Audience members in Tyler Junior College’s Jean Browne Theatre felt as though they had been transported to a New York opera house as alumna Sylvia D’Eramo took the stage recently.
D’Eramo, who began her music and theater training at TJC, returned to the campus to perform several operatic selections for a TJC Foundation event.
Performing at Tyler Civic Theater at a young age piqued D’Eramo’s interest in the arts, so she decided to polish her skills. At age 15, she began participating in choir and taking voice lessons from TJC Professor Andrea Trent.
“I heard some of Ms. Trent’s students and realized she was the next step to further my career and help me reach my potential,” she said.
D’Eramo attended as a high school dual-credit student participating in TJC Academy of Dance and music department. During those years, she attended summer vocal programs at Oberlin Conservatory and the Washington National Opera summer program for young singers, participated in a TJC Opera Workshop and played leading roles in TJC musical productions of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Chicago.”
“TJC helped me refine my craft and grow in a safe environment and figure out if this is just fun or is it really my passion,” she said. “TJC taught me this is what I want to do.”
In 2011, she was accepted into the opera performance program at State University of New York’s Purchase Conservatory (SUNY) where she graduated magna cum laude in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Performance degree.
During her first year at SUNY her father passed away. She said her music and pursuing the art that she loved gave her purpose and meaning during those hard times.
She performed numerous roles during her time at SUNY Purchase and received the Presidential Senior Achievement Award for a Senior Conservatory of Music student.
She sang the National Anthem at her graduation ceremony, which was attended by approximately 20,000 people.
D’Eramo recently was recognized in Opera News magazine and on Amazon for her singing role as Abagail in Albany Records’ most recent recording of “The Crucible.” In June 2017, she placed second out of 150 contestants in the SOMA International Lois Alba Aria Competition at Saint Thomas University in Houston.
She also received an Encouragement Award in the Career Bridges Competition in New York City earlier this year.
“I have heard throughout my music career that I came in with such solid technique and was asked, ‘Who was your teacher?’” D’Eramo said. “When I told them I went to TJC, they asked, ‘What’s in the water at Tyler Junior College?’
“In the TJC program, you take on all areas of the arts, so you’re in theatre and not just taking acting lessons to sit on stage and be pretty, but learning to paint, to build sets, do make-up and everything that goes into making a production a production. Music is the same thing; we study all areas. The TJC music program is set up like a conservatory, and the arts program at TJC is really the gem of Tyler, Texas. It’s amazing!”
Proper practice is essential to success said D’Eramo, who practices at least an hour a day, depending on what she is learning at the time.
“Our instruments are so delicate and we’re not like a pianist who can practice eight hours a day,” she said. “You don’t want to oversing and you don’t want to build bad habits by practicing until you get tired. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. You have to be careful and conscious while you’re practicing.”
D’Eramo has advice for others pursuing a similar path. “Take your time with it and be patient with yourself. Take the time to lay the groundwork and put in the work. You can’t just blossom; you have to put in the years of practice rooms and building sets.”
Sylvia is pursuing her master’s degree in opera performance at Yale University. She is expected to graduate next year.
She soon will be auditioning for young artist programs or with opera companies.
While she hopes to stay in New York, she is open to other possibilities.
“I’m open to the opportunities but lean toward the operatic stage. Opera is my passion but I love Broadway, too,” she said.
D’Eramo is the second of five children of Mary Jane D’Eramo and the late Dr. Mark D’Eramo. Her older sister, Laura, and younger brothers, Tony and Aaron, are TJC alumni who also excelled in academics and performing arts.
The youngest sibling, Augustine, is a sophomore at Bishop T.K. Gorman High School. Like his four older siblings, he also has participated in theatre productions at TJC.
D’Eramo said it was a sentimental journey to return to TJC and perform after being away for five years.
“Being in this room,” she said, “all this nostalgia comes flooding back. It was this environment at TJC that cultured an atmosphere where I felt safe to explore my artistic side. If it wasn’t for this starting point, I don’t know that I would be doing this.”
Elise Mullinix is the editorial manager over marketing, media and communications at TJC.