Opera student’s musical journey brings her to BYU

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There’s no denying that music is powerful. Whether it’s a classical piece to aid studying, an opening hymn to begin a church service or a tear-jerking breakup song, music influences, affects and touches people.

Music touched Keri Costello, 21, a vocal performance major from Tacoma, Wash., at an early age. She began performing at 11, and was first introduced to opera at 13. Though she’s still young, Costello’s relationship with opera has brought a host of experiences she didn’t foresee when she was first introduced to the genre.

After high school graduation, Costello was accepted to Northwestern University to pursue opera. However, her time at Northwestern was short-lived. She quickly returned home, feeling burnt out on the music she had embraced during her teenage years.

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Music touched Keri Costello, 21, a vocal performance major from Tacoma, Wash., at an early age. She began performing at 11, and was first introduced to opera at 13. Though she's still young, Costello's relationship with opera has brought a host of experiences she didn't foresee when she was first introduced to the genre.
Costello’s decision to come home from college ultimately helped her find her way back to music — as ironic as that may seem. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 19, during a critical and confusing time in her life.

“I found the Church and that brought me back to music,” she said. “It was a time in my life when I was deciding who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.”

Costello was initially shy about her musical talent, until her new bishop found out.

“He would have me sing on random Sundays and it got me back into performing,” she said. “The Spirit I felt while singing was enough to get me to come back to it.”

After become reacquainted with her voice, Costello decided to apply to BYU’s music program.

“I realized why I had that talent,” she said. “After I joined the Church, I knew that God gave me a gift and I had to do something with it and touch people’s lives.”

Costello was accepted into the vocal performance program and said she has since loved her experience at BYU.

“BYU life is different in general than any kind of living,” Costello said. “I love it here. I couldn’t have picked a different place.”

George Hnatiuk, 23, a vocal performance major from San Antonio, has become a close friend of Costello’s. Her voice, he said, is truly singular.

“She is exceptional,” he said. “She has the kind of talent that you really don’t go looking for, you just kind of find. I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard her sing.”

A convert himself, Hnatiuk understands the power and Spirit music can bring.

“As people, we recognize music as strengthening of the soul,” he said. “It’s a way of worship and a way of expression that is most comfortable to me. It shares my sadness, it shares my happiness, in every situation I go through.”

Hnatiuk and Costello are performing together in the upcoming “Opera Scenes,” a variety of dramatic Italian and French opera pieces.

Katie Henley, 22, a vocal performance grad student from Oradell, N.J., spoke about what the show is about and what the audience can expect.

“It’s exactly what it sounds like — a collection and snipets of different operas,” she said. “I think in some ways it’s a great way to get an introduction to opera. It’s a little sampler of well-known, good operas.”

The show begins Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall and plays through Saturday, Feb. 25. Tickets are $6 each and can be purchased through BYUArts.com/tickets or directly through the Fine Arts Ticket Office.

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