcoming production of Svadba taking place March 31 and April 1.

Samara Teine ‘Aulelei Bowden got her musical start singing gospel, R&B, and pop. She made the transition to classical music during her undergraduate degree studies at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama where she sang with the world-renowned choir group at the university, The Aeolians, and studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

Samara credits her undergraduate teacher, Dr. Julie Foster, for pushing her to pursue a serious career in opera. Most recently, she participated in LA Opera’s HBCU Comprehensive Cohort under Russell Thomas and performed with the NY Philharmonic Chorus led by Malcolm Merriweather, the director of the MSM Chorale.

Samara currently studies with Catherine Malfitano at MSM, and says she feels “extremely blessed to be an artist citizen.”

Why did you decide to study voice at MSM?

Samara: I remember coming to visit the campus in December of 2021 and immediately realizing that this was where I needed to be. This moment happened before I truly decided which voice teacher I wanted to work with and before I received any results of being accepted. However, in my heart, I had this intuitive lead that MSM would be the place to propel my dreams into reality.

How was your move from Florida? What advice do you have for people making a larger move to NYC?

Samara: I honestly became a “professional mover’ between the months of May to August of 2022. After graduating from Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, I moved back home to Florida and a few months later began my arrival in NYC. I say that I became a “professional mover” because I learned the art of letting go and the fulfillment received from knowing you have helped someone else in the process.

My advice is for the people who like a large variety of clothes! Before coming to NYC, I spent a great amount of time creating a capsule wardrobe unique to my style so that I could create multiple looks from a few statement pieces. This allowed me to donate a lot of quality items to places like Goodwill and Salvation Army, but it also helped me to unlock another side of circumstantial creativity due to limited space. It feels great to let things go to make space for what is to come.

Samara Bowden (right) singing in an MSM Graduate Opera Scenes performance

As a master’s student who was recently appointed to an RA position, what would you like to tell potential graduate students who are interested in living in Andersen Hall?

Samara: I think the best advice is to put everything into perspective. As graduate students, the typical program length is two years. Time seems to flies by very fast, and when I put things into perspective for myself, the convenience of living on campus is immeasurable. Living in a shared space with shared bathroom facilities always poses many challenges, but after weighing out my pros and cons as an introvert, having a single room grants me the peace I need to recharge. I also love that I can avoid harsh elements and an unpredictable daily commute due to the connectivity of the residence life and campus.

“… in my heart, I had this intuitive lead that MSM would be the place to propel my dreams into reality.”

What makes studying voice in NYC special? Any favorite places in the city?

Samara: The first word that comes to mind on why studying voice in NYC is special is application. It is an amazing place to study voice because there are numerous opportunities to apply the tools you are learning. Another word that comes to mind is proximity. New York City is such a cool place to live as an artist citizen because you are surrounded by individuals with so much talent that the only thing to do in such an environment is to improve and grow.

Some of my favorite places in the city are actually the different subway stops like 42nd Street Times Square or 34th Street Penn Station because, although I might be pushed and shoved, I am sure to unexpectedly experience a beautiful artistic moment that will generate an immediate smile if I take the time to be present in that moment.

What is your favorite MSM memory from this school year?

Samara: My favorite MSM memory of this academic year is the Black Student Union’s Black History Concert. It is my favorite memory because it was full of a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time performing on the Neidorff-Kaparti stage. It was my first time publicly displaying the versatility of my voice to the MSM community. It was also the first time I participated in this recurring concert at MSM where I vocally paid homage to my ancestors highlighting Black history along with experiencing the celebratory interpretations from the other performers. It reminded me that although this memory was full of a lot of firsts, it would not be the last.

Tell us about your upcoming role in Svadba. What makes this performance special?

Samara: Svadba is probably one of the most abstract musical works I have ever done, but it’s taught me to trust the process. Svadba is an A cappella opera in Serbian featuring six women, composed by Ana Sokolovic. It is a very striking piece full of complex rhythms and tonalities. Learning the music was difficult because it takes an extreme amount of individual focus. However, it has been rewarding and inspiring to do it with 13 women! We all went through this daunting process together, and I am so excited to display this story and allow the audience to fall in love with the most unique bridal party. I would interpret my character, Lena, as being the friend that likes to keep the peace yet still have loads of fun. This production is very special because we all pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zones and have ultimately found the fun and reward in pursuing the more difficult tasks in music.

“New York City is such a cool place to live as an artist citizen because you are surrounded by individuals with so much talent that the only thing to do in such an environment is to improve and grow.”

Anything exciting coming up for you this summer?

Samara: I think the most exciting thing coming up for me this summer is remaining in NYC. There are so many amazing things that I can end up doing just by remaining in the area. It’s been a journey because I am someone that loves to plan and have everything figured out, but I realized that sometimes you must bet on yourself and take a risk. I am not exactly sure what I’ll do because I’m still waiting on various confirmations, but I know that I plan to do all that I can and remain in proximity to greatness!

What are you listening to right now?

Samara: As of right now, I have been listening to the sounds of life around me. For three weeks, I have challenged myself not to listen to any music unless it’s associated with my classes. I believe that this will give me the mental space to be more imaginative and observant of my environment. After this experience, I hope to be inspired to see a clearer map in music and interpret it from a more intuitive perspective.

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