Music alumna Danaë Xanthe Vlasse in GRAMMY consideration discusses her latest album and supporting the performing arts

Portrait of Danae Xanthe sitting at a piano.

Music alumna Danaë Xanthe Vlasse in GRAMMY consideration.

Courtesy Danae Vlasse

After graduating from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, in 2003 with a degree in Piano Performance, Danaë Xanthe Vlasse followed her aspirations of composing music to Los Angeles, California, where she is experiencing a level of success many musicians only dream about. Her most recent album of original compositions and performances have garnered critical acclaim and is in consideration for our nation’s top musical prize, a GRAMMY. This success, Vlasse says, would not have been possible without the education and support she received at UAH.

Vlasse cites her professors during her time at UAH as being deeply influential, both on her technical abilities as a musician, as well as her confidence as a performer and a composer. "I'm so grateful for the foundation and friendships I found during my undergraduate years," she shares. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue with performance as I approached graduation, but my teachers believed in me and helped me pursue my passions beyond the university curriculum. I still stay in touch with them."

Mythologies album cover for Danae Xanthe

Mythologies album.

Courtesy Danae Vlasse

Dr. Carolyn Sanders, Professor of Music and one of Vlasse's mentors, applauds Vlasse's talent and success: "As a student at UAH, Danae possessed the gifts of both musical talent and academic talent. She has had a string of stellar accomplishments in both the music composition and teaching worlds since completing her degree at UAH, reflective of her extraordinary abilities, as well as her desire to give back to the world in a significant and meaningful way."

Bolstered by this belief, Vlasse established a career as a composer collaborating with musicians from all over the world. Most recently, she released "Mythologies," a classical vocal album inspired by her father, who was the son of a fisherman and raised on the Greek island of Ithaca. "Penelope," one of the pieces from the album, will be featured on the PBS special "Front and Center," airing Sept. 19, 2021. Frequent collaborator and soprano Sangeeta Kaur will perform the piece, accompanied by GRAMMY-winning soprano Hila Plitmann, violinist Caroline Cambell and pianist Robert Thies.

This most recent album is one of 11 she has written either solo or as a collaborator, but this one, Vlasse discloses, is a culmination of everything she’s learned as a musician. “Everything I’ve done as a musician has led to this,” she says proudly. “It’s my crowning achievement.” And the critics have taken note; “Mythologies” is currently under consideration for a GRAMMY in the Classical field.

In addition to composing, Vlasse pays it forward by teaching and inspiring the next generation of musicians. In 2005, she moved to Los Angeles and opened Music Vision Studios, where she teaches piano, theory and composition to students ranging from age seven to 89. Even during the pandemic, Vlasse persevered; she teaches her students via Zoom and says that, although online teaching is challenging, her students are thriving. She has several students who have graduated from her studio to continue their pursuit of music in higher education. And, Vlasse emphasizes, there’s much to be gained from music education.

Photo of Danae Xanthe Vlasse performing in a red dress at a piano.
Courtesy Danae Vlasse

“Kids who study music fare far better in every realm of scholastic work, at every grade level,” she notes. “They can learn language patterns, they understand structure, they learn empathy and collaboration and they develop leadership skills – all of which apply to a variety of career paths.”

These benefits, Vlasse asserts, are why giving to the arts is so important. During the pandemic, Vlasse says she and her colleagues suffered both professional and personal challenges as concerts and performances were cancelled. “It’s a challenge to figure out your identity when you’re not performing,” she says. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a musician. When you can’t play, it’s devastating.” This is why, Vlasse says, it’s imperative the public enthusiastically and passionately supports the rejuvenation of the arts now. “Buying tickets or donating is so important.”

This need for robust support, Vlasse says, extends to students in higher education performing arts programs. She recalls, as a recipient of scholarships, including the Verna and Gerald Smith Memorial Scholarship, the financial burden of attending school was lifted, especially in her first year of college, when it’s difficult to acclimate to the new, exciting, and at times overwhelming changes of the college experience. “I was able to work less my first year, and the scholarships helped cover the costs of books and fees.” This gift of time was crucial; Vlasse notes it was not unusual for her to practice for three or more hours a night to prepare for the next day’s class. Her hard work paid off; Vlasse graduated summa cum laude.

Vlasse’s ongoing successes come back to the education and support she received at UAH. “My teachers stayed with me through my career and served as a source of confidence. Everything I did as an undergraduate has been a foundation for everything moving forward. When you work hard and feel the support of the institution behind you, that makes a huge difference.”

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