Some college students graduate this month and start the New Year on their own. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston looked in on a local music major about to do just that.
Nerissa Wolfson has been singing since she was a three-year-old growing up in the Philippines. Later she joined cover bands and started touring. She entered singing competitions and won. At home, she started listening to a local classical and jazz radio station in secret. At 18 she was captivated by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holiday.
Following a move to Philadelphia more than 20 years ago, Nerissa concentrated on raising her two kids. Singing became secondary. But after becoming a part-time student at The Community College of Philadelphia seven years ago, she decided to take a chance and auditioned for a place in the vocal program at Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance. She got in, when some of her friends did not. One of her professors from CCP came to her senior recital at Temple.
Now, in her early 40s, she’s looking ahead to build on new possibilities.
Meridee Duddleston: The senior recital for jazz vocal student Nerissa Wolfson isn’t just about singing. In keeping with school tradition, the musical culmination includes food: a crock-pot of gumbo she mixed up after a dress rehearsal the night before.
Nerissa Wolfson: I’m a foodie person—so I kind of relate it with my music. I was cooking. It was really stressful because I brought all of my ingredients the night before.
Music: “One Note Samba,” Antônio Carlos Jobim. Nerissa Wolfson, vocalist; Dariel Peniazek, guitar
MD: Wolfson grew up winning singing contests in the Philippines, got married, moved to the U.S., had kids, went back to school, divorced, and this month earns her Bachelor’s in music from Temple University. It hasn’t been easy. For one thing, she’s about 20 years older than most of her classmates.
NW: There were times, like I said, “OK, maybe I should just forget about it.” Then I talked to some of my professors and they said, “No. It’s like if you really want this, go for it. You already invested so much time and energy.” So that’s what I did.
MD: She works with a couple of bands, has a part-time job at a local music school, and is keeping her musical options open. A day without the structure of classes, though, needs a strategy.
NW: I’m going to set a lesson plan and check the box: “Okay I did this today.”
MD: With her senior recital behind her, Nerissa Wolfson looks ahead to the New Year with a road map of her own.