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Students singing earns accolades on all-classical music station


Becky Yakos making her mark on the local music scene

by: COURTESY PHOTO: NATASHA RAE PHOTOGRAPHY - Becky Yakos wants to land a job she loves so much shed do it for free: opera singing.Becky Yakos hummed before she spoke and that may be a clue as to why the high school junior from Forest Grove is well on her way to achieving her dream of becoming an opera singer.

“You have to find something that you don’t mind doing, even if you weren’t paid,” Becky told Christa Wessel in a recent interview for for 89.9 All Classical radio in Portland.

Her membership in the Pacific Youth Choir began in first grade and continues to this day. Becky counts this long relationship as one of the luckier ones in her life. It brought her under the tutelage of Choir Director Mia Hall Miller and, eventually, Angela Neiderloh, her current voice coach.

Singing with the PYC also led Becky to a wide range of performing opportunities—from the Oregon Bach Festival to backup singing for Pink Martini. Most recently, she performed with the Oregon Ballet Theatre, singing Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Portland’s Keller Auditorium. Faced with the choice of performing in the ballet or attending her high school homecoming, Becky opted for the ballet.

“I had to think about it, but it was not a tough choice,” she explained in her radio interview, which aired last weekend.

The oldest of four children, Becky credits the support of her parents for at least some of her success so far. She shares family responsibilities along with managing a demanding schedule of high school classes, German lessons at Pacific University, voice training and performing.

Along the way, Becky also has found time for other interests ranging from dance to basketball to harp lessons. She’s also found her way to the local stage, landing big singing roles in the past two spring musicals at Forest Grove High School, first as Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music” and last spring as Lady Larken in “Once Upon a Mattress.”

But despite her time in the spotlight, she thinks of herself as an introvert and definitely enjoys being alone at times.

“I’d rather be home, alone with a movie and a cup of tea, by the fireside,” she confided in her radio interview.

Becky’s mother, Claudia, first suggested Becky’s voice might lend itself to classical music or opera. At this point, Becky had been singing for years, everything from pop to hip hop, and at first she resisted her mother’s suggestion. But one day in the eighth grade, she realized her mother was right.

“It was a light bulb moment,” Becky claims in her radio interview, “Random!” Opera became her focus.

With a fairly low-pitched speaking voice, Becky labels herself a “non-typical soprano,” and compares herself musically to a violin rather than a flute. Finding her individual voice is one of her goals and she explains that her voice at 16 is bound to change.

“Technique,” Becky responds when asked what she enjoys about studying opera. “It’s beyond breath,” she explains and talks about coloratura and vibrato with enthusiasm. She also asserts that she doesn’t want to take herself too seriously and become “one of those singers who thinks they’re ‘all that.’”

Becky’s family helps keep her grounded and encourages a realistic approach, but Becky sticks stubbornly to following her dreams, one of which is to study and perform in Vienna.

Her path to the future starts with the question that always follows her practice and performances: “How can I do better?”

Christa Wessel of All Classical Portland radio, KQAC 89.9, interviewed Becky on her program, “On Deck with Young Musicians.” The program aired Saturday, 26 October and can be heard on line at the station’s website, www/allclassical.org.