Special Music School Alumna Profile:
“Music is a second language to me. It’s just so comfortable and such a fun challenge. That does give you a different perspective on life."
Chloe Holgate vividly remembers her first day at Special Music School, when she auditioned for a spot in the brand new school’s first grade. “I didn’t know it was an audition,” she recalls. “I thought we were just playing. I remember sitting at the piano with Anne Farber and her playing something and me just getting to tinkle around.” After attending kindergarten at a much larger school, she loved SMS’s small size and supportive atmosphere. “It felt like a family,” she says.
Chloe went to high school in Saratoga Springs, where she continued to study piano. At SUNY Geneseo and Carnegie Mellon University she majored in vocal performance. After college she moved back to NYC, aspiring to break into musical theater. Chloe soon fell into the choir scene and now performs professionally at churches and with different choirs. With her vocal ensemble Ping, formed with fellow Carnegie Mellon graduates, Chloe has opened for the Pittsburgh Symphony and Orion String Quartet, held residencies in Colorado and Nantucket, and premiered eight new works by young composers this year. Chloe also performs in musicals, and names musical theater as her original inspiration for training her voice. “I love telling a story,” she explains. “I wanted to express ideas, and sometimes musical theater lends itself to that in a better way than opera.”
Chloe has always loved to sing and enjoyed chorus performances and Summer Musical Theater Workshop with Sean Hartley at SMS. “I got my first taste of performing as a singer here. It was a real joy. I loved it.” She felt nervous before piano lessons and recitals but appreciated the individual attention she and her classmates received. She fondly remembers Ann Farber’s improvisation class and a fourth-grade production of a Shakespeare play. As a young piano student, some of her favorite pieces to play were by Aaron Copland and the Gershwins.
Chloe suspects that the focus and precision instilled by studying music are important factors in SMS’s consistently high scores on New York State math and English tests. At her public high school upstate, Chloe felt ahead of the game. “And in college I was so much better prepared than any of my colleagues.” Sometimes the biggest challenge, says Chloe, is believing in her own talent. She has struggled with self-doubt, holding herself to unrealistically high standards. “Any artist has to be their own champion,” she now understands, “to stand up for yourself and to fight for things that you want to do.”
These days you can find Chloe performing early music as well as premieres of contemporary pieces with her vocal ensemble Ping. “I’m more drawn as a performer to the creative aspect. It should always feel like creation rather than interpreting. I hope I can make opportunities. Both my sister [SMS alumna Lily Holgate] and I are really inspired by the idea of taking pieces we love or ideas we love and going through different mediums of instrumental music, film and theater, and combining works we love in a new way to tell a new story.”
Click here to support Kaufman Music Center's Fund for Music Education.