Tashieka Thompson, a 2020 graduate of Villa Maria College’s Music program, has a new accolade to add to her musical resume: a GRAMMY Award.
“I sing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. I’m in the soprano section,” said Thompson. “I’ve been with them for about three years now, and in that time we’ve done a lot of collaborations with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall. In April 2019, we recorded ‘Danielpour: The Passion of Yeshua,’ along with the BPO and UCLA Chamber Choir.”
“When we recorded, winning an award was the furthest thing from my mind, let alone a GRAMMY” continued Thompson. “I’ve always imagined and yearned to be on stage but that’s just because I love performing. I was just excited to be recording.”
In total, the group was nominated for three GRAMMYs: Best Contemporary Classic Album, Best Engineered Classic Album, and Best Chorale Performance. “I really wanted us to get Best Chorale Performance and we did,” said Thompson. “I took my phone from room to room. I was in the kitchen when they announced it. I remember making a loud shriek and jumping up and down. It’s still surreal. I keep saying to myself I can’t believe I sing with a group and sang on a project that received a GRAMMY.”
The recognition, of course, did not come without tons of preparation and hard work. The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus normally rehearses for two-and-a-half hours each week, with more rehearsals closer to performance dates.
“Before we start going over music, we do typical warm–ups and stretches, which always makes me grateful for what I learned from Esin Gundez, one of my instructors at Villa Maria.”
“The Tuesday before we recorded ‘The Passion of Yeshua’ we had a conductor review with Joanne Faletta from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra,” said Thompson. “She goes over and through the music with us, like a practice concert. Then Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of that week we had orchestra reviews, where we rehearsed with the BPO – basically more practice concerts. We met twice on Saturday and then again on Sunday afternoon for the actual live concert and a final recording patch on Sunday evening.”
As busy as that sounds, a full schedule is nothing new to Thompson. “I had the privilege of being Tashieka’s Music Theory and Ear Training teacher for four years, as well as her advisor,” said Dr. Sylvia Grmela, an associate professor of music at Villa Maria. “She enrolled in the Music Department at Villa Maria as an employed adult who wanted to become a better musician and managed to successfully graduate in four–years despite being a parent and having a full-time job. Tashieka is remarkably talented, and our program benefited from her active participation in nearly every ensemble. She was repeatedly featured as a soloist in the gospel choir as well as the jazz ensemble and the rock ensemble. During her years at Villa, she also challenged herself to audition for the BPO Chorus and she, of course, got in.”
“I absolutely feel like the education I received at Villa Maria contributed to this win,” said Thompson. “It was the awesome professors there who helped me with stage presence, increasing my site reading ability, helping with intonation and breath control and pushing me musically to go further than what I believed I could.”
Currently, Thompson is still with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, and has been working on some of her own music, which she hopes to release soon.
To learn more about studying Music at Villa Maria College, visit https://www.villa.edu/academics/academic-programs/music.