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Professor sings in romance

11/01/2010
By:

Monica Szakacs

Staff Writer

Growing up with a natural talent for singing, Luisa Piemontese, professor of Spanish, doubted herself and never sang in public, even when close friends would compliment her singing voice and tell her she should perform.

“I always have been shy about my singing,” said Piemontese. “I think it’s something very private of mine. It’s kind of a release for me so I sing when I wash the dishes, I sing when I clean the house, I sing when I’m on the road.”

At a difficult time in her life, when she became a single mother, Piemontese said she went through moments of silence, where she could not even sing to release her emotions. When she did not sing while cleaning, she said her two sons, Julian and Adrian, noticed something was wrong with their mother.

“The transition to becoming a single mom impacted me and impacted my kids and the time of silence was me thinking through things,” said Piemontese, “but then again there were some moments of solitude and silence that turned into singing, because the songs are what kept me company.”

Piemontese said her father recently passed away. She said growing up she was always shy singing in front of him, because he was a very critical man with her and singing was so special to her.

“Not that he ever told me you don’t sing well, it was just in my head,” said Piemontese.

The last Christmas with her father a couple years ago, she remembered him being very ill, and he was trying to sleep because he was in a lot of pain. She said she was wrapping presents in her room while listing to music, and she did not realize that she was singing along out loud. The next morning, which was Christmas, said Piemontese, she received words from her father that changed her life.

“He said to me, Luisa I have to tell you this — last night I had a dream that there was an angel and I
realized that it was you and you were singing, and he said to me, you have a really nice voice,” said Piemontese. “Now, each time I sing I am closer to him. I think I am singing to him and that is also a very, very special part of why I sing.”

Piemontese said she can sing in Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and English, and when she came to this country at 12 years old from Italy, she studied Spanish. According to Piemontese, she received her BA in Language and Culture with a focus on Latin American literature, and a minor in French and Pedagogy with teaching at Suny Purchase State University of New York. In Yale graduate school, according to the Southern Faculty website, she had received a masters in philosophy and a doctorate in medieval Spanish literature. She was offered a scholarship at Yale, said Piemontese, if she took a year of Portuguese.

“I needed the money and I said why not,” said Piemontese. “I sat in the class and I realized memories came back of music that I grew up with.”

In the class, said Piemontese, they would listen to Bossa Nova. She remembered always listening to the same style of music growing up in Italy, but never knew the name. She said she always loved that type of music.

“Bossa Nova is the style I sing, all the songs I sing we convert into Bossa Nova,” said Piemontese. “It is a style in Brazil that came about in the 1950s, 1960s. It’s a mixture of samba, the main rhythm of Brazil and jazz.”

Piemontese said she composes and performs music with two men from Columbia: Hernan Yepes, guitarist and pianist, and German Bermudez, guitarist and percussionist. She said she performs at a Latin American restaurant, Ola, which is owned by a family from Guatemala.

Yepes said he met Piemontese 20 years ago when their children played together at cultural and social events in New Haven. According to Piemontese, she performed about two or three times at these events.

“We found out that we both liked Bossa Nova,” said Yepes, “as well as other international music, and being international and multilingual ourselves, it was only natural that we would explore the wonderful music around which we grew up.”

Poetry, music, delivery— these are ways Piemontese enriches people’s lives, Yepes said, as an inspiring renaissance woman. He said people are truly lucky to see and hear her sing.

“The most memorable moments when playing with Luisa,” said Yepes, “are the several occasions when I’ve seen people cry as a result of either the depth of her interpretations, her exquisite style of delivery, the heartfelt honesty in her voice, and simply the sheer beauty of the songs.”

Bermudez said he met Piemontese at Yale when she was a graduate student. He said he learned then of her talent as a flamenco dancer with a group she used to perform with at the time. He said they lost touch after Yale.

“About three years ago we connected again through my friend Hernan Yepes,” said Bermudez. “We share a love for the old style Brazilian music, which is quite coincidental, since this music is not really very popular in our country.”

Bermudez said they began making music informally, just as they still do for the most part. He said she is a very sensitive, responsible, professional person.

“She is the most versatile singer I know, and it goes beyond what her voice can do,” said Bermudez. “It has to do with ability to immerse herself in many cultures and human sensitivities.”

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