"Wow! I am so grateful that I kept moving forward." is a frequent thought for soprano Jonelle Sills when she’s making music with her colleagues. She loved singing as a child and it was her experience in a children’s choir that sparked her interest in classical music. This interest led Jonelle to pursue singing at York University in Toronto, Ontario, and then at The Glenn Gould School. For her it can sometimes feel unreal, but she continues to work on her craft to share new and traditional repertoire with audiences.
Having been praised for her “... warm, full, elastic tone” (Schmopera, Greg Finney), Jonelle was recently named as one of CBC Music’s classical “30 under 30” performers for 2020. Looking to share not only a “beautiful” voice, Jonelle seeks to share her heart in her artistry. “Opera is something that I continue to fight for because I believe at its core, it can be revolutionary.” As she moves forward in her career, she is not only working to meet the musical and technical demands of the art form, but to push against traditions that have limited opera from motivating its audiences to change and grow. ”My hope is that people will love their neighbours more, think a little more critically or maybe even smile more because they went to an opera.”
In the fall of 2019, Jonelle made her role debut as Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème on tour with Against The Grain Theatre through dive bars from Banff, Alberta to Toronto, Ontario. Directly following the tour, she sang PriaSoprano in A Million Billion Pieces by David James Brock, with music by Gareth Williams and directed by Philip Akin with Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre. Jonelle won a 2019 Dora award for “Outstanding performance of an Ensemble” in Vivier’s Kopernikus also with Against the Grain Theatre. This past summer Jonelle was a Resident Artist with Against the Grain Theatre at the Banff Centre’s “Opera in the 21st Century” program. During that residency she premiered the role of Esther in composer Paola Prestini and librettist Royce Vavreck’s Silent Light, which was directed and designed by Thaddeus Strassberger.
Though COVID-19 continues to limit live performance opportunities, Jonelle is looking forward to joining the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program with Vancouver Opera in the new year and to performing Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and narrating Carlos Simon's Portrait of a Queen in the near future. She will also be making her debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Ontario. Until then, she continues to stay inspired in her work giving special credit to Black Women in Opera’s Instagram account founded by Renee Ombaba. “This instagram page allowed me to know that I wasn't alone and that there were SO MANY black women who have done and are doing amazing things in opera.”
Keep up with Jonelle’s journey at https://jonellesills.com.