Surround Yourself in Song


Chorus Spotlight: Anita Greer

May Festival Chorus Member


As a 28-year member of the May Festival Chorus and with a background as a professional singer, soprano Anita Greer has sung her share of masterworks, so it is a rare but exciting event when a choral work that is new to her appears on the program. For the 2017 May Festival, she will perform three works she has never sung before—Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and Braunfels’ Te Deum. “I’ve sung for so long that it’s a thrill to have the opportunity to do pieces of music I don’t know,” she said. Prior to joining the Chorus, Anita began her career as a singer, which led to her current work as a speech-language pathologist and manager of the inpatient rehabilitation program at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. She has earned several degrees, including bachelor’s degrees in vocal performance and music therapy, plus master’s degrees in voice pedagogy, music therapy and speech-language pathology. She says it was a natural progression from music to music therapy to speech-language pathology. “When I was actively working as a professional singer and music therapist, I stopped singing for fun because it had become a job,” she said. “That’s a very sad state to be in.” While still in school for speech-language pathology, a friend told her about the May Festival Chorus. “I was thrilled because we get to do beautiful music with a great orchestra on a wonderful stage in front of thousands of people. What more could you ask for?”

Part of her role as a speech-language pathologist is to help people—often singers who have damaged voices—to repair their vocal instrument. When her patients are singers, she said, “Once they no longer need my skills as a speech-language pathologist, I will work with them as a vocal coach to get them back to full singing.” As such, she has found herself the de facto vocal advisor for her fellow singers in the May Festival Chorus. “I get two to three calls a month from members of the Chorus who have questions, who feel like they’ve done something wrong to their voice. Some of it is overuse, but most damage is done outside of singing.” Anything from clearing one’s throat or yelling at a ball game to simply not drinking enough water can hurt the singing voice, so Anita gives advice and helpful hints to her choral “clients.” In some cases, she will also work with some members on a more intensive basis to help get their voices back in prime condition. Her general tips include drinking plenty of water and avoiding clearing of the throat. Another sneaky culprit is menthol, which dehydrates the vocal folds. But it is important for singers to keep their entire body healthy, she says, especially the lungs and upper respiratory system. When cold and flu season sets in, avoiding sickness altogether may be impossible, but if that is the case, Anita recommends taking a break from singing. “The whole body is your instrument.”

While her professional assistance may come in handy, it is her passion for singing that has fueled her dedication to the May Festival Chorus. “I think it’s very addictive. Every year, you know you’re going to sing these great masterworks that you don’t get to sing with other choruses. It’s just such a gift to sing with this group, and to work with our amazing director, Robert Porco,” she said. Another source of inspiration? The life-long friendships she has developed with members of the Chorus. “I’m blessed to have so many friends within the group.”

Over the years, she has cultivated countless poignant, and often humorous, rehearsal and performance memories, such as a rehearsal of Handel’s Israel in Egypt, in Indianapolis, that was interrupted by a tornado warning while they were singing about the biblical plague of hail. There are frustrating moments as well, particularly with more difficult repertoire. But, she says, those are not the norm. “The norm is that you are making music. And making music is more than just singing the notes right.” An admitted “applause junkie,” Anita appreciates the excitement from audiences. “When the applause comes, and you know you did your job well, then it’s really worth it.”