Denise grew up learning to love the human singing voice: her Italian father adored all the great opera singers and her mother was a beautiful singer whose career was thwarted by poverty. Determined to ensure a different fate for her children, Denise's mom bought a piano--they were the only family in their south side Chicago neighborhood with a piano. Denise began piano lessons in 3rd grade, just about the time the Beatles invaded the U.S. She loved singing Beatles songs, as well as the folk music that was made popular by Joan Baez, Judy Collins and others. Denise switched from piano to voice when she was about 15 and taking lessons at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, where she discovered that singing Mozart was more fun and challenging than anything else. She sang and played all the way through a master's degree of music in vocal performance at the University of Ilinois, in Urbana-Champaign. There she had some of the best teachers in the world, namely, John Wustman, who also played for Luciano Pavarotti and other famous singers, and Alexander Ringer and Nicholas Temperley, who helped her understand the importance and connection of music history, social culture and interpreting music.
There have been several important voice teachers in Denise's career, and they are her first teacher, Ava Shields with whom she studied in high school. Her college voice teacher was Frances Crawford. After college she studied with Gisela Goettling and Wilma Osheim in Chicago, and Roberta Manion in Seattle. She also coached with Marc Verzatt at Lyric Opera of Chicago on character and interpretation.
After college, Denise moved back to her home town of Chicago, Illinois to audition, audition, audition and then go to more auditions for opera roles, concerts, and all that. She sang with Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Chicago Chamber Opera. Sometimes Denise sang in the chorus, and other times she sang roles like Cherubino, Hansel, and Meg Page. At Illinois Opera Theater, see sang Elizabeth Proctor in Ward's "The Crucible."
Because Denise loves art songs so much, she also sang many recitals and formed a chamber ensemble with two talented friends called, "The Rookwood Trio." Her friends, Roald, tenor, and Robert, pianist, performed the wonderful duet music of Schubert, Schumann, Faure, Beethoven, Handel, Purcell and many more. They also commissioned music and gave four world premieres of music by composers David Baker and Jack Goode.
Denise also sang in oratorios while singing with he Rockefeller Chapel Choir and as soloist for several years with Second Presbyterian Church.
There was a lot of work, but not much pay, so whlie doing all of this she worked full-time during the day as a graphic artist, and later as an executive assistant to a group of commodity traders where she met some fantastic people who helped support her music career.
Denise continued to study German and Italian, and went abroad to Europe several times to audition and perform. While in Chicago, Denise started to teach voice to young singers in her studio in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue, and also at the American Conservatory of Music. She loved teaching so much, that teaching became more and more important in her life.
Denise finally gave up the computer keyboard for the piano keyboard as a full-time job when she moved to Olympia, Washington to get married and enjoy the clean air, and beautiful weather of the Pacific Northwest. Yes, the weather is beautiful--it almost never gets below 25 degrees F, and when it's hot, it's a beautiful hot, not steamy, polluted Chicago hot.
Since moving to Olympia, Denise has developed a prominent private voice studio, founded a children's choir, called "The Olympia Youth Chorus," taught at Saint Martin's College, and is currently on the voice faculty of Pacific Lutheran University. She also continues to perform having created the role of Marie in Timothy Brock's opera, "Mudhoney," and sang the role of "Der Trommler," in Uhlman's "Der Kaiser von Atlantis." She has sung the soprano solos in numermous "Messiah" concerts, and in 2008 she sang the soprano solos in a concert version of "Porgy and Bess" with the Federal Way Chorale.
Which leads us to her new adventure: singing jazz. How did that happen? After singing "Porgy and Bess," Denise remembered two things: how much she loves Gershwin's music and that there was a fantastic jazz pianist living in Olympia named, Joe Baque. Denise had contacted Joe previously to coach one of her most talented voice students. After that, Joe called to tell her how much he enjoyed the student's singing and wanted to hear Denise. When Denise sang for Joe, he declared that she was an "Arlen" singer, as in Harold Arlen. Joe was impressed with her voice and musical ability and kept giving her songs, many by Arlen, some Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, etc.
Denise and Joe performed their first concert for friends who loved the music. They continued the collaboration through more performances and in summer 2009 recorded about 15 songs. This was a wonderful experience and Joe has become an invaluable mentor, coach and friend. This story will grow as the adventure continues, so stay tuned!Click here to add text.