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Bergen County Student, Weehawken Teen Vocalist Credits Vocal Workshop for Interest in Opera


AHA officials announced vocalist Ellie Sawyer of Weehawken recently made an exciting decision. 

She completed Westminster Choir College's Solo Vocal Artist Program with a strengthened determination to pursue a career in classical performance. 

"I left knowing I wanted to be an opera singer, more than ever," the Academy of the Holy Angels junior shared. She described the two-week summer program as a wonderful opportunity for teens to explore the world of classical singing.

"It was such an important experience for me as a young musician to be able to be around other people my age who aspire to be opera singers," she explained.

"I wanted to attend so I could make friends with common interests and passions because there are not many (high school students) with a love of opera."

Throughout the program, she worked with experienced musicians and counselors who discussed what students could expect in music school and what it is like to work in the music field.

"Every day, we would do singers' yoga, have staging rehearsals, private vocal lessons, choir rehearsal, coaching, and classes about opera history, the international phonetic alphabet, musicianship, performance technique, and vocal science," Sawyer said.

“Then, at night, we participated in master classes (one on college auditions and one about singing in German) or attended lectures about art song history. Some highlights were our performance at the end, opera history class, and the singing in the German master class.

"This experience deepened my passion as a vocalist and reminded me why I love what I do so much, and made me excited to pursue it. I also learned some very helpful tools like the international phonetic alphabet, which helps with singing in different languages."

Sawyer is now auditioning for a winter program at the Metropolitan Opera and has decided to study German.

Asked about her interest in the German language, Sawyer said she hopes to sing in Germany one day.

"Opera is very important in Germany and Austria, and there are more opportunities there than in the states," she stated. Sawyer added that she enjoys performing works by Strauss and Schubert, particularly "Du Bist Die Ruh."

Sawyer shares her musical talents by singing with the AHA Concert Choir and Seraphima (the Academy's selective a cappella ensemble) and playing for the AHA Handbell Choir. 

In January, Sawyer earned membership in the Academy of the Holy Angels' chapter of the Tri-M Honor Society, a national organization for students who excel in music, academics, service, and leadership. She sang "Restons Ici" by Jules Massanet at the induction ceremony.

This Angel is also a long-time volunteer for Reclam the Bay, an organization that works to repopulate New Jersey's Barnegat Bay with shellfish. Sawyer has been working with this group each summer since 2015.

In addition to raising and caring for shellfish in the organization's tanks, Sawyer makes weekly presentations at The Maritime Museum.

During Awareness Day 2022, Sawyer and classmate Mia "Mac" Chang teamed up to provide their peers with sustainable stress management tips.

Their talk included information about composting and gardening, efficient energy use, recipes for homemade cosmetics, ideas to reduce food waste, and more.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls' school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.

Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA's portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation's best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics.

The Academy's current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.