A tribute to Erin Wall (1975-2020)

woman in an evening gown, man in a tuxedo

Last week, the world lost a beautiful person, a singer, a mom, a wife, a friend, a colleague. In the music department, we lost a beloved member of our family, Soprano Erin Wall, a 1998 graduate of Western.

Western pianist, Rachel Roulet remembers meeting Erin over 20 years ago. “She was a senior vocal performance major singing the lead in the opera, Susannah by Carlisle Floyd and I was the new assistant music director for the opera program. I cannot say enough how this opera moved me and how beautifully Erin sang the title role. It will stay with me forever as one of best student productions I have ever experienced.  Erin went on to win the university concerto competition that year and sang a set of Rodrigo songs with the orchestra.”

Erin was featured in a profile by the Western student newspaper as she began her senior year at Western. She explained, “ I didn’t know for a while what I wanted to do, so I decided to focus on classical training and through this I got more interested in opera music… The more I got involved with opera, the more it grew on me. I like the feeling of being on stage and performing before a live audience. The interaction and energy of the audience drives me.”

After graduation, Erin went on to graduate school at Rice University and then to the Chicago Lyric Opera apprenticeship program.  Shortly after arriving in Chicago, she embarked on a fundraising challenge with Rachel Roulet to create a scholarship endowment in her WWU professor’s name. She gave two benefit recitals at WWU and with the support of friends and family and a few performances by other distinguished alumni, the department raised the funds. Every year, a student at WWU receives the Dr. Virginia Hunter Voice Scholarship.

Western Professor, Jeffrey Gilliam collaborated with Erin on one of the scholarship benefit recitals and also for her Tokyo and Asia recital debut in 2006. “I remember her telling me that that recital at Western was the first ever where people bought tickets to hear her sing!” Gilliam writes, “working with Erin was a defining moment in my life and career, and I have enjoyed sharing those memories with my students and colleagues. I first got to know Erin when she was a student in my music theory classes in the 1990's. Erin was a phenomenal singer and musician, and always a fun person to be around.”

Rachel Roulet remembers, “Erin and  I always met up when we could for a quick cup of coffee in Seattle or breakfast in New York City, or a walk along the Taylor Dock in Bellingham.  She never forgot where she came from and I will never forget her warmth, her laughter and her love. Carlisle Floyd couldn’t have said it better: “Ain’t it a pretty night. The sky is heavy with stars tonight, that it might fall right down out of heaven, and cover us up, in one big blanket all stitched with diamonds.” Each night as Erin sang that aria, she wrapped her arms around herself as the stage lit with the most beautiful sunset. She leaves us and joins the night sky as one of the brightest stars.

NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/arts/music/erin-wall-dead.html

Canadian Opera Company: https://www.coc.ca/COC-news1?Page=1&CategoryCOC+Staff&Category=Erin+Wall

Interview with Erin Wall on Page 7 of this November 1997 Western Front article.