CCM Voice alum named one of Yamaha’s “40 Under 40”
Paulina Villarreal is featured on the 2024 list celebrating excellence in Music Education
Story by CCM Graduate Assistant Lucy Evans
Yamaha honors the work of music educators with the "40 Under 40" list, highlighting young teachers and pedagogues who bring innovation to their classrooms. UC College-Conservatory of Music alumna Paulina Villarreal (DMA Voice ’18, MM Voice ‘15) made the 2024 list for her work as an Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Memphis. Her efforts to diversify the curriculum's repertoire brought important awareness to lesser-known composers from underrepresented backgrounds.
Originally from Mexico, Villarreal is in demand as a recitalist and performer of opera, cabaret and musical theatre. She joined the faculty at the University of Memphis in 2020, and was given the opportunity to create a new curriculum for the graduate-level repertoire courses. Previously, the program focused on the “standard” composers of the Western canon. Villarreal saw an opportunity to incorporate her own passion for lesser-known works while broadening her students’ perspective on the art song genre.
“I wanted to inspire students through repertoire and expose them to ‘gems’ that they’ve never heard of before,” she says. Villarreal dedicated two courses to this task, the first focused on "Entartete Musik" — German for “degenerate music,” the term given by the Third Reich to banned songs by Jewish and foreign composers. The second course highlighted songs from Iberia and Latin America. “I am proud that today, every graduate vocal student has a few selections from underrepresented groups [or] composers in their performance repertoire,” says Villarreal.
Villarreal herself is a passionate advocate for and performer of Latin American music, and is currently working on an album dedicated to the music of Maria Grever, a Mexican composer. She also helped create the Nuevas Canciones competition with Opera Memphis, a competition which requires competitors to perform at least one Spanish language piece. In 2017, she founded Cantos para el Mundo (songs for the world), a concert series bringing high caliber art song performances to Northern Mexico.
While at CCM, Villarreal’s versatility and curiosity as an artist were fostered through many performances. With CCM Opera, she appeared as the Sandman in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and performed various roles in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen (CCM Opera will perform Janacek’s opera again later this month). Additionally, she appeared in “Bright Eyed Joy!,” a cabaret of Ricky Ian Gordon’s music, and was the mezzo-soprano soloist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610.
While completing her doctorate, she won the third prize in the 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition, the prestigious international crossover competition which requires competitors to deliver compelling performances in both operatic and musical theater selections.
CCM congratulates Villarreal on the recognition for her inspiring work! To learn more about Yamaha’s “40 Under 40” honorees, visit their website.
CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications
Lucy Evans is an artist diploma student studying Opera-Vocal Performance at CCM. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and was recently an Apprentice Artist with the Santa Fe Opera.
Featured image at the top: Paulina Villarreal (far left) performing in Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, presented by CCM at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati in November 2014. Photo by Andrew Higley.