Soprano Sonya Headlam performs music that spans centuries, from the Baroque era to the present. As a soloist, she has garnered acclaim on prestigious stages across the United States. Recent highlights include her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Handel's Messiah, her Severance Hall debut with conductor Jeannette Sorrell and Apollo's Fire performing Mozart and Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint Georges, and joining the North Carolina Symphony for Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven's Symphony no. 9. She has collaborated with other esteemed ensembles, such as the New World Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, TENET Vocal Artists, and others. This season, Sonya looks forward to making her solo debuts with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa.
Sonya's repertoire is a diverse mix of ensemble, chamber, opera, concert works, and art songs, spanning from early to new music, including cherished classics. She holds a special passion for uncovering and sharing the works of composers who may not be as well-known but have made valuable contributions to the musical world. Her Jamaican heritage has inspired her to explore and perform the compositions of celebrated Jamaican composers like Peter Ashbourne and Andrew Marshall. This season, she will present several solo recitals, including a performance with pianist Martin Néron, at the 2024 MTNA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Equally at home on the opera stage, Sonya has delighted audiences with her portrayals of characters such as le Feu in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges, Fiordiligi in Mozart's Così fan tutte, the title role in Delibes' Lakmé, and Musetta in Puccini's La bohème.
Residency and Recent Collaborations:
In 2023, Sonya was honored to be appointed as the Rohde Family Artist-in-Residence at the Chelsea Music Festival. During her residency, she engaged in meaningful collaborations, including performances of Amy Beach and Florence Price's songs together with pianist Melinda Lee-Masur, a performance of Sung Jin Hong’s Kennst du das Land in a world premiere string arrangement conducted by Ken-David Masur, and a performance of Iman Habibi’s beautiful and effervescent Ey Sabā with violinist Max Tan. In 2021, she performed the premiere of Patricio Molina's spiritual song Kecha Tregulfe at Carnegie Hall, which was the first time a song in the Mapudungun language was performed on that stage.
Innovative Contemporary Projects:
Sonya has lent her voice to numerous innovative contemporary projects. This includes her involvement in Yaz Lancaster's song cycle ouroboros, produced by Beth Morrison Projects, a role in Ellen Reid's dreams of the new world with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street at the Prototype Festival, participation in Tyshawn Sorey's Monochromatic Light (afterlight), directed by Peter Sellars at the Park Avenue Armory, and several performances of Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, including at MASS MoCA and Carnegie Hall.
Sonya is featured on the Raritan Players' latest recording, "In the Salon of Madame Brillon: Music and Friendship in Benjamin Franklin’s Paris," directed by historical keyboardist and musicologist, Dr. Rebecca Cypess. At present, they are collaborating once more on an album featuring the music of Ignatius Sancho and premiering new compositions by Trevor Weston.
Commitment to Music Beyond the Stage:
Sonya's commitment to music extends beyond the stage, as she is a dedicated church musician, educator, scholar, and community volunteer. As a soprano in the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, she is an integral part of the music ministry at the historic church in lower Manhattan, where she regularly sings Sunday services and participates in Compline by Candlelight, as well as the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah. Sonya has a passion for teaching voice to students of all ages, both at the university level and in her private studio, and she has also taught ear-training at Rutgers University. Her scholarly pursuits led to a visiting scholar appointment at Rutgers University in 2021, where she conducted research on the eighteenth-century composer Ignatius Sancho. Together with Rebecca Cypess, she presented a lecture recital on the life and music of Ignatius Sancho at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, and they continue to share their research on Sancho in various venues.
In the sphere of community service, Sonya is devoted to offering her time and abilities to her local community. She has been an active member of both the Equity Commission and the Human Relations Commission in her neighborhood, and she happily donates her singing talent to significant events at the local, county, and state levels in New Jersey, including Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations. Prior to pursuing music full-time, Sonya had a fulfilling career at UNICEF's New York headquarters, where she was also a member of the UN Singers, a staff recreational club that the UN Secretary-General has designated as ambassadors of goodwill who regularly travel around the world on missions to promote peace and understanding through singing folk music from around the globe. Sonya is a proud CME artist and an ambassador at Notes for Growth, a charity that sources underutilized pianos and transports them for free to students and music institutions in the NY area and Latin America.
A Life in Music:
With unwavering purpose and determination, Sonya has kept music a constant presence in her life, achieving a wide range of accomplishments. These include her critically acclaimed Jamaican debut, where she performed for distinguished guests, including the Governor General of Jamaica, and her attainment of a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts, where she was honored with the Michael Fardink Memorial Award. Sonya has consistently earned the praise of critics for the authenticity and emotional depth of her performances. At the heart of her artistry is her profound belief in the transformative power of music, capable of delving into the depths of human emotions, illuminating the human experience, and forging meaningful connections among us.
TENET Vocal Artists
"Other chamber vignettes afforded moments of intimate contemplation amid an otherwise fiery reading—especially for the revelation that was Sonya Headlam. She lent her honeyed soprano, pure and even from top to bottom, to “I know that my Redeemer liveth” ...Headlam brought a genuine tenderness to the aria that made for the evening’s most poignant moment."
– Chicago Classical Review, 2022
"To call [her voice] ‘golden’ would hint at the warmth and luster of her tone, yet there was also something breathy and earthy about it that made her opening ‘Comfort ye’ truly welcoming, and the following ‘Ev’ry valley’ joyous."
– Seen and Heard International, 2022
“Sonya Headlam was an entrancing soloist... Her light timbre, velvety middle voice and on-the-mark coloratura proved a perfect match of singer and score. She scaled the famous concluding Alleluja [of Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate] in a joyous manner, marked by elan and flawless intonation.”
– South Florida Classical Review, 2022
"Sonya He[a]dlam returned for what proved to be the highlight of the concert: the motet Exsultate, jubilate. Exuding confidence and broadcasting smiles, she shaped its lines expressively and sang its melismas both flawlessly and with seeming abandon...
Just before the end, He[a]dlam saw her way to a high C and followed that path, crowning the motet with a glorious conclusion and bringing a delighted audience along for the ride."
– Cleveland Classical, 2022
“Sonya Headlam gave a dramatically engaged performance… beautiful control of pianissimo high notes.”