Photo: Shervin Lainez

Music: Solo Recital

By: Gail Obenreder

“The musician’s world is complicated, challenging, and fully saturated with talent. I have to work hard and dig deep to be heard.” — IVA

Known professionally as IVA, Emily Samson Tepe is no stranger to working hard, digging deep and crossing boundaries. She was trained as a classical soprano at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, but she has truly found her voice in writing and singing her own songs.

IVA began to explore personal expression early in her career, when a Fulbright scholarship enabled her to live in Sweden. There, she created a recital that proudly reflected her Swedish heritage and Delaware connections. She has performed that concert – and many others – worldwide and in Sweden, which honored her in 2015 as its Swedish American of the Year.

Immense Tenderness (2018)
Full length: 5 minutes 20 seconds

Blue (2017)
Full length: 18 minutes 11 seconds
Work sample: 4 minutes 20 seconds

But the Wilmington native finds that “my artistic work has been intricately tied to Delaware.” At the age of 9, IVA began singing with OperaDelaware. But as her love for classical music was fostered early onstage and at home, her boundary crossing proclivities were also being set: “The Beatles were absolutely my favorite music on earth.” From family and friends, IVA learned to treasure all musical genres, and she’s currently inspired by singers ranging from Natasha Khan to Sarah McLaughlin and Joni Mitchell, “female artists that make their own way.”

Making your way is challenging, and while she “entered my singing career full of vision and hope,” IVA has found that some of her deepest artist expression has come from “profoundly challenging events where I felt lost and defeated.” The work that won her the Division Fellowship is a song cycle born of these struggles. With four songs completed and more underway, they focus on the emotional impact, repercussions and recovery from addiction and abuse that have “taken away people I love and taught me the limits of my power.”

The musician’s life can be challenged by loneliness and the insecurity of freelancing, as well as constant traveling and touring. But IVA finds rewards in the connections it affords – with audiences, friends, co-writers and grateful students. She received a 2016 Artist Opportunity Grant that helped her to orchestrate some recordings, and this award will enable her to continue building and equipping a professional home studio. It will also provide some financial security as she comes full circle and explores writing an opera. “I’ve lived many places, and Delaware is still what feels like home.”

Artist website: www.ivavoice.com

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