What would it be like to sing the music from Final Fantasy in a symphony hall? Alexa Jarvis knows, and we caught up with her last week in Chicago to talk about singing, video game music, and what it’s like to sing for video games and gaming fans.
A couple of weeks ago Alexa was the featured soloist in a concert in her home town of Seattle. The Seattle Symphony presented Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy. The concert featured the music of Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu and was conducted by Grammy Award winner Arnie Roth. I asked Alexa if she was familiar with the music of Final Fantasy before she began rehearsing for the concert. “It’s funny actually,” she said. “The choral music was familiar to me. It all came back to me. I had actually sung the choruses before in 2008 as part of VocalPoint!, a vocal group I participated in.”
Is it different to do a concert for an audience that’s interested in video game music? “Oh my gosh, it’s completely different. First of all it was sold out. There were 2,500 people in Benaroya Hall. They were so attentive and so mesmerized. They just roared with applause. You’re not used to that kind of response. It’s great knowing you had an impact like that. They knew all the words!”
By all accounts, the Seattle Symphony loves presenting video game music. They get to fill their hall with an appreciative crowd that might not otherwise go to the symphony.
I asked what led Alexa to a career as a singer. She studied Opera in Chicago at DePaul University “in a conservatory setting.” She took a lot of classes in music theory, ear training, sight reading, and other skills a professional musician needs. Working hard on her education helped her get roles in operas like “Don Giovanni” and “Carmen,” as well as concert work like the Final Fantasy event and studio work for video games like World of Warcraft.
The studio work as a vocalist for video game music is different than performing live. “Those producers expect you to be able to look at the music and read it right away. The music is a relatively easier genre to sight-read than classical music. It’s epic and heroic.” She first got into the video-game studio work when a director she had in high school referred her to a producer. “It’s not a constant type of work,” she said. Video-game producers give her a call a week or so in advance, she goes to the studio, records the pieces, and that’s that. “It’s a great experience.”
I asked Alexa if she’d ever played video games herself. She laughed: “I did play a lot of Nintendo 64 growing up. The nineties were all about Mario Kart….My boyfriend plays all of these games and he’s so excited when I have a session!”
What’s next for Alexa Jarvis? “I move to New York in a couple of weeks, where I’ll pursue a master’s degree at Mannes College, which is part of the New School for Music. I’ve worked in operas mostly on the west coast, but I need to go to the big leagues now and really try it out…I’m excited about the collaborative side of things. I’m looking forward to working with composers who are my age.”
We look forward to Alexa lending her wonderful soprano voice to more video game music as well.