Monday, February 7, 2011

Soprano Maria Lozano on Singing, San Diego and Her Favorite Mexican Dish

Q&A with Maria Lozano,
featured soloist in the February 2011
concert series: Nova Intimately

Erica Malouf of Orchestra Nova: Maria, you have a beautiful voice. When did you discover you could sing?
Maria Lozano: I wanted to be a singer since I can remember. When I watched opera on T.V. with my father as a little child I always thought they were living in a fairytale. A world of magic surrounded me when I heard those voices and I wanted to be a part of it.
I knew I wanted to sing but didn't know how until I got to high school. The music teacher, Jose Veliz, had a choir of young girls and a little orchestra and when I heard the girls I got so excited that I wanted to be a part of it. That magic that I heard when I was a five-year-old was coming back to me and I decided to try out for the choir.
I felt that I belonged there and that is how I discovered I wanted to be a singer.

EM: It’s interesting that you initially studied computer engineering at Baja California University and then went back to pursuing singing. I think many people can relate to your story; the struggle to balance the wishes of ones parents with that of one’s own career goals. It takes a lot of courage to follow your dreams. What advice do you have for young artists?
ML: My advice for anyone is that you can't stop believing. It is so easy to be discouraged but life has a lot of tests. When you follow what you believe because you really are a 100% sure that it is your calling, life will get you where you have to be. There will be bad times, of course, but when you start seeing results you will feel like a million bucks!!!

EM: You took a five-hour trip from Mexico to San Diego State University to study music, twice a day for a year and a half. That’s dedication. Who or what has inspired you to keep going when it’s tough?
ML: Well. I have to thank Mary MacKenzie, the best teacher in the world!!!! There were times when I wanted to throw in the towel but she always talked to me in a way that made me realize that I had to be thankful of having a dream. I am very lucky to have her in my life. I can say that if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be a singer.

EM: Why didn’t you move to San Diego on a student visa? Did you face any obstacles to studying in California?
ML: I didn't move to SD because it was very expensive to live here on a Mexican budget. Our economies are very different and I couldn't work in the U.S. and to be honest I am very respectful of the laws and didn't want to work illegally. When my budget allowed, I moved to SD.

EM: San Diego is lucky to have you! How did you find out about the program at San Diego State University and what made you choose to go there?
ML: I have been working with Metropolitan opera singer, Mary MacKenzie, for over 8 years and she told me about SDSU program. She is a teacher in the SDSU School of Music. I have been in New York and Europe with other teachers, but she has been the best teacher that I have ever had, so the possibility of continuing to benefit from her knowledge made me realize that trying to audition at SDSU was the best choice for me.

EM: Of all the venues you’ve performed in, which is your favorite? Where would be your ultimate dream venue or event to perform?
ML: I have performed in many wonderful venues but performing in Qualcomm Hall [at the 2010 Next Star competition] was an exciting experience with Orchestra Nova.

EM: How long does it take you to prepare for a performance and what do you do to prepare?
ML: First of all, I read the music without hearing any recording of the piece, then I sing it to my teacher and coach and finally I check other interpretations but I still try to give my one performance. I just hear the recording to have a background. It takes around 3 months of study.

EM: Which is your favorite piece to sing and why?
ML: My favorite Opera is La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini and every time I sing it makes me feel I am alive. It totally transforms me to another world. La Boheme is such a down-to-earth opera because it talks about love and problems in real life. It simply makes you feel human.

EM: Do you want to be a full-time opera singer? What does this entail?
ML: Yes, I would love to be a full-time opera singer. It entails learning and practicing many things – languages, harmony, technique, theatre – and much discipline is required.

EM: What is your favorite thing about San Diego?
ML: I love SD – I don't know where to start. I love the richness of ethnicity and culture. I love the weather and the possibilities of growing as an artist. There is so much that you can do here. People have been so warm and kind and it makes me feel like a part of a family here in San Diego.

EM: Orchestra Nova’s Maestro Pak is something of a foodie. What is your favorite Mexican dish and what would you tell Jung-Ho to try if he was visiting Mexico City or your home town?
Mexico is a very rich country with very different kinds of food. Everybody thinks Mexican food is only tacos but we have one of the largest varieties of dishes. I can say that if he went to Ensenada, I would take him to El Cid, a very wonderful restaurant that serves "Chiles en Nogada" and a "Nopal Cream Soup" – simply heaven.