Young Cantor Victoria Vazquez Has Broadway Dreams

Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Victoria Vazquez

Victoria Vazquez exudes the sweetness and modesty reminiscent of a Jane Austen character. Perhaps that sort of aura is a prerequisite for cantors, or choir leaders, at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Prim and proper, Vazquez is doll-like with her flaxen locks and soft mannerisms. She even speaks with a precision and elegance that only trained singers seem to demonstrate. After a few moments with her, you might find your eye wandering to the top of her head in search of a tell-tale halo, or some otherworldly explanation for her rare, wholesome manner of being.

“I’m really not worthy of this!” Vazquez said on our walk back to the St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach from the adjacent church, which we had found locked, to our dismay. What better backdrop to discuss Vazquez’s collegiate sacred music studies than in an echoing bath of stained glass sunlight and a sea of aromatic pews and dusty hymnals? The community center, however, was an appropriate substitute since Vasquez had just spent her entire day there teaching preschool students.

Vazquez joined the St. Francis of Assisi Parish choir when she was 9 years old. While most third-graders were dabbling in recreational sports and karate, or simply trying to navigate the turbulent waters of recess, Vazquez was homing in on her dreams.

Michele Beck, the parish music coordinator, was and is Vazquez’s mentor. “She’s like a second mom to me,” said Vazquez. When the promising young vocalist had turned 15, Beck offered her a job at the church, performing choir-related duties. Beck trained her, prepared her for her college auditions and urged her to apply to the university she ultimately decided to attend.

Now 19, Vazquez is going into her second year at Westminster Choir College, a music conservatory in Princeton. Within an intimate graduating class of around 50 students, she is in hot pursuit of a double major in sacred music and opera.

A degree in sacred music prepares graduates to run church choirs, compose hymns and lead masses. Opera, on the other hand, requires students to learn German, French, Italian, Latin and Spanish. Students must be able to speak and sing the languages – which oddly enough, requires separate training. “Some things you sing differently than you say,” said Vazquez, after explaining the difference between saying and singing the Italian word for love, amore.

When she’s not cantoring, Vazquez can be found at the St. Francis Community Center five days a week teaching preschoolers how to paint, speak and play nicely. At quitting time, she doesn’t go home. Instead, she treks up to the Spring Lake Theater Co. for rehearsals, prepping for her role as “Anytime Annie” in the musical “42nd Street,” which will run in August.

Perhaps this play will be practice for her Broadway debut. The singer’s first love is musical theater, and her dream would be to perform in “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“I just saw it again two weeks ago for, like, the eighth time. It just never gets old. I love opera and I love theater, and it’s the only show that really combines both.”

After graduation, she plans to work in a church, conducting a choir and writing hymns. “I would love to go down the professional singing route, too, so I’m going to try and do some opera auditions.”

Vazquez’s aspirations seem to have no limit, an inspiring testament to the vast potential individuals can unlock within themselves. “All of the different aspects of my life seem so different, but they just go together. Like teaching at the church is just like teaching at the preschool, just with music,” she said.

Her previous “unworthy of recognition” decree seems laughable now. Vazquez is filled to the brim with ambition and talent, carrying it with the poise and lightheartedness of a Disney princess.

Though Victoria Vazquez is a college student, we’re lucky that she finds herself coming home some weekends, craving that salty air when she needs to escape the lovely yet “stuffy” Princeton.

You can catch her singing on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings at any of the four parish locations on LBI.

— Sarah Hodgson

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