Felicia Villa, a 2016 Mineola High School graduate and Westminster Choir College sophomore, is coming home to conduct her classmates, the Westminster Choir College Singers, in her first ever Christmas concert. The concert, Celebrate the Music of Christmas with Felicia Villa, will be held at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2:30 p.m. in Mineola.
For a sophomore at the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, Villa has already proven to be an accomplished performer. Villa was a recipient of the Mineola Choral Society Peter J. Howell Vocal Excellence Scholarship and was the only graduate of Mineola High School to ever be accepted into the Westminster Choir College. In addition, Villa holds the position of music director of the Westminster Choir College Players, performs with the Sophomore Scholar Choir and after rigorous auditions was selected to sing soprano in the elite Westminster Choir which performs nationally and internationally.
“Music is the meaning and purpose of my existence,” said Villa. “Music is my passion. It is a kaleidoscope of emotions. It connects society in more ways than just turning up the sound on your radio. It is a form of communication, a language, an opportunity to bond and connect. It is inspirational, uniting and a form of history.”
Villa’s conducting experience first began when she was a drum major for her high school’s marching band. She was an assistant to her a capella conductor and mentor, Meg Messina, and helped fellow students who required additional coaching by helping run extra rehearsals. Not only does Villa have a passion for conducting, she likes to observe other conductors and their techniques as well.
As music director of the Westminster Choir College Players, Villa has the opportunity to expand her knowledge of musical scores, connect with the artists, soloists, instrumentalists, choristers and extras on stage. However, being a conductor is no easy task since Villa has to be constantly listening to everything around her.
“It is a tremendous responsibility, honor and an incredible experience to be the person who holds the baton and help keep the performances together,” explained Villa. “Rehearsals with the artists are lengthy and allow us to unite so that they can bring their characters to life through the music. It is an honor and a thrill to hold this position in my sophomore year of college.”
It wasn’t until Villa went to see the Westminster Choir perform at Molloy College that she decided she wanted to audition for the college.
“I sat in the front row with my sister and was enamored by the poise, grace and angelic sound of these students,” said Villa. “The conductor, Dr. Miller at one point allowed the singers to perform as he adoringly and proudly sat for a moment and let the grace and beauty of their voices engulf the auditorium that night.”
The members of the Westminster Choir have a busy schedule in addition to their studies with having already performed more than 10 works, a full mass and are currently practicing for other upcoming performances. The Westminster Choir is nominated for two Grammys this year and will be recording another album in January with a Midwest tour and performance in Spain soon to follow.
“I take seven music classes a day, I sing in two choirs, am the musical director and resident assistant and maintain a 4.0 GPA,” said Villa. “I spend at least four and a half hours a day outside of class practicing piano and memorizing music and languages.”
When Villa approached her friends and fellow students to help her with her Christmas concert, no one hesitated to assist despite everyone’s busy academic schedules.
“All of the students are either music education or performance majors,” said Villa. “We are serious music students. We love to sing. The days before my Sunday concert in Mineola, that whole week we have three hours of rehearsals every day, not including our daily choir time, for Westminster’s Annual Readings and Carols Concerts at Princeton University’s Chapel.”
Traditional Christmas favorites like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hark the Herald” and “Silent Night” will be performed at Sunday’s concert as well as a special song that has great meaning to Villa and the Westminster Choir College Singers.
“When I was accepted into Westminster Choir College, in my acceptance package was a delicately wrapped present, tied with a maroon ribbon,” explained Villa. “There was a beautiful welcome letter explaining the tradition of ‘The Lutkin’. When I opened this package, there was my first piece of music from the college that was to be memorized for convocation.”
“The Lord Bless You and Keep You” is a special song for all Westminster students. It is the heartbeat of their school that unites them in good and trying times.
“All of our concerts end with this piece,” said Villa. “I will carry on the tradition and share it with Mineola.”
Villa is excited to return home to Mineola and share her love of music with a community that has allowed her to only grow as a performer. Mayor Scott Strauss encouraged Villa to always remember where she came from during a conversation she had with him about her college aspirations and career goals.
“Mineola High School supported my dreams of pursuing a music degree,” said Villa. “My degree from Westminster will be a bachelors in music education. My ultimate goal is to obtain my doctorate degree in choral conducting. There really is no place like home.”