Closeup Image of polished vintage wood flooring at CFPA - Center for Performing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Rehearsal Reflections: Nelle June Anderson

New Works Residency: Kat Purcell, Nelle Anderson, and Margo Gray have been selected to spend roughly two months in residence at cfpa to make a new piece that in some way addresses ritual and resilience: ritual of all types (secular, cultural, religious, spiritual, mundane, ceremonial, invented, reinvented, quoted, etc.) and ritual’s relationship to/with/around resilience.

Each Resident will contribute blog posts over the course of their residency. This first post addresses the central question of the project each is building during the residency, and discusses aspects of their creative process.

Nelle June Anderson

Nelle’s project focuses on the intersection of her rigorous opera training and her art-pop heart. She is seeking “a place where these old and new styles can play and breathe together, overcoming differences of genre and origin to make a new, cohesive sound. . . . What is the difference between being an interpreter of a work and a generator of a work? . . . What is necessary to make my art feel like it’s mine?”

Details about the presentations on December 14th and 15th and the other resident artists here.

On Saturday, November 3, Nelle met with singer Aby Wolf, her mentor for this residency, and with cfpa’s Jackie Hayes and Jennie Ward, in an open rehearsal of her work in progress. Nelle offers a reflection on that open rehearsal here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those solely those of the artist. More about Nelle here.


1. Practicing-me and performing-me feel worlds apart when I sing my own music. I feel the distance between attempts to define who I am as an artist and fears that I may not be living up to one or another.

2. As an opera singer and film actor, I usually have performance supports in the form of costars, costumes, sets, and—this one I miss the most—additional takes. I wanted to strip as many things as possible away for this project to realign my intentions, and doing so makes what’s “working” in my pieces painfully clear: I know something’s good when it feels like it’s running away from me of its own volition, and I have to become brave and run after it to stand a chance.

3. For example, I was surprised with how difficult it was to activate my chest voice for an audience, how raw it felt coming out of my mouth compared to everything else. (It’s this vivaciousness I’m running after.)

Initial Goals (September)

  • To join multiple genre practices and singing techniques.
  • To explore my compositional instincts independent of genre.
  • To realize this idea as fully-arranged and reproducible performance pieces.
Current Status:
  • As with most things people care about, this is turning out to be more important to me and messier than I’d anticipated. I’m constantly going back and forth between letting go of vocal control and reigning it in towards helpful techniques. I feel an honest middle-ground emerging, but it demands a thousand little leaps of faith per day.
  • In this case, naiveté is my best friend. I have less training in composition than singing, so it’s easier to follow my form and accompaniment-texture impulses as they emerge. In comparing the availability of different impulses, I’m developing a sense for which variables want to be controlled versus independent in my work. Everything that’s alive or complete must have both and every internal map looks a bit different.
  • I initially thought these compositions would include more instruments and electronic looping, but as I’ve been stripping facades from my voice I’ve simplified the accompaniment. Who knows how the pieces will end up, but at this point any approach that channels freedom and power into my voice is the right one.