YES is highlighting an alum from each year of the program.
By Rina Osmani (YES 2018-2019, North Macedonia, placed by Greenheart in Portland, ME)
Since I was a child, music has always had a special place in my heart. My favorite genre used to be classical, and I used to fantasize about the feeling of singing with a professional choir or as a soloist. Unfortunately, in my home country, I did not have many opportunities in the music field, and my parents did not have any kind of experience with music or instruments either. Luckily, in the United States, I was placed in a family of opera singers.
Being placed in a house where singing and music took place daily made me happy, and I fully enjoyed it. I was constantly encouraged to join music classes in school, and I challenged myself with advanced classes in music that changed me completely into a musician. When my host mom noticed this, she started taking me to local concerts and inviting me to more professional concerts such as church performances.
In the Bailey family, my host dad had been singing since he was a teenage street artist with his friends. My host mom studied opera and music in college and is now one of the best choir professors in the state.
One day, my host family was invited to sing together with the state orchestra and guest international opera singers. I was so happy for them since they have been doing this for a lifetime. My host mom noticed that I really liked this opportunity, and she insisted on me joining.
I could feel my heartbeat rise since this was a difficult famous piece that they were preparing: It was “Carmen,” by George Bizet. Once I got the invitation, I started practicing intensively.
The big day arrived. We went to the State Opera House and rehearsed three times altogether. This was probably the best feeling for me since it felt like dreaming. After we finished rehearsing, slowly the seats started to fill with people. In fifteen minutes, all the seats were taken, and the audience was ready. I could feel that all of them were excited. All the singers were wearing black choir robes. Also, the orchestra was all in black, and the only person that stood out was the soloist, wearing a golden dress.
As we started singing, it felt comfortable. Finally, after so many years of practice, I could have a real concert and show my work to people. We performed for two hours, and by the end, all we could hear was gratitude from the audience. In the end, my host mom introduced me to the soloists, and they were impressed that I was only sixteen. This experience will always remain a core memory for me and to this day, whenever I perform or get an invitation, I get flashbacks of this special moment.
By the end of my exchange year, my host mom also invited me to another concert. As a choir, we were supposed to sing in a ballet performance of the Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. This experience, with other singers my age, was easier, but also one of the most beautiful ones regarding my experiences with singing.
To this day, I still connect with music by listening to and appreciating it. I also have major flashbacks of the performances I was a part of, and occasionally, I join the community choirs and music centers in my city that provide opportunities for new groups or solo performances.