Ana Serra, a Bachelor of Music student in Musical Theater Performance at Arizona State University, was recently awarded the 2021 Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award.
The prize money encourages and supports the education of a music student who exemplifies high academic achievement, leadership, and citizenship. The recipient, selected by the College of Music, is known as Presser Scholar. Serra said the $4,000 award will be used for her educational expenses and creative project.
Sera began performing in musical theater when she was nine years old. She said her love for musical theater began when her family went to New York for a friend’s birthday and she attended her first Broadway show, “Mary Poppins.”
“I absolutely loved the show and would sing songs all the time,” Serra said. “I used the song ‘Anything Can Happen If You Let It’ from the production for the first ten auditions that I can remember.”
Sera, a mezzo-soprano player, has been studying voice for nearly 12 years and currently teaches with Stephanie Weiss, assistant professor at the School of Music, Dance and Theater. Active in the ASU music theater and opera program as a performer, she is a student at Barrett, The Honors College, and assists in the music theater and opera costume store.
She said that her grandmother always loved her voice and encouraged her to sing at family gatherings. As Serra’s interest in musical theater increased, her mother arranged private lessons. In high school, she transitioned from exclusively lyrical musical theater to also singing for classical music.
“Anna can do anything with her voice — she can hook into both musical theater and pop songs, sing classical music, and she can make you cry when she sings a particularly moving song,” Weiss said. “She’s a wonderful, versatile singer and actress with many interests that guide her art from theater to world cultures to cinema.”
Serra has said that musical theater and sound are both favourites, and credits singing as part of the reason for her love of musical theater.
“Musical theater has changed the way I look at singing,” Serra said. “I no longer want to sing just because it’s beautiful. I want to hear a story, and that’s something I can apply in classical singing, musical theater and pop/rock vocals. Almost everything I do has a story, a message, or something that needs to be explored. I think the need for Communicating and sharing an emotional experience with the audience is more important than just beautiful singing.”
In addition to singing and performing, Serra said she has always had a passion for fashion and began taking fashion classes at Arizona State University. During her freshman year, she worked in a music theater and an Oprah’s costume store with Sharon Jones, a costume store supervisor, who taught her to sew.
“I think fashion takes your performance to the next level,” Serra said. “Something about wearing a time-lapse outfit and personality makes me feel totally immersed.”
Weiss said, “Anna has an amazing intuitive sense of drama and emotion, which stems from her genuine interest in people and culture. Her immersion in different cultures aids her in her careful study of character and makes her an intelligent and charismatic performer, as well as a writer and director.”
During the spring of 2021, she wrote, directed, and produced her second one-act play, A Murder Mystery, as part of the original musical and opera work Claim Our Space and was able to use pieces from the theatrical wardrobe as her actors’ costumes.
“It was a whole new experience for me and a lot more work than I realized,” Serra said. “Drawing items that match the time period and personality as well as the size of the individuals is a surprisingly daunting task, but ultimately rewarding when you see them on stage knowing they look just as they should.”
Serra will also graduate with a minor in dance and plans to continue performing in musical theater after graduation.
“I love performing, but I’m also passionate about writing and expanding the scope of musical theatre,” Serra said. “I want to bring more women-led novels to life on stage as an artist and write my new characters. One of my biggest dreams is hosting the Tony Awards.”