Jessica Ann Best
Music is Familiar
The purpose of this project is to provide a collection of transcriptions from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. This project seeks to give a platform to all parts of the vocal performing arts to better understand the lived experiences and mentality of those professionals. In collecting stories from the COVID-19 pandemic Jessica Ann Best, mezzo-soprano, discussed her mindset as the pandemic began and then later became a norm. Finally, she offers an update as we approach nearly a year of COVID-19.
Jessica Ann Best, mezzo-soprano
Interviewed March 20, 2020
TB: Let’s start off with something positive. What is the best thing that has happened to you in the last week?
JB: One of the most beautiful things that is happening in this process is that so many people are connecting for the first time in a pretty massive way. So I’ve been able to communicate with people from different areas of my life. And I’ve had some really large Zoom meetings and hangouts with friends. We’re talking about reunions from my graduate school and things that we wouldn’t have done if we weren’t in this situation. I think that a lot of positive things will happen from this [new communication].
TB: The idea of community is something that I have been hearing a lot as well. Could you talk a bit about your background and where you are now in your career?
JB: Sure. I have my master’s degree from Northwestern [University] and my undergrad from Nazareth College. I have been in the American Guild of Musical Artists since 2008. I went right to Santa Fe [Opera] and was an apprentice artist after that. From there, I have had a very nice—but not completely cushy—career in opera and soloist work. I’ve sung at LA Opera and Carnegie Hall and done many new contemporary operas. And I had my first album out on Naxos, Jane Eyre.
I also teach professionally. I was at Nazareth College last year. And I have done a lot of masterclasses nationwide at different schools. I’ve also worked with the Savannah Voice Festival as an artist. I ran the camp voice and I used to run the education and outreach component. I still continue to work with them as an artist and teacher in different aspects. I also do opera, jazz, and musical theater.
TB: That is one of the really unique parts about your career, the fact that you are a multifaceted artist. Diving into today, could you describe a bit about where you were when you first realized that this pandemic was going to have an effect on you? JB: I can tell you that by about the first week in February, I had just come off a cruise ship and I remember we started hearing a bit more about it. I received a call asking if I might join the Miami Music Festival a week before the cruise departed; as another artist needed to change their plans. I got on the ship and was really excited about doing this new thing [singing on a cruise ship]. I was afraid to get on a boat before that. And now, I’ve been a bit afraid to get on a boat again. But I’m sure it will be fine. [This is a reference to one of the earliest outbreaks of COVID-19 on a cruise ship: “Coronavirus: Ten Passengers on Cruise Ship Test for Virus” BBC News]
I went right into Candide at Syracuse Opera and while I was there I was really excited. Of course, they’ve now cancelled their season (like every other house), which is sad. I remember talking with several people at the time about this coronavirus and how that was going to influence us. We were dealing with the flu at that time and people in our cast having flu symptoms. I had what I think was a sinus infection and was thinking about how it is really hard to perform when you’re sick. But at that point, we didn’t think that we were going to be having such a global impact from the virus.
I had two more engagements after that, as the virus gradually started moving from country to country. I did a jazz engagement of all Duke Ellington pieces with the New York State Ballet and then the next weekend I did a Carmen. The virus was here in New York at that point and I was in Binghamton. I was very nervous because I thought, “Now, I’m only a few hours away.” I really just stayed inside the entire time that I was singing. I didn’t even really try going to explore the city.
That was the last week in February. And I was thinking, “I can’t take any chances knowing that we would have our gala in New York the next month for Sherrill’s [Milnes] 85th birthday.” There were several other things that also were coming up, including auditions. I just thought I don’t want to get sick but I also have a responsibility not to get anyone else sick. Who knows who is around here that could have this? I also started to think that these things may potentially close.
Then within that next week or so, we started having a lot more statewide discussions. But I also saw that arts organizations were having discussions and saying that they were going to need to close. Then the reality of that started to set in. So, a few weeks ago, it was not really that bad, but with that was an understanding of protecting a certain population. You really have to think with the arts, there is an elderly population that supports us and then there are people that are immune-compromised and we have to take care of them. So, while it may not affect me as much, we don’t want to lose our donors and we want to keep people safe.
TB: To summarize, you had three jobs that luckily you were able to do and collect performance fees from.
JB: Yes, right.
TB: Has the pandemic had an effect in cancelling other jobs for you?
JB: Yes, because I was going to be traveling this next week to work with Sherrill and Maria in New York. And it cancelled at least two auditions. In May, I was going to have a job in Savannah, GA. Hopefully, for summer work we are able to do our festival because it is in August. So, we will have time to plan and we are planning now. But at the same time, we just don’t know.
I do have concerts in New York City at the end of May to early June that I don’t know will happen. And I am supposed to be at Birdland in early June as well for a show. (I hope.) But I don’t know. The other thing is when you take a job, you also don’t take another job. Though everything may be cancelled anyway. So you’re out no matter what and now you can see that even major opera houses and everything in New York City has had to close. It is very difficult for everybody all around and I think that that is where our commonality is. Because it puts everyone on the same plane and we can’t work. So we have to figure out what else we can be doing at this time.
TB: Could you talk to me a bit about how this affects your financial health at this point?
JB: The thing about being a solo artist is that we are not eligible at this point for unemployment. (Hopefully, that will change.) All the income that you would have accrued, you are out for. And often there are clauses that say, we can’t pay you because of force majeure. So, there is nothing really in place to protect us. Some companies are being really helpful and paying, and making sure that there are ways for the artists to survive and make income. There are also certain relief efforts in place and growing.
But when you’re looking [at the business side]—and saying, I need to make this much money per job and what do I need to do in between—you plan ahead and try to sustain. But that is not always possible because all of a sudden you are buying your own plane tickets—even if you are being reimbursed—and things like that. Thankfully, I had it in my mind not to buy my flights right now. I just thought I’ll drive if I need to go to engagements. That would be better to keep people safe. And you really have to think about all of that. For instance, how much money would I be out? I could have been out a lot more if I were paying for housing. They may have paid me back but who knows. I am lucky. I work for really good people, so I’m not super worried.
TB: What is the hardest lesson that you’ve learned so far in this situation?
JB: There are so many. I saw my therapist virtually this morning because I think it is important to have some sort of support system. She was saying, “You’re doing very well looking at opportunities and making sure that you’re very optimistic.” But one of the things I’m saying [to her] is, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do a role or what music I should learn or study. I’m always looking for something to do and I refuse to be complacent. I’m always practicing and studying. But we’re investing a lot of money into studying roles with coaches. And are we going to see the fruition of playing that role in the future or doing these concerts? The difficult thing is, when am I going to be able to be in front of people?
Our local radio station was playing Carmen and then right after that, they played the “Libiamo” or the “Brindisi” from La Traviata. I was fine all day but then I got extremely teary-eyed because I miss my friends. And I miss the opportunity of sharing music with people in that way. That’s what music does. It makes you have feelings.
TB: I really appreciate the fact that you’re talking about mental health during these times when we can feel so isolated. Would you have recommendations or advice for other singers on things that have worked for you in that regard?
JB: Absolutely! I do take time to see a therapist for anxiety. I’ve had anxiety since I was 16 years old and also perfectionism. And that’s just a part of being who you are as a singer and a sensitive person. Because of what we do, you can’t separate those two things. You’re going to be emotional because it is your job. Then you just have to figure out how to work on that. So when your fear in this situation is something that is changing every hour, what is rational now was irrational then. So how do I process that?
I think that every person on the globe is actually dealing with that whether they like it or not. But we are more in tune with that because we’re immediately in touch with, and know how to draw upon, our emotions. There are a lot of free therapists out there right now that people can connect with. I think people should definitely go online and see what is available to them through Psychology Today.
There are lots of things opening up including JSTOR, Scribd, and libraries. So, maybe take a book out on anxiety and mental health and do what they say. As long as you can go outside, go for a walk. Try to process your emotions. Play through your pieces. And do a lot of mindfulness practice. That’s what my therapist was saying: we literally have to practice mindfulness now because we have to live in this moment today. Because as soon as the governor said everything is closed, I literally thought survival mode. So you have to start talking yourself down and being rational about stuff. Everybody’s doing that. But a singer can really draw it out of proportion if we aren’t careful.
TB: To clarify, you are speaking about Governor Cuomo mandating that everything is closed [this became known commonly as the ‘stay-at-home’ order] in New York.
JB: Yes, all non-essential businesses are closed and you must work from home now. Grocery stores are allowed to be open though. And in fact, I just read today that they’re mandating how they will be doing that. We are literally making constant adjustments to life here. Like you can’t go to the doctor unless you’re extremely sick. And even the hospitals are down to zero visitors, unless you are in labor then you can have one person.
I have a lot of friends that are working as nurses in the healthcare field and they are struggling. But I imagine all the patients who are going through something difficult and they can’t have anyone there to support them. It is very difficult all around. And in a place where it is more populated, there are more reasons to be concerned about it too.
TB: Going back to the mental healthcare side and your idea of moving forward and continuing practice, could you tell me a bit about some of the things you are doing to keep that part of you moving?
JB: I have a journal and I use it a lot, almost every day. That’s really helpful. And I’ve been doing that for years because I’m an introvert and that is part of who I am. That really does help you to get it out. Also, I still maintain a schedule (in a way). I’m still practicing. So you’re in your body and just like if you’re doing yoga, you go right to your breath. As a singer, we know how to activate that.
So, using all your techniques, think music. If you’re sad, then go sing a sad song. I have always done that. In my last performance of Carmen, I was dealing with some difficult things and I let all of that out in the “Card Aria.” My dad had come to see it and he said, “Wow, I’ve never heard you do that piece before but it was amazing.” I’ve learned more to channel into being absolutely true to that moment. And there are places you can do that.
I work out. I have some of my weights right here that I use every day. I go for walks. A lot of people are going to be working out online. I’ve been doing that as a singer anyway because we’re traveling. So, I have subscriptions to several online workout programs. That is fun because you still have instruction but it is giving you a sense of moving forward and gaining strength. And it is very true that exercise releases endorphins, so you may as well do that.
But I cannot over stress the importance of meditation and breath-work along with all of that. And never forget that laughter is super important. I love to watch Schitt’s Creek or something like that, that’s absolutely ridiculous. Before I go to bed, I watch something funny and then something calm. Also, essential oils. Spray some lavender!
TB: Could you tell me a little bit about how your life was different six weeks ago?
JB: Six weeks ago would have been the middle of January... That’s literally when I was getting on the boat. I was on the brand new boat, The Celebrity Edge, with the Miami Music Festival. I was their lead artist along with Dan Gettinger. And we were traveling. I went to Fort Lauderdale, then to all the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. They were having an earthquake and that is what we were very concerned about at that time, that and learning how to deal with being on a boat and seasickness. It was all fun and glamorous. Even though I had to learn how to sing while the boat was moving. The thing I was most worried about was, “Can I sing high notes when I am doing this?”
Now it is, “Can I go outside and see my grandmother?” She’s 98. My little brother has type 1 diabetes. He’ll be 31 at the end of the month. “How do I protect people?” Even looking at food, you’re looking at your pantry thinking, “What should I save in case I can’t go to the store?” It’s a survival mindset. Before I was thinking, “I have all these dresses and I can’t wait to put one on and sing for people.” Today it is, “What food is going to hold us for the next couple of weeks?” It is that drastic.
TB: Thank you for sharing that. Drawing back on these last couple of weeks, what is one of the things that you’re most grateful for in this experience?
JB: I am trying not to cry thinking about that. I am very grateful that I have my family and friends near me. And I’m grateful that I’m not stuck somewhere. I know people that are stuck someplace in Europe. I’ve always wanted to live in New York. But if I were in New York right now, I could be stuck and not be able to move freely. So, I’m grateful to be in a place where at least I feel like I have a support system.
TB: How would you say that this pandemic has changed you? Maybe both as a person and an artist in the future.
JB: Today, I thought about how we don’t know how this is going to fiscally affect companies, not just for next year, but for many years. So I wondered, “What will the seasons be like? Will they be able to open and continue with things they have already in place? Will they have auditions again?” Because we don’t know where artists will be at the end of this.
Luckily, I sing at a lot of different venues. So I’m thinking, “If I can’t sing opera, should I record something? How am I going to gain income from that? Should I go back into academia?” That is really the only thing that seems safe right now. Because teachers—they can’t go to school—are still teaching and making an income. At least I would have a stable job because we don’t know what the next few years will be like. Then that leads to questions like, “Where do I live? Do I stay here or find another place?” So I think for all of us, “What we do as artists, can help our community.”
Recently, I’ve been creating some curriculum for my friends, who are all of a sudden homeschooling their children, and giving some general music appreciation classes. That is really fun and I’ve enjoyed it. (Maybe I can market that and help support my career.) I’m always trying to spin something because you have to. Not only do we have to survive, but we have to think of what’s going to happen next. It can’t be the same.
You have to realize that maybe we’ll be doing more operatic readings, concert versions, or finding new ways to bring art to people. We have to think on the forefront of that and not just say, “This isn’t happening to me.” No, this is happening. So let’s go somewhere new.
TB: That is perfect as it leads me to my next question. How do you see this changing the musical landscape going forward?
JB: I guess it depends on how companies are going to survive. If there is enough money to be put into the houses to sustain seasons, that is definitely going to shift the landscape. Or more people will do live concerts that are streaming. My true hope is that people will write new works and it brings an opportunity for chamber music. I actually put on Facebook the other day that this is the new era for chamber music. Because people have to gather in smaller groups. It is actually really beautiful. It is going to be so exciting to have a huge group of people together when they do get to see something that’s a big spectacle though.
TB: What advice would you give to the music community as a whole right now?
JB: I would say what I’ve been saying on Facebook. Keep maintaining your craft, practicing for yourself, taking care of yourself, and finding new opportunities. Keep your optimism but also feel all your feelings, because we can’t block them. They’re going to come back in some way. So if you’re sad, be sad. If you need to scream, scream. And if you sing, sing something difficult. (I sang the “Card Aria” from Carmen because I needed to get that out.) Then get up and learn something new.
It is going to be spring and I’ve been walking. The earth is still telling me that it is renewing itself. The robins are chirping. And the buds are coming out with this beautiful new life. It is resetting itself in a way. So, I think we have to receive that. The earth is not telling us we have to stop; it is people telling us that. So we have to remember that we’re a part of that renewal. And we’re a really important part of that for people.
TB: So my final question to you is, because we’re all stuck inside, what is your video binge right now?
JB: It is Schitt’s Creek, 1,000%. It is the funniest show. As singers, we’re all a little like that family because we’re the glamorous people that are stuck inside. So what do we do with this? We don’t know the rules. And we don’t know how to function this way.
TB: Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today.
April 25, 2020
TB: So I know that some things have shifted since we talked over a month ago. What are some new things that are keeping you busy and moving you forward?
JB: Well, obviously, our situation has changed a lot. We know a lot more about what is happening. And here in New York, we have said that we have flattened the curve. I’m in western New York and we’re trying to consider different ways that we can very gradually reopen society. So for instance, tomorrow, I’m actually going into a church to sing a service. And I’m a little nervous. More so, just because of interaction because I truly haven’t been out in six weeks. And I’ve been offering different things online to help artists in a few ways. That has been really fun.
TB: Quick going back to the church service. Are there going to be people in this service with you?
JB: No, all the services at this point are virtual. So we will be socially distanced while singing. And the service will be streamed live.
TB: I see. But you said you are still nervous about going into that situation. Is it because of the surroundings?
JB: Honestly, I think it is psychological because I have not really been in contact with anyone outside of my immediate family. I haven’t really been out besides being in my car driving around. I have not even been to a store. So it is just a slight anxiety for that human interaction.
Obviously, I’m not going to wear a mask when I’m singing [Note: this was done socially distanced so there were no people near her when her mask was removed]. I’ll wear a mask when I get there and maybe gloves, and do all the appropriate things that we would do.
TB: That’s interesting. So musically, you’ve been moving forward in a lot of different ways. Would you like to talk about some of those things that you’re working on?
JB: Yeah, I still continue to sing frequently, at least five to six times a week, and then take a day off for myself. So one of the things I’ve been doing is putting out some very basic recordings at home with the piano. I’ve also actually studied with my teacher, which has been really great—just virtual 15-minute check-ins every week. That’s really helped because that centers you and it feels like you can go to your mentor and discuss things. That’s been awesome.
Then I have been doing some virtual interviews with different people from the arts community and small businesses—even my hairdresser because she is a small business. And a friend of mine, who is also an opera singer, Amy Shoremount-Obra, and I have been doing a funny little interview show, which we’re going to try to pick up again. I’ve interviewed some local ballet companies and different singers. That’s been really fun. But I took a week off in the middle of that because there was a lot of heaviness in the atmosphere and I just needed to rest for myself. Now, I’m offering some free masterclasses on Zoom and they have ended up getting a pretty good reaction. I’ve always taught people from different backgrounds, whether they read music or they’re a doctorate. I like teaching different styles. And I believe that if you use your bel canto technique, you can appropriately use that in different styles. The first class was a few days ago. I had people from Argentina, Miami, New Jersey, Rochester, and New York—all from different places—singing different styles of music together for the first time. And they would never have come together. That really invigorated me, so I’m doing another one.
Then the Savannah VOICE Festival—which I’ve worked with—is doing a virtually live series. I will be presenting a lecture on May 8th and then right after that, I’m doing a virtually live recital. We have to be careful about distancing, but if it doesn’t work out we will record that as well. I’ve actually pioneered the programming for the series, so I’m in charge of the artists and working with our company to organize all that. That’s actually kept me busy!
TB: And so, what is your lecture on?
JB: My lecture is on La Cenerentola and I’m talking about humanity in Cinderella. Because I think in Rossini’s version Angelina grows and if you compare her to a lot of the other heroines or characters of Rossini or in opera buffa, you don’t see that. What is also unique to the story of Cinderella, which has existed in many different ways, is that she is rewarded for her kindness. She is rewarded for taking in the poor. At the end, she talks about forgiveness, which is why she sings “Non più mesta.” And actually, through the quarantine, I’ve grown with this role because I understand what it feels like to be stuck in a situation.
TB: So turning to the Savannah VOICE Festival and the Camp VOICE, what are some struggles? And what is your thinking as you head towards the summer?
JB: Well, we are moving forward with the festival at this point. We are saying that with caution as we are listening to what experts are saying both at the local and federal level. Our main thing is to keep our artists and our patrons safe. It is all wait and see. But we will provide opportunities for artists and people in some way. We are looking at ways in which to do that and once again, we have the benefit of time to look into that. [Savannah VOICE Festival ended up moving to an online format: “2020 Savannah VOICE Festival: Finding a VOICE Online” Savannah Morning News]
We are trying to take in all the ways that different places are handling this. Some opera companies have still completely cancelled their festival. Some are saying that in September they will reschedule different things or even throughout the year. Those are all things that companies have to do in looking at what is responsible.
TB: Do you have any final thoughts or things that you would recommend to people?
JB: Yes. I have been seeing my therapist virtually every week. And I’ve spoken with several colleagues and different people. We are checking in on each other. But we definitely have these dips emotionally. About two weeks ago—and even this week, in New York—we had 700 plus people dying per day. I think I saw last night that 50,000 people have now passed from the virus. Those are very difficult numbers to take in. I couldn’t process it. And I felt so, so sad. I went on a walk and I listened to Verdi’s Requiem. I felt like that piece was a way that I could process it.
So, I use my music to process it. I use nature to process it. I use my therapy to process it. But I also share that with other people, because some people are afraid. And I think it is important to identify your emotions. So when I felt that there were some disappointments as things were getting cancelled or moved, I recorded “Smile When Your Heart is Breaking.”
My therapist always asks me, “What can you do? What do you have control over?” And so I have control over creating something and these things are familiar to me. Singing is familiar. Music is familiar. Characters are familiar. And these all bring people together. So if you’re not in front of me, at least I can bring people together.
TB: Thank you again for speaking with me. It is always a pleasure.
January 8, 2021
It has been almost a year since I spoke with Mr. Bostwick, and so much has changed. In the Finger Lakes Region of New York, our positivity rate has gone from below one percent to ten percent, likely due to the holidays. Currently, I basically stay inside and keep a very small pod of family and meet the occasional friend while keeping socially distant and safe.
For work, I have returned to academia so that I may have a job in music during this pandemic. I feel it is a way to hold up the art of music and ensure it continues. Our lessons have been remote this fall semester at Nazareth College, only meeting some of my students in person during their juries. We finished the fall semester early and have just found out that we are now beginning school on February 1st, 2021. I will try to teach a hybrid model if it is safe and maintaining my cautious model from the previous semester. I’m very grateful to have this work and to maintain my private voice studio as well.
I would also like to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership during this extremely difficult year. New York State was able to keep many of its citizens safe, though it has been hard. It is now our responsibility to mask up and socially distance. We know much more and have the hope of the new vaccine. This will help every area of society but still needs and requires responsibility on behalf of all citizens. Caring for others is the most important thing we can do. Responsibility will save our economy.
Throughout the pandemic, I have had the wonderful and difficult experience of learning how to record audio, video, and even produce pieces. The Savannah Voice Festival has provided several opportunities for me and others to make music, especially in their summer season and holiday concert. This was fun not only to make music but because I needed a lot of help from my family to make the videos. I have also been able to record for church services and produce a new presentation of Jake Heggie’s “At the Statue of Venus,” paired with Cabaret Songs by William Bolcom. For this project, I partnered with my dear friend and colleague, Yoshiko Arahata, for the Rochester Fringe Festival. We have continued our musical creation with more video performances and have plans to record Frauenliebe und Leben by Robert Schumann. I’m very glad I’ve learned these new pandemic skills. I’ve even given a Zoom performance, which is truly the first time I’ve sung for people ‘live' since February 29, 2020. I cried afterward, and that’s not even an in-person production. I can only imagine what joy that will bring. I spent Christmas Eve singing alone into a microphone in a room near a church organ, and was so grateful to have the opportunity to sing for a livestream this way. That is a moment I’ll never forget.
I’ve been a guest on several podcasts, including Seasons of Resilience, by Kim Best—my sister-in-law—and her colleague, Mabel Ortiz. I’ve also been on The Mindful Mentor with my friend Bree Gordon, and I will be joining her for a Mindful Mentor bootcamp session in February 2021. At the end of this month, I’m recording some of my favorite French arias with an opera company and the alto soli from Handel’s Messiah next month.
Most of us are hoping to catch a breath in this new year, but the recent events in our country have us questioning again. I constantly think of how to discuss these events with my students it’s unbelievable. I do look forward to President Biden and Vice President Harris taking office so we may return to diplomacy and eloquence again. Our nation, our arts, and our people need this.
To conclude, I look forward to our new semester and what new projects are to come. The necessary changes will come for our country and our world. Therefore, we will, as artists, be a healing and uniting force. The world will breathe in music again, and in the meantime, as Robert Schumann said, “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts-such is the duty of the artist.”
That is my sincere duty to bring light to the world through music.
-Jessica Ann Best
Say It With Music (Medley)
Jessica Ann Best, mezzo-soprano
Rob Goodling, piano
“Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix,” from Samson et Dalila
Camille Saint-Saëns, composer
Jessica Ann Best, mezzo-soprano
Matthew Marco, piano
About Jessica Ann Best
“Jessica is a rising star whose cross-genre appeal pushes beyond opera into musical theater and jazz, where she charms audiences with the luminosity of her instrument.”
-Rob Gibson. Music Director, The Kessler Collection.
Jessica Ann Best is a diverse cross-disciplinary artist, performing nationwide in opera, musical theater, concert, oratorio, recital, and jazz. Known for her interpretations and versatility; Best has premiered many new works including: Mrs. Otis and Madeline in Gordon Getty’s The Canterville Ghost and Usher House at LA Opera, The Stepmother in Anton Coppola’s, Lady Swanwhite with Opera Tampa, the International Carol Suites (soloist) by Mark Hayes, at Carnegie Hall, the roles of Bessie and Mary Rivers in Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre,(The Center for Contemporary Opera), Mrs. Foster in Shot, (Nickel City Opera), and the title role of Alice in Alice Ryley, by Michael Ching, commissioned by the Savannah Voice Festival.
Ms. Best has toured with Velvet Caravan; an award-winning, gypsy-jazz ensemble from Savannah Georgia; featuring concerts at the Iridum Jazz Club in New York City and Savannah Music Festival. She has been a featured artist with The Savannah Music Festival for the past five years and The Savannah Voice Festival for seven years. She has performed with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Florida Orchestra, The Santa Fe Opera, Opera Tampa, Gotham Chamber Opera, The Helena Symphony, Nickel City Opera, and Finger Lakes Opera. Ms. Best appears on the new recording of Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre on the Naxos Label recorded in 2017 and released in 2019.
Best opened the 2020 season in a Broadway concert with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra under the director of Maestro David Wroe and joined the Miami Classical Music Festival as a leading guest artist on board the Celebrity Edge for A Musical Extravaganza At Sea. Best made her debut with Syracuse Opera as the Old Woman in Candide this February, and joined the New York State Ballet for An Evening of Duke Ellington. Best recently made her Birdland debut in The Lineup with Susie Mosher and has toured with the gypsy jazz ensemble, Velvet Caravan. She has been a featured artist with The Savannah Music Festival and The Savannah Voice Festival. She looks forward to returning to The Lineup and many of these organizations in the next year.
While Covid-19 has canceled and rescheduled many performances in 2020 and 2021, Best has created and participated in virtual seasons including The Savannah Voice Festival and The Rochester Fringe Festival. Joining The Savannah Voice Festival for their virtual summer and holiday season, Best has learned how to film and record solo to larger ensemble works. She has co-produced and performed Jake Heggie's At the Statue of Venus and William Bolcom's Cabaret Songs with collaborative pianist, Yoshiko Arahata, for The Rochester Fringe Festival. Jessica has given online jazz live streams for A Small World through Victoria Opera House International, and has enjoyed performing and programming several Zoom concerts; which she is available for engagements. Best will record and be featured as guest artist with Syracuse Opera and film the alto soli in Handel's Messiah with Westminster Presbyterian Church early in 2021.
Best has enjoyed being featured on several podcasts; including The Mindful Mentor with Bree Gordon and Seasons of Resilience, with Kim Best and Mabel Ortiz. She will be a speak in a workshop for The Mindful Mentor Bootcamp in February 2021. Best also looks forward to being a part of "Voices of Covid," a project by Timothy Bostwick and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.
This summer, Best was featured in a new video of pieces from the 1920s for The Little Theatre; in Rochester, NY. She will look forward to rescheduling her debut as the title role of Angelina in La Cenerentola and looks forward to returning to the stage in Michael Ching’s new opera; A Royal Feast with The Savannah Voice Festival. Best performed a one woman exposition of Bizet's Carmen with the Binghampton Community Orchestra at the end of February and will be featured artist at THE VOICE Gala in honor of Sherrill Milnes later this year. Best performed the First Prioress in Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Savannah Voice Festival under the baton of Maestro Andrew Bisantz and direction of Fabrizio Melano in 2019.
Ms. Best is a Professor of Voice at Nazareth College in Rochester and holds her own private vocal studio. Ms. Best has performed many oratorio and chamber works with the Rochester Oratorio Society and The Rochester Bach Festival. Best holds a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature from Nazareth College. Ms. Best is a proud member of AGMA and The Actor’s Equity Association.