Faculty of Music

Kelsey Vicary

Kelsey VicaryKelsey Vicary started humming in the van as it bumped across Australia. Just little phrases at first, then more, and more. Her travelling companion finally told her she needed to get back to her music.

Vicary completed her Bachelor of Music in performance in 2010 and thought she wanted a break from the intense musical life. “Within two months of travelling, I knew I needed to get back to it.”

She had applied to several master’s programs elsewhere (Indiana, Peabody, New England Conservatory) and received only one invitation to audition. “I was really angry,“ she said. “I thought I didn’t have the personality to handle rejection. I thought maybe I’d be a lawyer.”

Then a friend invited her to go to Australia. They left with working visas and their savings. After four weeks of travel, they’d spent their money and moved to Melbourne. Vicary worked as a server for five months to save enough funds to rent a camper and head out across the continent.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. But she was beginning to miss the joy of singing. Not quite ready to return, Vicary moved to Sydney for four months, then took the long route home, through southeast Asia. “We flew to Singapore and took some questionable night trains and chartered buses. But the places we were going to were the same as so many people, you knew you would end up somewhere interesting.”

She has stories of speedboat adventures on the Mekong River, harrowing bus rides up winding mountain roads and arriving at a hostel run by monks at 5 a.m. “The monks walk from the monastery to the temple every morning through the city. Everyone comes out with offerings for them. The sun was rising over the mountain we’d just bounced over. It was so peaceful – one of the most memorable moments.”

During the trip, Vicary applied to the master’s program at Western and was accepted. Back at university, she finds the experiences of her travels inform her studies and her performances.

“I never thought I’d come back here to do my master’s. I was surprised to see how different the master’s program is from the undergrad. There is a different focus – more on taking what you need, the elements to create the artist you will become. From my travels I approach performances differently. You deal with people in a different way when you have to communicate with so many different people.”


Her recital March 31 is an opportunity to share her insights through the repertoire. One piece is Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915. “The theme is so much about trying to understand where you come from and how that informs your life. It’s about personal growth.  The other pieces represent the different things I experienced while away.” They include an aria from Otello by Rossini, a set of songs by Poulenc and one by Zemlinsky and two songs with cello, by Stetsenko.

“The Poulenc songs centre on Paris and the excitement of being in a new place. All the works are about everyday kinds of experiences that don’t seem important at the time but only happened at that time in that place. It had not occurred to me how important travel would be until I came back to what I was familiar with.”

Vicary is also the understudy for Poppea in L’Incoronazione di Poppea March 16, 17, 2012.

Vicary also participated in the Don Wright Faculty of Music’s two summer opera programs: the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy at Western, and AIDO in Italy. “It was amazing,” she said. “I played the Countess in Figaro and stepped out onto the balcony of the villa. It’s the actual villa of one of the program’s sponsors where the program is located. The sun was setting at the back of the villa, there was a fountain by the audience, and I opened the double glass doors from the balcony to sing “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro” (Grant, love, some comfort). As I came down the double staircase I thought there is no substitute for this – singing Italian in Italy in a place where you could conceive this happening. I had never been to Tuscany before so I was in love with it. Moments like that, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

“As long as I’m singing or making music, I know it will be good.”


If You Go

What: L’incoronazione di Poppea
When: March 16, 17
Where: the Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College, Western

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 students, seniors; cash at the door.


What: Kelsey Vicary’s recital

When: March 31 at 4 p.m.

Where: von Kuster Hall, Music Building


Media interviews, please contact:
Kelsey Vicary at kelseyvicary@gmail.com

Media relations officer Janis Wallace at wallacej@uwo.ca or 519-661-3767