ArtSmart mentor Christine Moore, brings decades of experience as an international soprano and teacher to the ArtSmart program.

My name is Christine Moore Vassallo, and I’m thrilled to be on the ArtSmart staff as a mentor and voice teacher. I’m a soprano, originally from Sacramento, and have performed all over the world, including three seasons as a guest with the Leipzig Opera in Germany, and concerts and operas in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and North America. In addition to opera, I’m also a lover of art song and contemporary music and have given recitals of many themes and in many languages, most recently, in Spanish. I have also produced a CD called From Al Andalus to the Americas: An Odyssey of Spanish Song where I loosely trace the evolution of Spanish song from its roots in the Moorish period in Spain up through contemporary Spain and Latin America. I’m also passionate about music from the Arab world, both western classical and traditional eastern classical. In 2013 I curated a concert at the Library at Lincoln Center Bruno Walter Auditorium called “Nearer to East – Chamber Music from the Arab World.” In 2016 I co-founded a small opera company, Lyric Artists of New York, where I produce operas and opera concerts as well as concerts to promote up-and coming young artists, some of whom include my own students.

Speaking of students, I’ve been teaching for over 21 years, starting out privately and then in a small community conservatory for 14 years in Park Slope, Brooklyn where I live. In addition to the private teaching, I’m on the faculty as a teaching artist at the Lunigiana International Music Festival in Italy every summer, and a teacher with the organization American Voices at their YES music academies in Lebanon. More recently I’ve been working with and mentoring talented young singers of high school age whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet, either by referral, or sometimes by pure chance. One of these, Sam, I saw on a video posted by an organization of which I’m a board member, and reached out to him through these channels. That was back in 2017, when he was only 15, and after that we began our more than two-year journey together as teacher-mentor and student-mentee. These two years manifested into one of the most meaningful and transformative periods of my life. Outside of his high school choral teachers, who definitely encouraged and mentored him within their 8am to 3pm capacity, Sam had no one else to help him navigate all that was needed to prepare for, apply to, and audition for colleges, as his parents are immigrants and not attuned to the norms and practices in this country. It was my first experience as not only a teacher but a mentor, and both he and I were both rewarded in so many ways: tangibly, through his winning and placing in several competitions and his acceptance at more than four music conservatories as an undergraduate student, but more importantly, intangibly, through the opportunity to shape a young person, help build their confidence, their sense of identity, create a safe, trusting, supportive space for them, and develop a bond that is unique and unbreakable, even if the student would study with another teacher someday. It is the intangible rewards that have given me the most pleasure: Since my experience with Sam, I had been eager to work with other young singers his age to re-create that experience.

That’s where ArtSmart came in. When I saw their posting seeking mentors, I thought to myself, this is a glove that fits. And since I began teaching through them last year, I’ve been amazed at the talent that is “out there” — either from inner cities or within lower-income families where the talent is palpable but opportunities and the ability to pay are scarce. These young students are so thirsty for the opportunity to express themselves and to develop their talent. And to be nurtured. I do not have one single student through ArtSmart that has a sense of entitlement or lack of eagerness. For example, one student memorized Caro mio ben in only one week, having had no other musical or language training, and another, age 14, told me that when he listened to a recording of it, he found it so beautiful he started to cry. This is what propels us do what we do – the spirit of music that so profoundly affects and can dramatically change a young person’s life. We mentors have an important role — a responsibility — to nurture this creative spirit and to carry on the tradition of “passing the baton”, especially to those young people whose ability to grab that baton is limited by circumstance. I’m looking forward to lengthening that baton to make it happen.

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By Christine Moore, ArtSmart mentor  |  Published on 11/02/2020