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Jessie Downs

Buffalo, NY   

Jessie Downs is a composer, vocalist, and teaching artist for whom music is a medium for sharing personal experiences and entering into community with others. As a composer, her aesthetic is one which treasures the uncanny and surprising beauty of wild yet delicate things. While she has written for a number of instrumentations, her favorite media include found objects, altered instruments, and the human voice. As a vocalist, she has premiered numerous works by living composers – both as a soloist and with her ensemble the Sotto Voce Vocal Collective. She has worked with such champions of contemporary vocal music as Jeff Gavett and Juliet Fraser and is also a devoted student of bel canto under the guidance of the Maestro Franco Bertacci. She aims to combine the new and the old in both her performances and compositions. She holds a BMus in Composition from Oberlin Conservatory and is currently a PhD candidate in Composition at the University at Buffalo.

fireflies by Jessie Downs

An example of my work as a vocalist-composer. I composed the piece “fireflies” for voice and percussion in Winter 2018, and it was then premiered shortly thereafter by myself and long-time friend and collaborator, percussionist Christian Smith. The piece’s intimate sound world was inspired by a short monologue in an Italian novel, in which the narrator grapples with the mysterious nature of fireflies, likening their fragile and absurd lives to his own peculiar existence.

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The Second Sight – Act 1, Scene 1 by Jessie Downs

An example of my work as a composer for vocal music. The above video shows the opening scene to my opera-in-progress “The Second Sight” which explores the spiritual links between generations of women. The premier of this scene took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the Vocalypse Opera From Scratch workshop, summer 2017. It was also featured as one of 10 finalist in the Beth Morrison Project’s Next Generation Competition in March 2018.

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From the Grammar of Dreams V by Kaija Saariaho

An example of my work as a contemporary music vocalist. This recording is from the premier of Sotto Voce’s “Living Voices” program, funded with support from New Music USA. I am singing soprano while other Sotto Voce soprano Julia Anne Cordani sings mezzo. These pieces are ideal for showcasing the way that classical technique can aid in the production of new timbres, gestures, and energies.

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