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Community, Exploration, and Kindness in Musical Performance with Sadie O’Conor ‘22 

Kelly Gallagher ‘22 
Senior Advisor

Sadie O’Conor ‘22 began her first year at the College of the Holy Cross with Choir Week, where she was immediately struck by “how kind the people in the choir were.” Now in her senior year, Sadie finds that the welcoming nature of the community has been consistent across the many opportunities she has sought in musical performances, and that this supportive community has been essential to her growth as a singer and actor.  

Photo courtesy of Sadie O’Conor ‘22; graphic by Valentina Moran ‘23 

Sadie, who is a Music and English double major from Centerville on Cape Cod, vividly remembers being immersed in music from a young age. She told The Spire, “My Mom and Dad had a lot of CDs– everything from Journey to John Denver to Wicked to Christmas jazz. My twin sister and I would collect our own CDs, mostly musicals, and make up stories to go along with the songs.” She grew up with a special fondness for Disney, sharing that “it’s a family joke that I knew every word to ‘Part of Your World’ by the time I was four!” She’s participated in theatre and concerts since she was 6, and was eventually drawn to study classical music at the age of 16. Explaining her singing voice, she said, “In classical terms, I am a coloratura soprano, which basically means I sing very high and very fast. In opera repertoire these roles are usually faeries, maids, princesses, or page boys, all of which are really fun to play.”  

At Holy Cross, Sadie has embraced opportunities to challenge herself and broaden her horizons as a performer in a variety of ways. For example, as a part of College Choir and Chamber Singers, she has “sang weird atonal shows like the ‘Little Match Girl Passion,’ oratorios, spirituals, and more.” As a first year, she performed the role of Beth in the musical version of Little Women and Cinderella in Into the Woods, and in following years appeared in Cabaret and the original virtual musical Le Deluge. She’s currently preparing to play Amalia Balash in She Loves Me, the Theatre Department’s Spring 2022 musical. Sadie counts Holy Cross musicals among her “favorite” memories, cherishing not only the exciting variety of musical styles but her time spent rehearsing and performing with her friends. 

Sadie enjoys exploring unique approaches to different styles of performance. When she prepares for a concert, she begins by focusing on “the text and the technical side of the music.” When she’s in a show, she begins with getting a sense of who her character is. For arias or musical theatre pieces in a concert, Sadie tries to identify the “emotional intent” of the piece, explaining, “I think it’s much more fun to bring in a bit of character rather than sing everything perfectly poised and still (not to mention, singing everything like that will cause a lot of muscle and vocal tension which will impede your performance).” She wouldn’t say she has a “favorite” genre, but she has a special fondness for musical theatre and most types of opera, because they set “music in the context of a story on stage.” 

Sadie strives to accept the frustrating fact that “you’re never done with the work, and it’s never going to be as good or perfect as you want it to be.” But she’s encouraged when she realizes how much progress she has made both in terms of her vocal technique and her “faith” in her voice. The community on the hill has contributed to much of that progress, and Sadie has learned a lot from working with other talented students and friends. She’s also benefited from studying with faculty members who “will push you to be the best you can be.” She finds that the community’s dedication to helping each other grow is born out of “the sense that we’re all working together to create something good.” Her experience at Holy Cross has helped her to better recognize who she is and who she wants to be as a performer, as well as the fact that this journey of self-discovery “is an ongoing one.” While it can be tempting for performers to put themselves in a box, Sadie thinks it’s important to not limit oneself, and while at college she has appreciated learning “how to start freeing my voice, and freeing myself. 

Looking ahead, Sadie plans to build on her Holy Cross education by getting her Master’s degree in performance. She’s currently aiming for opera programs. Her goal is to work as a professional singer and actor, specializing in musical theatre, opera, and Shakespeare, and she’s also interested in participating in arts-outreach programs, especially for schools. Her hopes for the future are guided by her conviction that “it’s really important for the arts to help people, whether that’s by raising money or awareness, or sparking conversation, or bringing people hope and joy.” 

Sadie’s philosophy is that the soul of the performing arts is sharing with a community. She finds that the importance of community is often understated in performance, and feels that it’s important for performers “to understand that this is not about you. If you perform so people will love you or tell you how great you are, you’re never going to get anywhere.” Summing up her own beliefs and experiences, Sadie concluded her interview by reflecting, “I think a good mantra for music and performance is always to use it as a chance to share something.  When you’re on stage, you should always be trying to help your scene partner look their best, and when you’re performing in a concert it’s about the connection between you, the other musicians, and the audience.  The goal is to trust each other enough that we can all tap into something divine, something that transcends our differences and brings us together. That’s why I love it, because at its best it’s motivated by community and love and hope.” 

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