Music has been an integral part of Sonja’s life since childhood. Growing up with a music historian and a classically trained soprano as parents exposed her to a great deal of classical repertoire. Sonja spent much of her youth singing in choirs and playing the violin. In her late teens, she was presented with the opportunity to audition for the world reknowned Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan. She decided to audition for the voice department, where room was available for one more student.
Sonja graduated from Interlochen with flying colours and returned home to Canada to continue studying voice at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at The University of Western Ontario. As part of her studies at UWO, Sonja performed in several operas to gain more experience on the stage. She also took up the position of soprano soloist at First St. Andrew’s United Church, which is widely recognized for its fine music program.
Simultaneously, a close friend encouraged her to try Jazz. Her initiation into the Jazz world was a New Year’s Eve gig at a local restaurant. That night proved to be a trial by fire as Sonja spent the evening entertaining the crowd with Jazz standards she’d only just learned (and more than a few which she had to sight-read!). Finding it to be an exhilirating experience, Sonja continued to work on expanding her jazz repertoire and finding a vocal technique that lent itself better to jazz than opera.
Following graduation, Sonja found herself performing more and more Jazz at local restaurants, clubs and private functions. She also worked full-time as a waitress, performing for enthusiastic crowds on nights and weekends. She collaborated with many of London’s very talented Jazz musicians, learning the skills of jazz musicianship as she went. Their mentoring of her singing paid off and in 2005, Sonja was recognized with a London Music Award for Most Popular Jazz Performer.
It was at this time that a life-changing opportunity arose. At the prompting of her mother, she sent an audition CD to the producers of a new television reality/documentary series entitled Bathroom Divas. Chosen from hundreds of CDs to come and audition live, she earned a spot on the show as one of six finalists that would attend a three week Opera ‘Boot Camp’ in Toronto. Having gone six years without any voice lessons, this was the ultimate opportunity for Sonja to receive not only training, but invaluable feedback from some of Canada’s top operatic performers and trainers. The experience was incredibly valuable and renewed her interest in the classical and operatic repertoire, as well as her confidence in her operatic capabilities.
After three weeks of boot camp and a second-place finish, Sonja decided to continue the process of musical growth by returning to her classical music studies at UWO, where she obtained the degree of Master of Music under the tutelage of Mary Lou Fallis, one of the instructors and producers of Bathroom Divas. During her studies Sonja kept a busy performing schedule, which included roles in several operatic productions with UWOpera and Orchestra London. She also released her self-produced debut jazz CD, which has been met with great enthusiasm from her fans and the arts community in London and the surrounding area and led to an invitation to perform at London’s highly successful summer music festival, Sunfest in 2008. Sonja was the only local performer to take the stage in the festival’s jazz village, performing two shows for enthusiastic crowds.
On the classical side of things, Sonja was pleased to be a featured soloist with Orchestra London, the Victoria Symphony and the Vancouver Island Symphony in a Christmas Pops show written and arranged for her and conducted by fellow Jazz musician and UWO grad, Jeff Christmas. Hence, she has become a regular guest performer in the Orchestra London Pops series.
Desiring to create more opportunities for herself and other UWO music grads in the London area, she formed her own production company, Diva Lounge Productions, which is busy developing several original works in collaboration with local London composers. In addition to these many accomplishments, Sonja was also honoured to win several awards, scholarships and competitions for both her jazz and classical performing.
Whether crooning jazz standards with her band, singing with the symphony or performing on the operatic stage, Sonja’s passion for music is evident in her presence and attitude. It is this passion coupled with her consummate musicianship, sparkling voice and versatility that make her a performer to remember and enjoy!
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