Undergraduate senior Anna Sera, a Bachelor of Music in music theater performance student at Arizona State University, was recently awarded the 2021 Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award.
The monetary award encourages and supports the education of a music student who exemplifies high academic accomplishment, leadership and citizenship. The recipient, selected by music faculty, is known as a Presser Scholar. Sera said the $4,000 award will be used for her educational expenses and a creative project.
Sera began performing in musical theater when she was 9 years old. She said her love of musical theater started when her family went to New York for a friend's birthday and she attended her first Broadway show, “Mary Poppins.”
“I was totally in love with the show and would sing the songs all the time,” Sera said. “I used the song ‘Anything Can Happen If You Let It’ from the production for the first dozen auditions that I can remember.”
Sera, a mezzo-soprano, has been studying voice for almost 12 years and currently studies with Stephanie Weiss, assistant professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. She is active in the ASU Music Theatre and Opera program as a performer, is a student in Barrett, The Honors College, and assists in the Music Theatre and Opera’s costume shop.
She said her grandmother always loved her voice and encouraged her to sing at family gatherings. As Sera became more interested in musical theater, her mother arranged for private lessons. In high school, she transitioned from exclusively singing musical theater to also singing classical music.
“Anna can do anything with her voice — she can belt both music theater and pop songs, sing classical music and can move you to tears when she sings an especially touching ballad,” Weiss said. “She is a wonderful, versatile singer and actress who has many interests, which inform her artistry, from theater to world cultures to film.”
Sera said musical theater and voice are equally her favorites, and she credits singing as part of the reason she fell in love with musical theater.
“Musical theater has changed the way that I view singing,” Sera said. “I no longer want to sing just because it is pretty. I want to hear a story, and that is something that I am able to apply in my classical singing, musical theater and pop/rock singing. Almost everything that I perform has a story, message or something that needs to be explored. I think that the need to communicate and share an emotional experience with an audience is more important than just singing pretty.”
In addition to singing and performing, Sera said she has always had a passion for costumes and started taking fashion classes at ASU. During her junior year, she worked in the Music Theatre and Opera costume shop with Sharon Jones, costume shop supervisor, who taught her to sew.
“I think costumes take your performance to the next level,” Sera said. “Something about putting on the costume of a specific time period and character makes me feel completely immersed.”
Weiss said, “Anna has an amazing intuitive feeling for drama and emotion, which stems from her genuine interest in people and culture. Her immersion in different cultures informs her careful character studies and makes her an intelligent and engaging performer, as well as a writer and director.”
During spring 2021, Sera wrote, directed and produced her second one-act play, “Murder Mystery,” as part of Music Theatre and Opera’s "Claiming Our Space" night of original work and was able to use pieces from the musical theater wardrobe to costume her actors.
“It was a completely new experience for me and a lot more work than I realized,” Sera said. “Pulling items that match the time period and the character as well as the size of the individual people is a surprisingly tedious task, but ultimately rewarding when you see them onstage and you know that they look exactly like they should.”
Sera will also graduate with a minor in dance and plans to continue performing musical theater after graduation.
“I love performing, but I am also passionate about writing and expanding the musical theater canon,” Sera said. “I want to bring more female-driven narratives to life onstage as a performer and by writing my own new characters. One of my biggest dreams is to host the Tony Awards.”