Respected soprano comes back to campus

by Peter KaspariStaff Writer

Layna Chianakas is no stranger to Simpson College. The vocalist, who will perform Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Lekberg Hall, conjures fond memories from students and faculty alike.

“She is a mezzo soprano and we know her well,” Professor of Music Robert Larsen said. “Four years ago, she performed in a production at the Des Moines Metro Opera.”

Larsen, who has known the Greek-American Chianakas for six years, said that she is a very talented individual.

“We became good friends after the company and I directed her,” Larsen said. “She is one of the fine young singers of today.”

Senior Roland Hawkins remembers when Chianakas visited Simpson several years ago.

“She was excellent, well-prepared and nice,” Hawkins said. “She even had us over at her apartment.”

Chianakas’s talents go beyond that of music. She is a professional performer in theatre as well. For her performance, Chianakas will be paired with pianist Daniel Lockert. She will then hold a master class for students.

“[A master class] means somebody is listening to a few singers performing pieces, commenting on it, and telling young people what they need to bring to their performance,” Larsen said. “It’s actually a public lesson and performance talking about the musical score.”

Senior Eric Bruce is one of many looking forward to experiencing Chianakas’ master class.

“Usually in a master class you perform either an aria or an art song and the artist will give you some helpful hints regarding vocal issues, diction, acting, etcetera.,” Bruce said. “The experience is helpful for both the singer and the audience, most of whom are there not only there to hear the student, but to apply what the artist says about the student to their own work.”

In addition to performing recitals, Chianakas is also an on-stage performer. According to her vita, she has been in performances including “Madame Butterfly” and “Carmen.” She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois. Her current residence is San Jose, Calif., where she lives with her husband, Elie Haddad, and her two children; Ghythe, 6, and Sophia, 3.

Lockert, who will serve as the accompianist to Chianakahas, has also done plenty of work in the theatre. According to a biography provided by Larsen, he has served as musical director for “I Do! I Do!” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” as well as “Enter the Guardsman.” He gained experience on the piano playing in churches and synagogues, and he has a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Loma Linda University.

Chianakas’ performance tomorrow is expected to go very well.

“I’m very happy,” Larsen said. “I think the students and faculty will all be thrilled, because she’s a very inspirational performer.”

Chianakas has gained a lot of respect on Simpson’s campus, not only from professors, but students as well.

“Having Dr. Larsen and the Des Moines Metro Opera bringing artists like Layna to work with us and help us grow as singers and performers has been immeasurably valuable,” Bruce said.