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American legacy comes to Crane

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POTSDAM — Mezzo-soprano opera singer Stephanie Blythe is bringing American legacy to SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

A 1992 alumna of Crane, Ms. Blythe will hold a special benefit concert Tuesday to support the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, which she co-founded with Executive Director Carleen Graham, a professor of opera at the Crane School.

The benefit, titled “We’ll Meet Again: The Songs of Kate Smith,” brings Ms. Blythe’s recent “Live from the Lincoln Center” performance to the school’s Sara M. Snell Music Theater.

“The reason why I was interested in Kate Smith is twofold,” Ms. Blythe said. “One is that I admired her, clearly, as a vocalist. The second reason is because I admired her for her legacy and what she meant to this country, as being a person that galvanized the nation.”

Best known for her version of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” Ms. Blythe said, Ms. Smith’s voice gave comfort to Americans in a difficult time in the country’s history, giving them a sense of strength and unity.

“I think that’s really what I want to do for performers,” Ms. Blythe said. “I want to help create a community and you do that with music like this.”

The recital is an example of what Ms. Blythe said she wants to teach the group of six singers and three pianists during the weeklong seminar, which starts Monday — that singing for an audience can be more than just performing one group of songs after another.

Providing a venue for emerging professional singers and collaborative pianists to hone their love of art song and the collaborative experience, the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar is in its second season.

Ms. Blythe will be joined by Artistic Director and Music Director Alan Smith, along with Executive Director Graham and Associate Director Audrey Saccone during the seminar for a week of intimate and intensive study with the nine students. All music performed will feature an American composer.

Ms. Blythe said she has experienced huge success in showing an audience that there is a purpose to what they are hearing and showing singers that there is a purpose to what they are singing. She said she wanted to bring that to Potsdam, a place that is dear to her heart.

In six years of studying at SUNY Potsdam, Ms. Blythe received two degrees, one in writing and a second in vocal performance, after which she lived in Potsdam another year.

“I love the north country. It’s a major part of my life. Potsdam is a major part of my life. It’s never left, and it never will,” Ms. Blythe said. “Whatever I can do to bring any kind of happiness and joy to the people who helped me become who I am today, then that is what I am going to do.”

Ms. Blythe will be joined by her frequent collaborator Craig Terry on piano for the benefit at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Tickets for “We’ll Meet Again” are $25 for the general public and $20 for SUNY Potsdam faculty, staff and students. All proceeds will benefit the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar. Contact the Community Performance Series Box Office at 267-2277 or visit www2.potsdam.edu/cps to purchase tickets. Tickets also may be purchased at Northern Music & Video in downtown Potsdam.

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