Jeanine De Bique
Jeanine De Bique is living proof that if you whole-heartedly immerse and dedicate yourself to your deepest passions, you can achieve your wildest dreams: like performing Opera on the Hollywood Bowl stage in front of 17,500 people. For De Bique, it’s her unwavering sense of self and tireless confidence that makes me believe that only the most determined of us can make Opera singing a career. Born in Trinidad, De Bique’s mother put her and all her sisters through the fine arts - they all played piano, gymnastics, ballet. After taking classical music lessons on the side, competing in soloist, duet, and trio music competitions against other schools in the nation, when she reached 18 and was graduating, she had the choice to either go into law or psychology. When considering the two, her music teachers explained that there was a possibility for De Bique to go into classical music as a career. Without even believing that this could be a real possibility, At the time, Youtube had just begun, and this was the first time De Bique had seen Renee Fleming “Song to the Moon” from the opera Rusalka. And this is where she began to truly believe that classical music could be a career for her.
Now as an award-winning singer, De Bique uses her platform as an artist to expand her impact beyond the stage: She is a UNESCO ambassador for peace and utilizes singing engagements to raise awareness in Trinidad of how classical music can benefit and transform the lives and well-being of young people.
Flaunt caught up with De Bique at the Roosevelt Hotel to chat about her performances Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, her feature on an episode of Netflix’s “The OA”, how to teach someone to Opera sing in a minute, being a UNESCO ambassador for peace, and more!
Check out the Q&A below!
Have people ever challenged your dream of being an Opera singer, or didn’t believe that was a plausible career path?
That's really interesting question. I just had a friend last night ask the same question and I could really just say no. I have not been near to any one that told me that I couldn't do it or that I shouldn't do it. Or even if it was very foreign to them, I've always been surrounded by people that one either thought outside of the box or two just believed and loved me enough to say, “Okay, this is what you want to do. Then we're going to try and find all the ways possible to be able to facilitate that.”
So you will be making two debuts like this week - at the Hollywood Bowl and then the Mostly Mozart Festival, both with the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
Yes, it will be my debut at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as Lincoln Center with them. I have performed at Lincoln Center before, the David Geffen Hall years ago. But it will be my first time stepping on that stage to sing as a soloist and as the as the prime soloist for the concert. And then we return here at the Hollywood Bowl for the Mozart Requiem with the same Orchestra.
How do you prepare for performances this massive? How do you prepare, and do you ever get nervous?
I get nervous, yes, but that's before I walk on the stage. Not while I'm on the stage. If I do get nervous while I'm on the stage, it’s just because I'm not concentrated on my technique. whenever fear kicks in I revert back to my technique to make sure that everything's in check while I'm singing.
What is your Technique?
Let's see. It's it's mostly [laughs] mental conversation of telling my tongue to get out of the way not trying to control or push or move sound with the notes that I have to sing. And so when the tongue gets out of the way, then I have no choice but to allow my breath to make the sound. So there's a lot of that happening. That’s one of my major issues, so I have to concentrate a lot on that.
What happens when your tongue gets in the way?
There’s no Legato line. When the tongue takes control, I know that the voice is not as flexible as it could be. It's not not pretty, but it's just not as full and flexible as it can be when the tongue is in the way. When the tongue is out of the way and is completely relaxed or just in the right positioning with the right amount of energy but not tense, then you have a more plush plump sound.
I never thought of the tongue being an obstacle for singing?
Oh yeah, the tongue and the jaw, learning your Larynx is too high. Then your tongue gets really tense inside, the back of the tongue that is, and then that affects everything that comes out.
If your life depended on it, how would you teach someone to Opera sing in one minute?
Okay, I would tell them… I would tell you to dream that you have a really sweet smelling Rose, and to take a really deep breath, like their life depended on it. [laughs] Exhale in the same direction as they inhaled from their nose. And while they're exhaling you start to sing on that breath that's being released. That's a small start.
You also appeared in an episode of the Netflix series “The OA”! What was that experience like? Do you wish to pursue any more on camera roles?
Yes, I really would! I just wish that we had more time. It was so fast. The environment was great, and it actually was lovely. Both directors were really beautiful souls. It was really good for me to get out there because I was in Switzerland working on another show, and I was really terrified to come out here and miss that show or get sick from traveling from Switzerland. But I just loved every single minute of it, the way they took care of me, the way that they honored me, the way that they respected me was just great and I just respected their work so much. My eyes were just open to something so new that, I mean, who gets to be on a film set? And how the director brought me into the director's chair and I sat down and took a look at the what he was looking at, that's a rare opportunity. So I would happily do that again under the right circumstances and I just happened to be lucky that I was with a really great director. That was a remarkable experience and it's really important to be passionate about what you love and also be working with people who are just as passionate.
How do you use the vessel Opera as a UNESCO ambassador for peace?
So when I was 21 they gave me this title for peace, using music as the vessel. And there are many ways that you can do it, one of the ways that I do it is doing outreach with children, not all the time I get an opportunity to do that because of work or because I’m traveling. So in the beginning, I made my own set of outreach and raised funds for handicapped children. And I arranged in Barbados with the National Cultural Foundation to support the World Doctors Orchestra in their endeavor to come to Barbados to play with me, but all the money that was coming from the ticket sales would go to Children's Ward in the hospital there. And this is a beautiful orchestra because they fund themselves, they pay for the tickets themselves, hotels themselves. They just asked for a venue and rehearsal space and it's a group of doctors. In Chicago, I have done some outreach last year, It helps when organizations have that department that I can also have the time to help them go into different areas with music. So, Chicago for example, I have gone to three or four different schools. And each school is incredibly different in terms of the way the teachers were, the amount of knowledge or lack of knowledge that they had about Outreach or classical music, the way that they discipline the kids, or lack of discipline of the kids, and some more challenging and some were not. But, I'll say this: in every single one of those schools, when I started singing, they started paying attention.