Jennifer Marie Stevens
Classical Singer ~ Visual Artist
"I was 8 years old; we lived in Window Rock, AZ. This is when music became a part of my life; I started piano lessons... and I have never been the same since. The love for music and art started early on in my life, but it wasn't until people gifted me the tools and instruments to learn from is when my true love started."
Jennifer M. Stevens is considered a multi-faceted classical vocalist, a soprano and a visual artist. Her life's journey has been exploring various mediums from the visual to the performing arts. For the past 20 years Stevens has woven a creative life as a painter, Oneida-Iroquois master potter and instructor, sculptor, creative writer, graphic designer, and photographer; with additional creative threads as a classical soprano recitalist and soloist, and a classical contemporary composer. Stevens has recently been listed in the Encyclopedia of Native American music of North America, “Currently among upcoming singers of indigenous heritage is Jennifer M. Stevens (Wakohsiyo) of Oneida background also creative as a composer, writer, graphic designer, sculptor, photographer, in addition to her musical performing…” by Elaine Keillor, Tim Archambault, and John M. H. Kelly.
Stevens has many plans as she develops and strives a certain professional level in her career as a musician and artist. She will eventually dedicate the rest of her life encouraging others in the arts through a Children’s Creative Arts Foundation of her own. In the meantime, Stevens will continue to engage in the arts and all the wonderful experiences of her life.
Stevens comes from a large family of athletes, professors, advocates, and nationally known leaders; she is the youngest daughter of nationally known Native American leader, orator, educator, historian, and Economic Development Specialist, Ernest L. Stevens Sr., and the late Patricia (Brewer) Stevens. Stevens is also the granddaughter of Oneida linguist/instructor and the first Oneida Dictionary co-author, Maria Hinton. Stevens feels one of the most valuable philosophies she has learned from her parents and grandparents is; stressing the importance of perseverance, integrity, higher education, and utilizing your abilities and creativity to strive to make positive changes in your communities, especially for our future generations.
Some interesting facts; Stevens has been researching her genealogy and discovered she is the Great-Great-Great-Great Granddaughter of historical Chiefs; Chief Standing Elk and Chief Red Cloud through her Mother’s Lakota side of the family-her grandfather Paul Brewer of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Paul Brewer was also a nationally known professional bronco rider and the first to ride a buffalo. Stevens also discovered on her father’s side of the family, she is a descendent of another historical figure, Chief Shenandoah, through her Grandmother Maria Hinton. Stevens is discovering perseverance, integrity, leadership, determination, and making a difference runs strong in her DNA on both sides of her family-she has many good role models to choose from!!! Stevens is very intrigued by her roots; she also is researching her French, German, Swiss, and Irish heritage as well!
In addition to Jennifer M. Stevens’ creative endeavors she is an active member of the Oneida and Greater Green Bay communities, does pottery workshops for K-Adult students throughout Wisconsin, travels locally and abroad for her many creative interests, encourages youth in the arts, and served on the First Nation Composers Initiative Advisory Board, St. Paul, MN, and the Green Bay Press-Gazette Community Conversation Advisory Panel, Green Bay, WI. In essence, Stevens is an active participant and supporter of the arts and humanitarian efforts in her communities and strives to mentor youth in the arts, which has become very enriching for her life as well.
Jennifer M. Stevens, lyric spinto soprano and visual artist is the youngest daughter of Ernest L. Stevens Sr. of Oneida descent and the late Patricia (Brewer) Stevens, of German, French, Swiss, Irish and Lakota descent. Stevens was born in Alexandria Hospital, Alexandria, VA, and lived in Annandale, Virginia until her parents relocated to West De Pere, Wisconsin while she was turning 5 years old in 1977. Stevens’ father is a major influence in Stevens’ life; he was a nationally known Native American leader, historian, educator (U. S. and Native American History, Indian Law, and Economic Development), orator, and an Economic Development Specialist. He also was a Drill Instructor for the Marines and served in the Korean War-A decorated soldier. A small town boy from Oneida, Wisconsin was noted as one of the most prestigious Native American Leaders of his time. He is considered a brilliant man that had great love and compassion for his Native American people, and he made great sacrifices in his life to help make improvements for tribes nationwide; a true living humanitarian!
Stevens' father worked very hard to provide for his family-a father of 8 kids. He strived to instill strong values and inspiration for them. Due to her father's work, Stevens had the opportunity to live in Annandale, Virginia, De Pere, Wisconsin, Window Rock, Arizona, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, although mostly lived in West De Pere, Wisconsin. Education and work ethics was a major theme in her father’s life, which left lasting impressions on her. He taught her to have dignity, integrity, courage, and take pride in all that she does.
Stevens graduated from West De Pere High School in 1991 and furthered her education at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Kansas University-School of Music and Dance, and St. Norbert College; studying Musical Theatre, Education, Vocal Performance and later changed her major to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art with a focus on ceramics and painting. Stevens has a very busy schedule, needs to take one final course, and will be receiving her degree from St. Norbert College hopefully very soon! She also completed a six month Oneida-Iroquois apprenticeship under the Wisconsin Arts Board with Master Oneida-Iroquois potter, Rose Kerstetter. Since 2002 she has been teaching K through Adult students; now a Master potter and instructor herself.
The arts have become more than just a form of expression for Jennifer M. Stevens; it motivated her, became a major inspiration in her life, and helped her overcome some obstacles of her own. Stevens at the age of six was diagnosed with a learning disability, in turn created many setbacks for her; Stevens was told she wouldn't be able to go to college-something she told her parents she always wanted to do as early as nine years old. Stevens feels education is important; she either took courses in college or trains privately; she feels that she enjoys learning and considers herself a lifetime student.
Stevens had many dreams; to be a psychotherapist, dancer, singer, and artist. Although a long road, by the time Stevens was a junior in high school, teachers discovered she had advanced musical and artistic skills, which was the beginning of a new light in her life. In high school Stevens was on the honor roll, voted Student of the Month, part of the Gifted and Talented, sang the lead role, Kate, in the musical, Kiss Me Kate, and very active in school. Her life began to change...
While entering into college, Stevens was receiving music scholarship offers to attend various schools, had the choice to go to the Crane school of Music, and University of Arizona. She chose to go to University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, on a Musical Theater scholarship, and later decided that opera was more interesting to her. She later attended St. Norbert College, where she was selected for the Honors Recital in 1999, and transferred to Kansas University-School of Music and Dance as a Vocal Performance major, where she made the Dean’s List. Jennifer M. Stevens discovered her artistic expression and creativity as a lever to overcome what others would call a disability. Stevens has over turned many leaves to engage an enriching life through the arts.
Music has been a major part of Stevens’ life, but there have always been undertones of her visual creativity since she was able to put a pencil in her hand. Stevens’ Mother in particular recognized her daughter’s natural ability through her sketches as young as 3-5 years old and kept her original sketches; Her Mother put a special effort to supply her with art supplies since she was very young; Stevens’ Mother not knowing she would end up a professional artist! The encouragement was very helpful to Stevens. Stevens Great-Grandfather was also a painter...it must run in her DNA.
Stevens had an interest in sketching portraits, painting and sculpture since she was a little girl, but it wasn't until her late 20's that she actually started to hone her skills. She was invited to work with Iroquois-Oneida potter, Rose Kersetter who groomed her to be an Iroquois potter and instructor. She completed her six month apprenticeship with her under the Wisconsin Arts Board. Jennifer M. Stevens also studied studio art with a focus on painting and ceramics at St. Norbert College with professors’ Donald Taylor (Ceramics) and James Cagle (painting), and Marilyn Stasiak (Painting), who all have been very helpful and encouraging for her creative endeavors. Marilyn Stasiak in particular has influenced Jennifer's interest in contemporary art and told Stevens, "We know you can paint tight, now paint with a pallet knife on a larger canvas."
Stevens focused more on water color, portraits and sketches in pencil and charcoal in high school. She has always appreciated various styles especially art by Michelangelo, Gustav Klimt, Auguste Rodin, and Claude Monet. She also enjoys old world fresco paintings that caught her eye during her travels to Italy. Recently, she has been experimenting with a texture style of the old world fresco inspired with her Native American styled art. Fusing both European and Native American art is something she enjoys-makes it unique. Stevens doesn’t plan on stream lining her style… Stevens enjoys the creative process and exploring various styles of art and mediums. (See Samples of Art.)
Stevens showed an appreciation for music where her family noticed her immediate response to music; as soon as they turned it on she would dance. Stevens parents noticed her interest in playing piano when she was 5 years old; Stevens was at a family function and her cousins were playing various songs on the piano-the kids left and Stevens sat on the piano bench and imitated what she heard the other kids were playing. Stevens’ parents were trying to raise 8 children and didn’t always have the money for piano lessons, but bought her big sister and her a Baldwin piano. Stevens continued playing piano, and mostly taught herself how to play piano both by reading music and by ear as well. 30 years later, Stevens still has her Baldwin piano and currently being refurbished, pitch raised, and tuned for many more years of piano playing. Stevens is grateful for her parents effort to put a piano in her hands very young-although not a concert pianist, she uses her piano skills as a major tool for writing her original compositions.
To say the least, music has been a major part of Stevens’ life. Since, Stevens started taking piano lessons, was singing in choirs, receiving encouragement from instructors, and her parents playing Pavarotti; she grew a great appreciation for classical music and opera. Jennifer was fascinated with the beautiful sounds that opera singers made-felt it was so soulful and amazing, not to mention a huge fan of Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi, and especially, Puccini. Stevens first opera aria was, O mio babbino caro, by Puccini. She has been hooked on his arias ever since. Stevens is inspired by her favorite sopranos such as; Leontyne Price, Maria Callas, Keri Te Kanawa, Beverly Sills, Renee Fleming, Anna Moffo, Montserrat Caballé, and Kathleen Battle. Stevens is also a huge fan of Barbara Streisand, although she is not an opera singer, Stevens loves her voice and the emotions she expresses.
Stevens is currently a vocal student of Margaret (Drummond) Colbert, lyric spinto soprano, who just moved to Appleton, WI from Darmstadt, Germany. Mrs. Colbert heard Stevens sing and felt she had a special talent-she gifted her voice lessons to help her prepare for her performances. Colbert was the student of Tilly de Garmo and Fritz Sweig of Los Angeles, California and was a West Coast Regionals Metropolitan Met Auditions Winner, and had a 20 year professional career in Germany and Austria. Mrs. Colbert performed leading roles from Tosca, Aida, Turandot, Lohengrin, and Tannhausser.
Stevens has also studied with; Marshall Moss, Baritone, Linda Parins, Soprano, Joanne Bozeman, Soprano, Dr. RubyAnn Poulson, Mezzo, Barbara McAlister, Dramatic Mezzo, Sondra Kelly, Dramatic Mezzo, and Inci Bashar, Mezzo. The summer of 2012 Stevens studied in Europe with Italian soprano, Francesca Patane, Lugano, Switzerland, and American soprano, Cornelia Prestel, Salzburg, Austria. This summer Stevens recently studied voice with Italian Soprano, Fiorenza Cedolins, in Las Palmas Gran Canaria at the Teatro Perez Galdos, Spain and will be attending one of her Master Classes Fall of Summer/Fall of 2013.
Stevens continues to share her love for music and performing as a concert recitalist and soloist in such venues as; the Green Bay Civic Symphony, Green Bay, WI, Choir/Student Recitals in Germany, Austria, and Italy, Native American Music Awards, Niagara Falls, NY, Club Italo-Americano, Green Bay, WI, First Nations Composer Initiative Concerts-Montgomery College, Rockville, MD and MacPhail Music Center, Minneapolis, MN, Heard Museum in partnership with the Arizona Opera, Pheonix, AZ, Oneida Nation Museum, Oneida, WI, Indian Summer Festival, Milwaukee, WI, Meyer Theatre, Green Bay, WI, featured in the documentary, The Lesson, now called, Owe.la': The Music Within Jennifer Stevens. produced by Eileen Littig and Dean Thomas, profiled for the upcoming PBS-WPT program series called, "Wisconsin Life," and will be debuting three of her songs with the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra at the Weidner Center For the Performing Arts. (Hear Samples of Music.)
Composing classical music for piano and voice has been a secret hobby for Stevens. She feels she has performed songs in many languages, especially Italian and Latin, and lately inspired to composing her own art songs for recital. She has written compositions for school as far back as 1998, where her instructor Dr. Cook of St. Norbert College encouraged her to keep her compositions and start building a portfolio. Stevens struggles with music theory, didn't think she could be a composer, but her compositions and lyrics have always been very fluid for her. Stevens Voice Teacher, Sondra Kelly in 2009 also encouraged Stevens to continue her exploration in her composition for recital. Currently Stevens is writing compositions influenced by her classical foundation but also combines her classical training with her indigenous language and culture to give a new flavor to some of her songs for recital. Stevens wrote and performed her first song cycle entitled, Elements; Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water at the Heard Museum and will continue to develop her compositions and exploring new ideas. Stevens will always continue her classical music singing art songs, oratorio, sacred song, and opera arias-standard repertoire for recital, but enjoys adding something a little different that she knows her audience has not heard yet, because it stems from herself through her original compositions.
Stevens has performed songs for recital for the past 20 years and through her experience she loves inspirational and romantic music. She enjoys it so much that she is inspired to create a similar ambiance of romantic or inspirational music through her own original compositions. To Stevens it doesn’t matter what language she is singing in, what is most important to her is either finding music or composing music that she enjoys performing for recital. Being a classical singer, you sing in many languages…Stevens appreciates all cultures and enjoys honoring them through her performances. (Hear Samples of Compositions.)
Jennifer M. Stevens favorite subject in school was English and Literature-with Art and Music as a given. Stevens especially appreciated reading poetry, short stories and a huge fan of William Shakespeare. Stevens Father enjoyed reading his favorite poems and short stories to her since she was a little girl. He had a collection of classics and found that his daughter enjoyed the sensitivity and depth of his favorite literature. Stevens Father also noticed her ability to write so he worked with her since she was in middle school to develop her writing skills. Sometimes grueling hours of edits with her Father, but she was able to learn some valuable writing skills-He set a standard that helped Stevens get through all her course work in college.
Mind you that Stevens has a reading disability… but found through beautiful literature and poetry it helped her overcome her fear of it because she enjoyed it so much. Her Father gave her examples of good writing, explained why it was, had dialogue about the literature, and then showed her how she could also write. Stevens Father always told her, “If there is one skill that I can teach you; that you can use for the rest of your life-is teach you how to write.” Stevens is very appreciative that her Father took the time from his demanding schedule to help her hone her writing skills. Stevens Father was right-writing has become a skill she has been able to use in all areas of her life. Stevens Father was noted for his gift to write and many don't know he also enjoyed writing poetry. Stevens English teachers also encouraged her creative writing and poetry, and she continues to add her favorite poems to her collection of poems.
On a more serious note, Stevens has been successful utilizing her writing skills in other areas of her life; Stevens sits on the Green Bay Press-Gazette Conversation Panel, where she is an occasional columnist, she writes editorials on social/humanitarian issues for her local Oneida newspaper, Kalihwisaks, and utilizes her writing skills to benefit the arts such as; drafting scripts for community theatre and a respectable grants writer. Stevens has drafted two grant proposals and was successful in raising $10,000 for the CESA #7 for the documentary, "the Lesson." Stevens has been successful in the past five years of grants writing, and received funding for all of her grant proposal submissions.
Stevens still enjoys sitting down at a coffee shop, drinking a cup of Chai, and enjoys writing mostly poems and lyrics for her songs. Stevens feels that her Father gifted her by sharing the importance of writing and exposing her to some beautiful literature and poetry; in hand, it has become a major inspiration for her to hone her own creative writing skills. Stevens feels that writing like any art is a powerful tool-to communicate in a level that makes people think and feel on a deeper level. When she writes she always thinks in terms of leaving words behind that are thought provoking and inspirational. (See Samples of Creative Writing)
Miss Stevens has strived to utilize her love and skills in the arts to benefit her community; for the past 20 years sang for funerals, weddings, special events, and sang the National Anthem for the Oneida and Wisconsin Vets, and sporting events since she was 18 years old. Jennifer M. Stevens has supported VET events due to her father being a Drill Instructor for the Marines and fought in the Korean War who also suffered PTS-Post Traumatic Syndrome.
Jennifer M. Stevens has also directed children's productions such as L. Frank Baums', the Wizard of Oz, Charles Dickens', the Christmas Carol, Dr. Seuss', the Lorax, and Oneida Legends with her community children encouraging their own creative endeavors and interests. Stevens feels that Children's Theatre is an excellent way to get children involved with various interests and their community. Stevens discovered through working with kids her hidden talent; adapting children’s stories and Oneida legends for stage. Writing scripts, designing scenery and costumes, and bringing the stories to life in community children’s productions has been a wonderful growing experience for her cast and for herself. All her productions so far have been well attended.
Jennifer M. Stevens resides in Green Bay, WI, enjoys her peaceful home and studio, beautiful white shepherd and white Alaskan husky, gardening and landscaping, writing poems and ballads, plays piano as a hobby, enjoys traveling, photography, encouraging youth in the arts, and works for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin as an Executive Assistant. She is taking in all the wonderful opportunities during her creative journey as a multi-faceted artist and singer.
Jennifer M. Stevens has a soft spot for humanitarian efforts, the arts, youth, and elders. Stevens strives to balance her life to become the best that she can become; she feels she can paint a thousand paintings and sing a thousand songs, but what good are they if she can't share them with others.
Georgia (Left) and Shadow (Right)
Georgia, White German Sheherd.Shadow, Alaskan Husky.Georgia was adopted through the White Paws Rescue in Green Bay... she was in various shelters in WI and managed to find her way to her new home of 6 years! Shadow is a new member of the household! Another rescue dog that a family adopted, but recently needed to find a good home for. He was a perfect match for Jennifer's dog Georgia and a joy to have around. Georgia is the watch dog and Shadow is the House CLOWN! They are both settling in and doing great...plus Jennifer enjoys training them as a hobby!
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