Pitch-perfect performance

Music student Emma Yee hitting all the right notes at the Halifax Summer Opera Festival
By: Renée Belliveau (’17)

Growing up in Toronto, fourth-year music student and Bell Achievement Award recipient Emma Yee had every opportunity to immerse herself in the world of performing arts.

“I was very lucky to be able to go to musicals with my mom and dad as a kid, and I always really enjoyed it,” says Yee.

Little did she know that this early exposure to musical theatre would spark a passion for opera.

“It’s a space with a level of storytelling and high emotion and it really drew me in,” she says.

What resonated with Yee was opera’s ability to merge two of her main interests — music and history. This combination also became a key factor in her decision to pursue studies at Mount Allison.

“I was looking at both history and music programs and Mount Allison had the most flexibility in terms of what I could do. I came to audition and fell in love with the place.”

Arriving in the fall of 2020, Yee found herself navigating a university experience that looked a little different than she had expected, but was determined to make the most of it.

In 2022, she got involved with the Halifax Summer Opera Festival and was impressed by the level of collaboration that went into every production.

“They work with the actors,” she says. “We all have voice and agency in the process of creating.”

After a successful run in 2022, Yee took a leading role in the Festival’s production of Handel’s Serse in 2023, an experience she describes as both thrilling and terrifying.

“I had never had a role where I was learning that much music. But it showed me that all this training I have, it’s all prepared me well to be able to go to the next stage.”

Yee in the Halifax Summer Opera Festival's production of Serse, 2023 — photo by James MacLean

Yee was supported in these endeavours by the Bragg Women Music Opportunities Fund, which provides financial support for students to take part in off-campus training and mentorship opportunities.

“I am heavily indebted to the Bragg Women Music Opportunities Fund,” says Yee. “Every summer I’ve been here, I’ve taken the opportunity to utilize that support.”

In addition to supporting her time at the Halifax Festival, the Fund provided Yee with the opportunity to participate in the NUOVA Vocal Arts’s Ten-Day Development Program and the National Youth Choir of Canada, offering valuable experiential learning opportunities that complemented her studies.

Beyond opera, Yee serves as co-editor-in-chief of the Argosy, as President of the Music Student Society, works as the web and marketing technician at the Motyer-Fancy Theatre, serves as a teaching assistant, and actively participates in research. Last summer, she received an Independent Student Research Grant (ISRG) to explore ways to empower opera singers in rehearsal spaces, with the goal of reimagining the hierarchical and rigid structures of opera.

Yee conducting research with Dr. Linda Pearse

Since her first year, Yee has also been involved in Dr. Linda Pearse’s Sackville Undergraduate Music Research (SUMR) Diversity Lab, working on a project aimed at creating a database for music professors looking to diversify their curriculum.

Yee, who intends to continue her studies in performance at the graduate level and is currently in the running for the McCall MacBain Scholarship, says all these experiences have played a crucial role in helping her find her path.

“I’ve learned there is no one path through music,” she says. “There is no one path through the arts. I know so many people who have dipped their toes in many different things and used that to create a very creatively fulfilling career and life. I think that’s something I’m emulating through these activities.”