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Alum Julie Adams Talks with SFCM Students Amid Starring SF Opera Run

Adams ('13) studied with César Ulloa while at SFCM, and continued her studies through SF Opera's Merola program.

November 10, 2023 by Alex Heigl

"I consider San Francisco my second home," Julie Adams says. After having lived here for 12 years and recently relocating to Michigan, she had a triumphant homecoming this year, starring as Elsa in Lohengrin at SF Opera. 

"I've been an emotional blubbering mess this entire contract," Adams, who graduated with her master's in 2013, laughs. "Everyone's in my corner and so supportive and I'm really overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel a little bit like a kid who wants to do well for her parents, because after graduating, the first program I did was Music Academy of the West, and that's where I had the opportunity to meet John Churchwell, who's head of music at SF Opera. He's been with me every step of the journey along with all of my mentors: César and all of the people at the Opera house." 

Adams didn't aim to become a Wagnerian soprano, which is something of a specialized voice role. "I have always just considered myself a lyric soprano," she said. "And it wasn't really until getting into the opera program that as I was getting kind of older, my bosses had said to me, 'We feel like your voice would be really geared towards Germanic and Slavic repertoire.'"

Adams with SFCM voice students.

Adams with SFCM voice students.

While she admits to feeling somewhat conflicted about hearing that for the first time ("I love my Italian composers!") Adams said that she's come to see it as a blessing to have found a niche that helps distinguish her: "How many lyric sopranos are there? There's a billion of us: So to find something that makes you stand out, that's why I leaned in so hard to it at first."

During her recent visit, Adams dropped in on one of Cathy Cook's audition workshop classes, which she remembered taking herself while at the Conservatory. Asked for her advice to students who are in the same place she was 10 years ago, Adams said, "Be kind to yourself and try to remember why you're doing this. I remember having to get up Tuesday and sing in front of the entire voice department, and how nerve-wracking it was. I'm a high-anxiety person, and I get nervous and think about these things, like 'Oh, God.' But the minute you kind of relax a little bit, you can just focus on the joy and the gratitude of, 'Hey, wait, why am I doing this again in the first place? Oh, right. Because I love singing.' That's what you want to never lose sight of."

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