Guest soloist wears many hats

January 15, 1999

Rochelle EllisBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Soprano Rochelle Ellis has many roles: wife, mother, faculty member, visiting artist at New Brunswick, N.J., schools, soloist and bad-weather schlepper of her son on his newspaper route.

[cont. from lifestyle]

"I always gravitated toward singing, and I love to perform," she says. Ellis sang in high school and credits her church choir with preparing and influencing her. She went to college having done "The Messiah," Beethoven's ninth symphony and other quality pieces. Ellis performed with the municipal opera and liked musicals, but says her voice isn't suited for the Broadway style of singing and she can't dance. "Don't ask me," she laughs.

Ellis decided to go into music during her senior year of high school in St. Louis, Mo., but waited. She earned her bachelor of music education from University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and put a professional singing career on hold. She wasn't ready, vocally or mentally, for the abuse and says she didn't have the drive for it.


"All I wanted to do was get married," she says. She did, had three kids in four years and didn't start her professional career until her youngest child was 2 years old.

She's still singing the soprano solo in the choral finale to Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9" - she's performed "the Ninth" and several other top-drawer pieces with orchestras all over the United States. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in December 1995.

The 44-year-old Ellis doesn't have time for much leisure music listening. "Once you get home, you put on your mother hat," Ellis says.

She listens to people singing all day as a member of the voice faculty at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., so what she likes to listen to in her spare time is either talk radio or nothing. She doesn't use music as background. "When music is on, I have to sit and listen," she says.

This weekend's performances will be Ellis' fourth with conductor Elizabeth Schulze, whom she describes as wonderful and great for singers - she's good at monitoring the orchestra volume on Strauss' "Four Last Songs." Schulze is very in tune with this music, according to Ellis. "It has great meaning for her."

It has great meaning for Ellis, too. Even if you don't understand the German, you can know the mood from the music, Ellis says. She sees more in the piece each time she sings it and says it's hard to keep from taking it too personally. "If you gotta go, what a wonderful way to go."

Rochelle Ellis' appearance with the MSO is made possible by Hoffman Automotive.

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