MEMORIES: In last semester’s Cabaret, Foster stands center singing “My Stongest Suit“ from Aida the Musical. “[Cabaret] was really great because that was when I first got to meet so many people… all the different choirs come together to put on a big show,” Foster said. Photo by Marley Angle.

Artist Profile: Marlee Foster

Choir major, songwriter, musical theater student sings their heart out

As their mother would say, Marlee Foster sang before they talked. From a very young age they knew they loved music, especially the kind they could make herself with their own voice.

“It just became a part of me I couldn’t live without. I could never imagine not singing,” Foster said.

Although they had a great love for singing, and practiced a lot, Foster attended St. Francis for middle school and because it was much smaller they weren’t able to do much choir through school. However, when Foster heard about McCallum and the choir program here, they immediately noted it and decided to apply.

HERMIA: In their first lead role in last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Foster danced and sang.” Midsummer was the first straight play I’ve done so it was fun being able to just act more.” Photo by Risa Darlington-Horta.

“For me, it was like ‘OK, this is an arts school’ and I didn’t know of any other schools like that, and, I don’t know, I felt like where I belonged was a school where everybody was committed to their own talent. I applied to be a film major and then also to be a choir major because I love writing stories too, so then I decided I wanted to be able to sing every week, all the time so I became a choir major.”

For Foster, this was the right decision.

“[Choir is] a very social thing, so it’s brought me closer to so many people, and to so many different artists,” Foster shared. “There’s so many talented people in choir and just hearing their voices just makes me so happy because I get to be a part of something full of so many talented people and it’s just amazing.”

Foster’s choir experience has been exceptional, and being able to sing every other day meant a lot to them. However, with all the opportunity at McCallum they felt that they should take advantage of it: being in choir opened up another important door for Foster.

Whenever I finish writing a chorus or something and I listen back and it’s really good, it makes me so happy because I think ‘wow people are actually going to like this’.

— Marlee Foster

“Being here, all the performance majors are woven together so choir, dance, and theater are connected, so I’m also getting a musical theater certificate. I love being onstage… being here you get to be a part of everything.”

On their way to getting their musical theater certificate, Foster has been in three shows so far; part of the ensemble for hit shows West Side Story (2018) and Starmites (2019), and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2018).

“I got a lead in Midsummer, which was surprising because I’m not a theater major or anything… [playing Hermia] was really fun! I got to hang out with more people and that was the first straight play I’ve done so it was fun being able to just act more,” Foster said.

Being in choir has also allowed Foster to have some great experiences, their favorite being Cabaret and the New York trip the choir took last year to perform at Carnegie Hall.

“I feel like Cabaret last year was really great because that was when I first got to meet so many people. During Cabaret all the different choirs come together to put on this big show and with that I just got to meet so many people and perform with so many people and it was just so fun. Also, the New York trip last year, we went and performed at Carnegie Hall, and that was magical. Not gonna lie, I was walking off the stage and crying because I’m a sentimental person and our conductor I could tell was like ‘what why are you crying’ but you know… I was just so happy to be there,” Foster recounted.

As well as performing pre-written choir and musical theater compositions, Foster writes their own pieces, their highlights being “Echos,” a song about falling in love but being left behind and holding on to something you can’t have, and ‘Headache’, which is about having strong emotions and how holding them in feels like a headache.

“I’ve been a song writer since I was really little, I love writing songs, it’s kind of like people have their own different ways of venting and mine is songwriting… sometimes it starts off with a melody in my head and I’m like ‘aww that’s really pretty’ and I try to put words to it, other times I come up with a phrase or a saying and I write a melody to go with it. It’s all about building until you have a completed song you’re proud of.”

Foster writes songs with one important detail in mind: the audience’s perception. They perform their songs at Coffeehouse, where songwriters and poets can go on the stage and share their art with an audience.

“Whenever I finish writing a chorus or something and I listen back and it’s really good, it makes me so happy because I think ‘wow people are actually going to like this’ and I just feel so happy. Even though I write the music for me, I also write it for other people to enjoy, so when I know that they will it’s just such a great feeling,” Foster shared.

Performing in front of a crowd can be daunting. However, Foster always tries to find a way to use that energy to execute a better performance.

“There’s always a current of nerves that’s always underneath everything, and there’s no way to get rid of it. It’s not like you can get rid of the nerves entirely, they’re always there, but for me they help me to perform better. I just think, ‘these people have come here to watch me perform and to watch me do well so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.’ Whenever I’m onstage, the best part is when you just take in the audience and you realize you’re performing for them and so you have to give it your all. That’s when I can hit those high notes and then I think, ‘yes I know this is what they want.’ It’s this awesome connection between the audience and you that’s really special.”

After high school, Foster is not absolutely sure how they want to continue with music though they know that they most definitely do.

“For me, choir is to learn more about music, and to learn more about singing, and I know I want to do singing until the day I die so it would be awesome to do it as a career. I know even if I go into something else I’ll still be singing, I’m never going to stop singing, so I think I’m just going to take what I learn here and bring it into possible schooling. I may go to a music school, I also love composing music and writing songs; learning more about voices is something that choir has helped teach me so that way I can write better music for myself and for other people to sing.”

At the end of the day, it’s one thing that drives all of Foster’s dedication to music: the ability to connect. To Foster music and choir especially is all about connection, whether that be connection between a composer and their music or a singer and their audience.

“Singing is like a gift that you get to share with an audience, and whenever you get to share that gift with so many different people it’s always an experience that nothing can compare to.”

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