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F.C.’s Own Classical Music Singer Makes Professional Debut Sunday

GIVING HER RENDITION of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, Julia Farbstein seeks to bring that sme vocal talent to her debut with the New Dominion Chorale this Sunday. (Photo: Courtesy Marcus Farbstein)

Local songbird Julia Farbstein takes her talents to the big stage in her professional debut with the New Dominion Chorale at its annual holiday concert this Sunday in Alexandria.

Farbstein grew up in Falls Church and was a member of the first graduating class at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. For New Dominion singers, she holds the record for being the youngest member when the director asked her to join when she was 13.

But she was singing long before that.

She laughs to tell the story of driving a babysitter crazy one night “when I sang non-stop for hours about a princess in a tower,” an opera of sorts Farbstein created when she was about four years old.

Unhappy that her parents (Falls Church residents Marcus Farbstein and Rosemarie Hunziker) had left her and her brother at home in the care of a sitter while they attended a performance Farbstein wanted to see, she took to music to drown out her sorrows and anguish.

“The babysitter was ready to pull her hair out,” Farbstein said.

Growing up, the budding singer took acting classes at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, continuing her love of singing and voice lessons.

Following the practice of a voice teacher, Farbstein began studying Italian and “absolutely fell in love with classical music,” she said in a phone interview.

Her mother began wondering if maybe a music school should be in her daughter’s future.

After ninth grade at George Mason High School, Julia left Falls Church to attend Interlochen Arts Academy, a 90-year old fine arts boarding school in Michigan. From there, it was on to Oberlin College, graduation with a degree in music and a gift from her parents: an 1894 Steinway grand piano which had belonged to her mother’s voice teacher.

“My parents were very encouraging,” she said. “They really wanted me to explore the things I wanted to do.” And that may not include a professional career in music, after all.

Farbstein excels in another related realm, that of mental and body conditioning and improvement and all that goes with it.

“The physical body and all of its intricacies fascinate me,” she told the News-Press an email. “I am intrigued and puzzled at how my body and other people’s bodies respond to different situations and stimuli.”

She’s a yoga student, manager and teacher at CorePower Yoga on West Broad Street.

For Sunday’s program she is listed as a “mezzo-soprano,” a voice between a soprano and a contralto. Farbstein briefly explained in technical terms how a voice type is determined.

“My voice is still changing. Vocal tracts do not stop developing until the late 20s or early 30s. Vocal types are determined by the physical shape of the resonant chamber,” Farbstein said. She is 25.

Farbstein lives in Falls Church to be near her family and take advantage of what she calls a fantastic place for solo singers found in the greater Washington area. Besides, she says, “It’s a short train ride to New York City.”

Farbstein’s debut in “Gloria in Excelsis” will feature works by Giacomo Puccini, J. C. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, and Thomas Beveridge, the artistic director of New Dominion.

Tickets for the Sunday, Dec. 2 concert are available by calling 202-244-7191, online at www.newdominion.org or at the door at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center (4915 East Campus Dr., Alexandria) for the 4 p.m. performance.