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Posted by on Nov 2, 2010 in Articles | 3 comments

Adding Sustainability to Your Repertoire

Adding Sustainability to Your Repertoire


Emily Sanchez, soprano demanding respect for Earth!

by Emily Sanchez

In the crazy, cutthroat world of music, one simply does not have the time to sit back and think about how their everyday lifestyle is affecting the Earth, let alone the time to do something about it—or so we think. The biggest sustainability problem that exists with most musicians is not defiance, but surprisingly a misunderstanding of facts and lack of education on ones environmental surroundings. This ranges from not knowing that the average person creates 4.5 pounds of trash every day, to not knowing global warming exists. It matter-of-factly does, and we musicians need to lead an artistic example for the rest of the world to follow. Some opera houses, such as Opera Grand Rapids, are creating their buildings to achieve significant improvements in energy efficiency and water use, develop and implement programs to dramatically reduce waste, and encourage and facilitate sustainable purchasing. With major companies taking the first big leap, the rest is up to the singers and instrumentalists to keep the “green idea” going.

What most people don’t realize is that this can all be achieved through simple steps that honestly take no effort at all:

1) Buy used or secondhand scores. Three billion new books are sold a year, requiring 400,000 trees to be chopped down. Save that oxygen for your Mozart coloratura passage!

2) Double-side your copies. Not only does this save paper, but if you press the “Standby”/”Energy Saver” button when you are finished it lessens the energy usage by 70%. Since the nation spends about $50 million powering copiers annually, that would save $35 million and enough energy to provide a month’s worth of electricity to more than 100,000 homes.

3) Download your music from iTunes. More than 30 billion CDs are sold annually—enough to wrap around the earth.

4) Buy used textbooks for classes, and you can sell them back when you’re done. You’ll save us much as 85% of the $10 billion worth of schoolbooks sold each year. Recycling just 1% of these books would save enough money to send more than 4,000 students to a four-year college for free!

5) Use a ceramic mug for your coffee, tea, and “singers crack”. Americans use more than 14 billion paper cups a year, enough to circle the world 55 times. Styrofoam cups will stay on the planet for 9 generations—don’t think your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren would be too happy about that one.

6) Use a thermos or water container. The average person in the U.S. drinks 8 oz. of bottled water per day, which requires 1.5 million barrels of petroleum annually for production. If this was converted to gasoline, there would be enough to fuel 500,000 SUVs on coast-to-coast trips. Every…year…

7) Carpool. Save time and money by carpooling to competitions with other musicians (don’t forget to offer your accompanist a ride!). This reduces congestion, which costs Americans $78 billion a year in wasted fuel and lost time.

8) Recycle junk mail. $370 million in landfill dumping fees could be saved each year. Donation letters, audition notices, magazine subscription renewals, etc. The average household receives 1.5 trees’ worth of junk mail each year, most thrown right in the trash.

9) Bring your own snacks/meals to rehearsals, and you could help the U.S. workforce save more than 10 billion pounds of trash—equal to the weight of the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

10) Pack lightly when flying to competitions, gigs, or summer programs. An additional 10 pounds per traveler requires an additional 350 million gallons of jet fuel per year, which is enough to keep a 747 flying continuously for 10 years.

11) Get a performance dress or suit from a secondhand clothing store. If one out of ten Americans substituted his or her next purchase of one new garment with a vintage one, the energy saved could fly every resident of Hollywood to NYC to see Renée sing Armida at the MET.

Information is power, and doing even one of these simple steps speaks greatly of your environmental awareness as a musician. Pass on the facts and recycle your old Opera News magazines while you’re at it (but do yourself a favor and keep the Simon Keenleyside edition for viewing pleasure!). Remember: a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but waste is a terrific thing to mind.


Emily Sanchez, soprano, is currently in her 4th year at the Peabody Institute, studying voice with Phyllis Bryn-Julson and is President and Founder of the Peabody Green Group. Hailing from Connecticut, Emily first entered the musical world as an accomplished violinist, having been Concertmaster in various orchestras and festivals from her state and high-school, namely the Connecticut Alliance of Music. After garnering recognition for her voice through several competitions, awards and a Letter of Commendation from the Governor of Connecticut for Music Performance, Emily successfully sang at the Tanglewood Institute, Rice University’s Michael P. Hammond Preparatory Program, and later the Bel Canto Institute in Italy, where she studied with Eduardo Valdes and Jane Bakken Klaviter, both from the Metropolitan Opera. At Peabody, Emily has performed several roles, including Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with Opera Outreach and Heinrich/Young Freud in Melissa Shifflett’s Dora, as well as scenes in the roles of Despina in Cosi fan tutte and Carolina in Il matrimonio segreto. Also at Peabody, Ms. Sanchez has coached with internationally-recognized pianist Roger Vignoles, and most recently was heard as the Soprano II soloist in Bach’s Magnificat in D with the Peabody-Hopkins Chorus and the Peabody Concert Orchestra. In 2009, she placed first in the District Division of the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. Future appearances in the spring include Soprano soloist in Matthew Tommasini’s Three Spanish Songs with the Peabody Chamber Wind Ensemble, Peabody Opera Etudes, and a senior recital.


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  1. Great food for thought…..and steps to take action! Thank you!

  2. Well researched facts and respectable steps to becoming more environmentally friendly! Very good!

  3. Reading this on the eve of Earth Day put me in an incredible mood. Our world is so precious, and every little bit helps. Each one of us needs to do our part in order to make the Earth a cleaner, safer, healthier place for ourselves and generations to come. Brava, Em.

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