Marlissa Hudson (T '99): Building a Career in Classical Music

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Marlissa Hudson (T '99): Building a Career in Classical Music
Marlissa Hudson received her formal training with Susan Dunn at Duke (T '99) and continued her vocal studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She earned awards for music at both schools, including a Peabody Career Development Grant. Described as a “superb lyric coloratura” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), she made her professional debut while still a student, performing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess with the Baltimore Symphony Pops Orchestra under the baton of Marvin Hamlisch. Marlissa has collaborated with such esteemed organizations as the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, 92Y, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Choralis, members of the Arianna Quartet, and Vocal Essence.

When did you first become interested in singing?  When did you first begin to study voice seriously? 

I've loved singing almost as long as I can remember, but didn't take it seriously until my sophomore year at Duke. I did take voice lessons my senior year in high school, but came to Duke for reasons having nothing to do with music!

What was your experience like at Duke?  What advice would you give to Duke undergraduates interested in a vocal career? 

I started out as an economics major and switched to music and sociology (double major) second semester sophomore year. I remember very distinctly that the small size of the department meant there was nowhere to hide. If you didn't come prepared, it was immediately apparent - not that I ever had such an experience (clearly I'm kidding). Susan Dunn spent a lot of energy whipping us all into shape! Lessons were of course the cornerstone, but to this day I let David Heid know how much he spoiled me. Finding a collaborative pianist with his sensitivity and skill set is difficult at best; his willingness to help above and beyond normal coaching time is incredibly rare.

The biggest piece of advice I'd give to undergrads would be to spend more time forging meaningful relationships with colleagues; they'll be an asset down the road.

What has been your best moment on stage? 

That's a tough one! One of my proudest moments was my debut at the National Gallery of Art in DC. I was singing the works of Alan Mandel, and found out after getting offstage that my piano was the same one Marian Anderson used for her famous Lincoln Memorial concert. I was absolutely floored.

If you could do anything differently regarding studying voice or your career, what would it be? 

I would have become fluent in at least one of the romance languages, for sure. Beyond that, I wouldn't change a thing. My mistakes and weaknesses have forced me to rally and push in a way that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

Is there anything you'd like to say to undergraduate voice students? 

Work from a space of gratitude! It makes the journey much smoother.