Jessica Scarlato’s rich, clear soprano voice receives enthusiastic applause whenever she performs. She was a fine arts mentor to other undergraduates while at York University and has been commissioned to sing at York University’s convocation this year. In fact, she is a member of the graduating class herself, having earned her degree in the Vocal Music Program under the watchful eye of her “amazing” teacher, Stephanie Bogle. After years of dedicated vocal preparation, Jessica is heading to McGill University in September to begin a Master’s Degree in Opera Performance. This confident and talented young soprano began her vocal training in the children’s choir run by Centro Scuola at the Columbus Centre in Toronto.
Jessica credits her Italian teacher at St. Martha’s Elementary School with encouraging her to join the ScholaCantorum Children’s Choir. Choir director Franca Di Giovanni welcomed her and, in this positive environment, she learned Italian and vocal music in parallel. As she got older, Jessica sang with thePalestrina Chamber Chorus under the direction of Sabatino Vacca and accompanist Adolfo De Santis. With both of these choirs, she was able to travel to Italy several times. As Jessica recalls, “We sang in the Pantheon and gave concert performances in Rome and Abruzzo. Centro Scuola has opened many doors for me and allowed me to experience beautiful opportunities.”
When asked who are the people who have most influenced her training so far, Jessica first credits her parents. “My parents have always been very supportive. That makes it easier – and makes it right.” She then cites her teacher at York, Stephanie Bogle, who follows her progress regularly. Last summer, for instance, Jessica was able to spend three weeks in Tuscany studying with Maestro Daniel Ferro, thanks toBogle’s assistance. She also took master classes with Maestro Ermanno Mauro at the Columbus Centre. Both Ferro and Mauro have had careers that included the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Among others in the Italian community who have had a great influence on Jessica Scarlato is Alberto Di Giovanni, Director of the Centro Scuola.
The choirs organized and supported by Centro Scuola since 1997 have given young people excellent exposure to the practice of singing together. The Schola Cantorum Children’s Choir taught its members how to breathe for proper singing, how to read a simple musical score, and how to be part of an artistic group. Jessica has succeeded Franca Di Giovanni as one of the three directors of the Schola Cantorum, guiding the children through the annual Concerti di Natale and spring concerts for several years. The Palestrina Chamber Chorus was started to give graduates of intense music programs an opportunity to learn Italian choral repertoire, and to perform at community events to increase the audience for classical choral music. This choir performed for Prime Minister Chrétien when he visited Italy in the 1990s, and sang during the Youth Days for the visit to Toronto in 2002 of Pope John Paul II. Jessica was part of that choir, and had solo parts on many occasions.
In November 2009, she placed first in the NATS Ontario Chapter Auditions and also won an award for most promising singer overall. “This accomplishment was definitely a milestone in my development,” she says with pride. Ever since she decided to attend Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts in Toronto, Jessica knew she wanted to be a professional singer. “It will be like that again going to McGill,” she believes. “I don’t know anyone in Montreal, but I was thrilled to pass the audition and get accepted into the opera program.” And who is her favourite composer? “Giacomo Puccini without a doubt! I am a Puccini girl!” Let’s watch – a new Madame Butterfly is sure to emerge in the years ahead.
A regular contributor to Accenti, Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni is active on the Toronto literary scene. Her most recent book is Looking at Renaissance Paintings and Other Poems.