Connections

10+ Questions for Jessica Best

Mezzo-soprano Jessica Ann Best ’06 performs with the award-winning gypsy-jazz quintet Velvet Caravan Oct. 13 at Nazareth’s new Glazer Music Performance Center. Here’s a glimpse behind the scenes at her life.

What about you would surprise people the most?

People are often surprised to find out that I'm an introvert. I give everything onstage: I love to express my true emotions and give all my energy. That also means I need a lot of time to recharge and to process.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

Most of my books are on my iPad and my phone because I travel so much. I'm currently reading A Farewell to Mars, by Brian Zahnd, and Camille (La Dame aux Camélias), by Alexandre Dumas.

What is your most-used emoji?

The red heart and the laughing face. That tells you a lot!

What is your favorite movie and why?

I am a Barbra Streisand girl, so I have to say Funny Girl. The movie, the music, the characterization, the sets, the costumes ... it's all brilliant. Beautifully sung, incredible music and drama.

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

Bravery can be measured in so many ways. I think what I do every day is brave. I choose to be vulnerable onstage and draw people in. Honesty is what makes art real.

What's your guilty pleasure?

I love buying ridiculous amounts and varieties of sparkling water and coffee.

What's the best Halloween costume you've ever had?

When I was in elementary school, I was Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations. That costume was so fun to make—I would do it again!

What is one thing on your bucket list?

I want to visit and sing in all the countries of Europe.

If you could choose a person or a thing to come back as, who or what would it be?

I think we all wonder what our pets are thinking and feeling. My cat Sasha would be a funny life to experience for a moment.

What makes you miserable?

I really have difficulty with inefficiency, so I greatly dislike it when I think a system can be more orderly.

If you didn't have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

I have a lot of scripts and music to write!

What's your favorite meal and why?

I really love Mediterranean cuisine. If it has garlic and olive oil, I'm in. My family is from the Mediterranean culture. It's home to me.

If you could invite to dinner any three people from history, who would it be and why?

  • W.A. Mozart (he makes me laugh and I think we would be great friends)
  • Charlotte Brontë
  • Jane Austen

I love all their creative minds, the way they changed society in their ideals, and brought amazing art to us for all time.

What's your favorite place to hang out?

You'll most likely find me ordering a coffee — or at a swimming pool, catching some rays.

What trait do you most like about yourself?

I have been told I am very tenacious. When I pair my mind and heart on something, I do it!

What trait do you least like about yourself?

I think we all have strengths and weakness. One of my strengths is that I am a perfectionist. This trait, along with all its characteristics, can also be difficult thing to deal with. I often recognize the person I most impatient and critical of is myself. While a perfectionist may accomplish great things, they also need to recognize how to be less critical of themselves and more loving of themselves to grow.

What is the best thing about your current job?

I am a musician, so I have many jobs! I love performing new pieces that have never been done before because it allows me extreme creative expression. There is nothing as exciting as to open a new score and see your name listed in the premiere of the role. No one has done it before, so you get to define the character and score. As a teacher, I have a passion to work with students and watch the light bulbs go off. When someone walks out of a lesson with new tools, it is a delight. As a director, I love bringing a vision into place and working with people to see it come to fruition. Art is a beautiful blend of vision and ideas to create harmony and energy. It's exciting!

What would be your ideal job?

I'm living my ideal job! I would love to expand it to greater global capacity and influence.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I really look up to my parents for their resilience and their ability to adjust to so many situations. They are so loving and so supportive of my brother and me, who are both musicians and both graduates of Nazareth.

Who is your favorite fictional character (hero, villain, or regular guy)?

I love Jane Eyre. I recently premiered and recorded the opera Jane Eyre, by Louis Karchin. I have always been drawn to strong female leads, but she is so very much the real Charlotte Brontë. She speaks up for injustices in a time where it was unheard of; she takes on incredible tasks; she confronts her emotions; and she emphasizes the ideals of love and grace.

What is your happy place?

I'm an introvert, so I prefer a quiet place with a cup of coffee.

What do you most value in your friends?

I truly value my friends because we can be vulnerable and authentic with each other. We make sure we are connected, no matter where we are on the globe.

What is your favorite book and why?

I read my Bible daily because it brings me wisdom, strength, and peace. A great nonfiction read is Gretchen Ruben's The Four Tendencies. I also love, love, love Charles Dickens! A Christmas Carol is truly one of the most exceptional works of all time. You can learn something from it at any age.

What movies have you seen recently?

One of my favorites is Walt Before Mickey. Every artist should see it.

In the movie of your life, who would star as you?

I think it would be Meryl Streep. I always identify with her.

What is one of your hidden talents?

If I told you, it wouldn't be a hidden any more! :)

What is your most treasured possession?

Traveling has taught me that you really can't treasure possessions, but I do hold close the baptismal cross that my grandparents brought me back from Greece and the ring my mom bought for me on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Keep going. You can't always see behind the door you are trying to open. Allow some doors to open for you and make sure you go down all the paths you can to knock on some. Opportunities will both fall into your hands and some you must decide to chase. Do the work and allow the blessings. Always extend love and grace to people. Listen to different viewpoints and hear people's hearts. It's not about being right, it's about learning. Learn all you can. Grow all you can. Above all, LOVE.

Jessica Best

“She’s been called an extraordinary talent: passionate, versatile, vibrant, and engaging.” — Hélène Biandudi Hofer, host and producer of WXXI TV’s Need to Know. The show featured Best on September 20, 2018. Watch the 9-minute segment >

Her Motto

Always keep believing. We must always have hope, always keep trying, and always know there is good and love out there for us.