2021 Young Alumni Achievement Award
Rachel grew up in Bristol. As a young girl she loved music. It was always important to her that everyone sing, even if you don’t think you can. While a senior in high school she was invited to join the symphonic choir. Her dream was to pursue music in some form or fashion, but she knew how difficult a music career could be. While in high school knew that she wanted to attend King but didn’t know right away if she would pursue her dream of music or find something more traditionally stable like science.
After enrolling at King, she initially studied physics and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t where her heart was at. She couldn’t get music off her mind and often would visualize what life in the arts could look like. “I thought it was either make it or break it,” Rachel said. But she had to give it a shot. “My physics adviser was instrumental in that decision as well. ‘Go on and pursue the arts and study music,’” he said. He recognized that her love was music and the arts and supported this dream. Within the smaller, close-knit community, the King professors get to know their students as individuals, it is part of what makes coming to King so special.
Her adviser encouraged her and told her that everything would be ok. “I would have a lot of options open to me. I ended up studying performing and visual arts as my concentration and double-majored in French.” She even spent six weeks in France.
Her first experience as a soloist with an orchestra was when she was still a student at King in a performance of the Symphony of the Mountains during King’s 150th anniversary celebration. She also appeared in numerous theatre productions.
Upon graduating from King, she earned her Master’s in Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College located in Princeton, New Jersey. “My physics classes came in handy learning about voice science. Rachel would eventually relocate to New York to perform. She participated in multiple operas singing bel canto and coloratura roles including Queen of the Night, Adina, Pamina, Drusilla, Gilda, and Susannah. Her friend Ann Holler recalls her 2018 performance in the American premiere of the comic opera, “la Cifra,” by Salieri. and opened up a studio where she has embraced teaching and sharing her knowledge and love of music with the community.
She frequently hosts recitals, specializing in music of the 20th and 21st centuries and she has featured composers and musicians of the Tri-cities region never forgetting where she came from. She has performed with the Paramount Chamber Players and performed solo engagements including various oratorio works such as Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Brahm’s Ein Deutches Requiem.
Former professor of music Pat Flannagan alludes to entrepreneurial spirit as the co-founder of Princeton Opera Alliance, a group that seeks to foster collaboration in the greater Princeton community through the art of Opera. Most recently Rachel has become involved in Community-Word Project, an organization dedicated to fundamentally changing the lives of kids through art.
She has dedicated herself to a life of service and spreading a love of the arts that she has acquired at King with the support and guidance of special people in her life including Beth McCoy, Mark Owen Davis, and former King faculty member Evelyn Thomas. “I discovered a love of music education. Teaching and opening my own studio. Contributing to the community. We have this perception that either you can sing, or you can’t. But you can learn. People need to sing to their kids,” Rachel says. “It is a great honor to have been nominated for the Young Alumni Award and it was wonderful that they thought I was deserving.”
Congratulations Rachel Barker-Asto!