Vocal performance major finds voice at WSU

After finding her way back to music, Celena Hansen treasured her time in choir


BARRY BRIGGS | The Daily Evergreen

Celena Hansen, a graduating vocal performance major, practices April 24 in Bryan Hall.

BLAINE ROSS, Evergreen reporter

With a double major in vocal performance and anthropology and a minor in global studies, Celena Hansen jokingly acknowledged that she has no free time.

Born in small-town Ohio, Hansen said her mother’s personality contributed to her initial interest in performance.

“My mother is terribly shy,” Hansen said, “and she was like ‘I don’t want my children to be shy,’ so she enrolled us in dance lessons.”

Hansen said that during dance recitals, she was more interested in singing along to the songs than dancing to them.

“My first ballet recital we did a dance to a Disney song, ‘I Won’t Say I’m in Love,’ ” she said. “I belted the whole thing because I knew all the Disney songs.”

Following the performance, people in the audience encouraged Hansen’s mom to put her in voice lessons. So began the transition from tap, ballet and jazz to voice, theater and acting lessons.

Hansen said moving to Kent had a large influence on her musicianship, because of the culture of arts and theater in Seattle.

“There was much more opportunity,” she said, “and … I have a very big voice so it just seemed natural to go into music.”

BARRY BRIGGS | The Daily Evergreen
Vocal performance major Celena Hansen originally pursued an international relations major.

For a long time, Hansen fought the urge to be a music student because of the stigma surrounding a lack of employment opportunities for professional musicians. As she pursued a major in international relations, music kept calling her, so she took up vocal performance and anthropology.

“I decided if I wanted to do music, I wanted to have a backup,” she said, “and decided I really loved music and I can’t imagine not doing it every day.”

This journey developed her skills as a musician and helped her become an anthropologist, and it also took her to Milan, Italy, where she had the opportunity to study Italian opera.  Hansen’s time in Milan primarily consisted of studying the life and music of Italian nationalist opera composer Giuseppe Verdi, visiting where he was born and where he died.

Throughout her time at WSU, Hansen was a member of the concert choir and participated in the opera workshop every semester, other than when she was studying abroad in Italy. She said concert choir holds a special place within her education.

“When you share that sort of comradery and expectation to get better,” she said, “and you watch yourself grow and the people around you grow, there’s just this intense feeling of belonging and love that comes with it.”

Hansen encourages students to pursue their musical interests as she did because of how many options students have to engage in the arts.

“There’s so many facets that are just there all the time,” she said. “You don’t really have to go looking.”