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Alicia Olatuja previews upcoming Wharton performance

February 28, 2022
<p>Praised by the New York Times, Alicia Olatuja will be showcasing her broad vocal range at the Wharton Center on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Courtesy/Myles Weinstein. </p>

Praised by the New York Times, Alicia Olatuja will be showcasing her broad vocal range at the Wharton Center on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Courtesy/Myles Weinstein.

When Alicia Olatuja was pursuing her master’s degree in Classical Voice/Opera at the Manhattan School of Music, she noticed almost all of the composers she studied were men. When she started to ask where all the female composers were, her professors shrugged off the question. 

That experience sparked Olatuja’s desire to celebrate more female composers. 

“A long time ago, I was thinking, ‘Man, it’d be really nice to showcase and celebrate more women composers,’ because they just don’t seem to be as celebrated, even in the academic realm, and I really wanted to do that,” Olatuja said. “That was a seed that was planted in my mind a long time ago.”

Years later, after seeing the #MeToo movement and other political and social events, Olatuja decided it was time to follow through with the dream she had created years prior. In 2019, Olatuja released “Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women,” which features Olatuja’s vocal reimagining of songs by female composers. 

“When it came around to doing my album and discussing what we wanted to talk about, that topic came up … I just thought, ‘This is the right time. It’s aligning with something I’ve always wanted to do, and what needs to happen.’”

Olatuja will be performing this album at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on March 2, at 7:30 p.m. 

Though, Olatuja’s performances are not just her singing. She also plans on interacting with the audience by introducing each piece and telling the stories of the female composers behind the music. Additionally, since Olatuja’s album highlights a variety of female composers from different countries and genres, she feels sharing these women’s experiences with her audience provides a fuller way to celebrate their music. 

“We take (the audience) on a journey,” Olatuja said. “We talk about the pieces, so that it’s not just me singing one song after the next, but actually, we’re in this together, so we take down that fourth wall; we have fun together, we pretty much make it so that everybody is included in this experience of sharing music, and it’s so needed right now after being in isolation.”

Olatuja also hopes that by talking about each piece, the audience will recognize and appreciate the original composition while also having a whole new experience due to how she reimagined each piece.  

The upcoming Wharton performance is part of the continuation of Olatuja’s “Intuition” tour, which was cut short in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Although Olatuja did a few online performances during that time, she said nothing compares to being up on stage for a live audience. 

“I think that it’s important for people to come out and experience the magic of live performance again,” Olatuja said. “It’s something that tends to our soul and waters our souls in a certain way that you just can’t get anywhere else, and I think some of us have forgotten that because we’ve been away from it for a while due to the pandemic. … I really think that there’s a magic in live performance, and it’s also important for people to come together again — safely — but come together again, and basically build each other up just by being in each others’ presence enjoying and loving music in the same space. There’s a power in that cannot be replaced in any other way.”

During the pause in live performances, Olatuja did a few virtual performances, but she mainly worked on building her career as a vocal coach and life coach, which required her to remain positive. This positivity, along with her talent and repertoire, is one of the things Wharton’s Public Relations Manager Bob Hoffman is most excited about in her upcoming show.  

“I think that she has this amazing bubbly personality, and she’s a positive person, and that comes across in her music,” Hoffman said. “I’ve just really enjoyed watching interviews with her, and listening to her, and learning more about her. As you start to learn more about an artist, you realize that not only are they usually incredible performers, but they also have a story themselves. I think what’s unique about her is the fact that she’s able to take the stage, and capture everyone’s attention, and bring something uniquely hers, but it may be the music of another artist.”

Hoffman’s perspective is exactly what Olatuja hopes the rest of her audience feels when they see her upcoming performance. 

“I’m looking forward to sharing the music and watching how it impacts the lives of those who are present,” Olatuja said. “It’s always a beautiful experience, being able to share music with people who are in the same room where it's happening. … It’s definitely a unique kind of magic when you can make eye contact with people sitting right there, and, also, filling the room with laughter, and applause, and music and singing — we’re gonna do all of that. So, it’s definitely a special experience that only happens in that moment. All we have is this time together, and it's so precious to be able to share it with a room full of people, and, hopefully, they’ll leave the show and be able to carry that with them for years to come.”

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