By: Gail Obenreder
“Processing my experiences through songs is a true blessing. I can turn something terrible into something beautiful in a song.”
Singer-songwriter IVA grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, in the house across the street from what had been her great-grandparents’ home. She was “surrounded by music and music lovers,” including her father and grandparents, and her “favorite place of all was in the den with the record player.” At age five, she learned all the songs (and harmonies) on the Beatles album A Hard Day’s Night, and she began singing onstage in the children’s chorus of Opera Delaware at age nine. For her, singing has never stopped.
The Established Fellow left the First State for college (Princeton) and studied voice in New York (Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music). But a highly formative experience was the six years she spent in Stockholm after traveling to Sweden on a Fulbright scholarship, “studying the music of my ancestors.” In 2015, the Vasa Order of America named IVA “Swedish-American of the Year” for her cultural contributions, the youngest person to receive the national honor.
IVA, Lead Vocalist, Songwriter
“Nobody’s Woman,” (2022)
IVA, Lead vocalist, songwriter
IVA has a flourishing recording and performance career, with five albums, residencies, an opera in the works, and songwriting collaborations and performances from Nashville to New York and beyond, including frequent appearances in Philadelphia and in her home state. Deeply grateful for “the freedom to be an artist,” she nonetheless acknowledges that “making music can also be a lonely endeavor.”
To balance the uncertainties and stresses of practicing and working on her own, she finds her greatest rewards in rehearsing with her bandmates, co-writing, and being with her students. “Making music with other people is my favorite part about being a musician.” When she’s performing, “time stops for me during a show,” and the feeling of “being heard and understood is truly satisfying.”
In 2020, a few months before the pandemic lockdown, her mother passed away suddenly, and this unexpected event took IVA “through the depths of mourning to a deeper self-knowledge,” leading to a renewed commitment to her artistic practice. During this time, she recorded her fifth album, titled Run, working remotely with a producer as she acquired new studio practices and technical skills. She also added to her lifelong keyboard skills by learning to play the guitar, readying herself to tour in a new direction – as a solo performer.
One of IVA’s goals has been to “play out and be in community with my fellow musicians when performing,” and the Division’s Fellowship will help make that possible. The award will support her band’s travel and performances. It will also allow her to acquire new equipment for her planned solo outings, and she is “excited to see how the live shows take shape.” Her artistic practice embraces a great range of music and influences, and as “a seeker, profoundly interested in waking up spiritually,” this operatic singer songwriter is eager to see what “this new chapter of awareness” will bring about.Fellowship Home