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Life and Work with Vanessa Naghdi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Naghdi.

Vanessa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to perform. I’m that person with video recordings of singing at age 3. I loved to sing, dance, play instruments — you name it — I was always putting on skits for my family and performing with my friends, getting up in front of whomever I was around to sing and dance and perform for them. I started taking choir at school in the 5th grade, added outside children’s choir in 6th, and continued with chorus well into my adult years. Seeing how much I loved to sing, my mom asked me if I wanted voice lessons, and of course, I said yes! I started taking voice lessons when I was 12 at a school for the arts in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. (where I grew up), and they happened to be classical, teaching me how to sing classical art song, musical theater, and eventually solos from operas in English, Italian, French, and German. I continued throughout high school, adding talent shows and spring musicals to my annual regimen.

When it came time for choosing a major in college, there was no choice — I had known since I was 11 that I wanted to be a professional singer. Little did I know, I would become an opera singer! (I grew up listening to/singing Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC. True ’90s kid.) I ended up going to Virginia Commonwealth University, ranked #1 in the country as a public university art school, in the capital city of Richmond, VA and majored in Vocal Performance, getting my Bachelor of Music degree in 2012. VCU Opera has the longest running tradition of annual full-scale productions in the state of Virginia and prepared me for singing leading roles onstage in operas as there was not a graduate program in my field, giving all of the undergraduate’s real performance experience that would have otherwise been reserved for grad students.

During my time there, I also studied and performed abroad in Germany with a summer program called German Opera Experience through James Madison University. This really opened up my eyes to a whole new culture, history, language, experiences, and connections. In the senior year of my Bachelor’s degree, I auditioned for graduate schools in the northeast without getting any offers. There is A LOT of rejection as a singer/artist! So, I took a year off in between degrees and re-auditioned for grad schools all over the country. The teacher and coach I had met in Germany were on faculty at Arizona State University and offered for me to audition there, and long story short, that’s how I ended up in Arizona! I attended ASU for my Master of Music degree, majoring in Musical Theatre/Opera Performance: Opera, and graduated in 2015. I also met my fiance at ASU!

The next couple years were filled with working with Arizona Opera in Phoenix, performing in churches and singing other gigs around the Valley. And auditions. Lots and lots of auditions! For companies all over the country. Opera singers are their own freelance businesses who get temporary work in hopes of filling up their seasons. I finally filled up my season with one program this past year when I was hired to be a Resident Young Artist with Opera Colorado in Denver for their 2017-2018 season. This gave me wonderful experiences, performances, and connections that I now get to use moving forward in Arizona and beyond.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has not been a smooth road! As I mentioned, the music industry (no matter what genre) is filled with rejection, subjective opinions, favoritism, competition, and more. These have made it bumpy for sure (I don’t know anyone in my position who has had a completely smooth path), but because I love what I do so much, it has all been worth it and always will be. My advice to those younger than me who are just starting out, no matter what they are doing, is don’t give up! If this is what you want to do no matter what, and you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else in the world, then just keep at it. Don’t let rejection or hardships get you down or stop you. Just keep going. Something will have to give, and once doors start opening, they will continue to and you will find success.

Please tell us about Vanessa Naghdi, Soprano.
I sing opera. That is the type of singing I specialize in, and what I am most known for. I also sing classical music such as art song (classical songs that are not a part of a bigger work), oratorio (like opera but in a concert setting rather than a staged one), concerts (classical music without staging), in recital as a soloist, and musical theater. I sing in the main languages utilized for opera; English, Italian, French and German, and have sung in many other languages, including Spanish, Russian, and Czech. Something that I love adding to my performances is singing in Farsi, as I am half-Iranian. Knowledge of this culture, language and music and incorporating it into my brand is something that sets me apart from others. Part of my brand and service offerings is providing a full performance; as a whole singer-actor, this includes bringing the dramatic knowledge necessary to each performance and utilizing my skills as an actor and mover to properly portray characters and expressively tell stories onstage.

Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
Definitely starting out with music from a young age aided in my success as an adult. Playing piano, violin, and singing in choirs at a young age and being encouraged to do so by my parents and knowing that they supported me no matter what was really important. Starting out young with voice lessons (but not too young) was also big — not only did I learn so many basics of music and classical singing, but I also learned a ton of repertoire in those formative years that I still use today.


  • Soloist for Weddings/Events: $200
  • Voice Lessons: $25/half hour
  • Voice Lessons: $40/hour

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Jamie Kraus Photography, Kelly Maxwell, Matthew Moon Photography, JohnAndrew Slominski Studio, Darrell Chan, Michael Luna Photography

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