June 25, 2021
How to turn a hashtag into an opera?
This is the challenge a UWM student faced when she decided to turn #MeToo into a music production. The “super senior” of UWM, who is preparing her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and her bachelor’s degree in composition and technology, is called Xai Osa, her artist / performer name.
Growing up in the Milwaukee area, she was still singing and started composing her own music when she was young, she recalls.
âI was a little songwriter in elementary schoolâ¦ writing really fun songs, drawing lines for the pitch and trying to remember how to sing it. That’s what I wanted to do, that ‘ was being a singer / songwriter. “
She became fascinated by BjÃ¶rk, an Icelandic singer and songwriter who had developed her own experimental style that drew on influences ranging from hip-hop to classical and electronic pop. This led to an interest in others who were experimenting musically.
âThere are so many ways to push the boundaries of music,â Osa said.
She came to UWM because she wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but found more than she expected at Peck School of the Arts.
âI started with a vocal performance degree. Then I found composition and technology classes on campus and decided I had found my place with all that UWM had to offer. “
When she decided to compose an opera, she turned to the themes captured in the hashtag #MeToo.
She wanted to incorporate perspectives outside of her own, so she started researching both books and online and talking to people locally about what the hashtag meant to them.
Working with her mentor, Music Lecturer Amanda Schoofs, she wove screenshots of online posts and other social media snippets into fictional characters to create the 25-minute micro-opera, “Echo Ascension: Her Voice is Heard “.
The piece was performed live for the first time in mid-March during a dress rehearsal. Then, of course, the pandemic struck and the performance of the Peck School came to a halt.
However, Osa is not discouraged. She continues to refine and expand opera because she feels, she said, that music and words open a new perspective on what #MeToo is.
âIt’s about the power of sharing your story and how it affects othersâ¦ how it can influence them to take the next step in their healing. “
This press release was produced by UWM in Waukesha. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.