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Juliana Rivelli hits a high note at the Statehouse

SHS junior invited to sing national anthem

By Ron Scopelliti

Smithfield is becoming a town that’s known for its singers. Smithfield natives Steve Smith and Carol Sloane are both members of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. And Sarah Potenza has been a hit both nationally for her performances on “The Voice,” and locally for maintaining strong connections to her home town and its high school music program.

On May 11, 16-year-old Smithfield High School junior Juliana Rivelli had her own chance to reach a larger audience when she sang the national anthem at the Statehouse, during the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s 2016 Rhode Island Day.

According to Cori Christie, grassroots manager for the Rhode Island branch of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), Juliana came to their attention when one of the network’s lead volunteers saw her perform as the Fairy Godmother in Smithfield High School’s musical production of “Cinderella”. Juliana also performed in the school’s previous two musicals, “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Sound of Music”.

“We thought her unbelievable talent would make a great addition to our event this year,” Christie noted in an e-mail exchange.

Among the 100-plus who attended the event were Gov. Gina Raimondo, Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, former Lt. Gov. Bernard Jackvony, and members of the local business, government, and medical research communities. Christie says the annual event gives volunteers the chance to ask their legislators to support ACS CAN priorities.

Juliana says she was not intimidated by the prospect of singing at such an event.

“I’ve been performing for a long time, so I was not as nervous as I was excited,” she says. “I looked at it as an amazing opportunity.”

Having performed the anthem in choruses before, she wasn’t daunted by it musically, but had a fear that has become a reality for many singers.

“I’ve never messed them up before, but I had this fear of messing up the lyrics,” she says.

Juliana chose to do a rather straightforward version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” without adding the sort of embellishments for which singers are often criticized.

“Personally, I just like to keep it original,” she says. “I don’t like adding a lot of things, but if I do add things I usually go up to the high note at the end if I’m feeling good that day. Or if I want to, I add a little bit of vibrato to my voice.

“Especially at the Statehouse I wanted to keep it as plain but as amazing as I possibly could.”

While singing solo gives her a chance to spotlight her personal talents, she says she finds singing in the school’s chorus just as rewarding and challenging in its own ways.

“They’re both equally difficult,” she says. “Singing with a chorus you have the element of blending with other people – you have to be aware of your surroundings, and you obviously have to watch the conductor.”

Though the school year is at an end, it doesn’t mean Juliana will be taking a break from singing. On July 16, she’ll make another high-profile solo appearance, playing Caitlyn Gellar in the Stadium Theater production of “Disney’s Camp Rock: The Musical”, based on the Disney Channel movie. And she says she’s excited to be singing with the chorus at the high school’s 50th Anniversary Gala, coming up in September.

In addition to singing, Juliana plays piano, guitar, and drums. She is also studying music theory and learning to compose music. As for her taste in music, she says, “I listen to pretty much everything.” This includes choral music, some pop music, and old standbys like The Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

She also plays tennis, both for the high school team, and in the summer recreation program. “I love sports; I love tennis. But music is more emotionally rewarding,” she says, noting how the school’s music programs often receive less publicity than their sports programs.

And while her plans for the future are still forming, she is looking into the possibility of a music career, either in performance or education.

“I know my future is going to be something involving music,” Juliana says.

Juliana’s Statehouse performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” can be seen and heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7KT3dCtj40. For more about ACS CAN RI, visit http://www.acscan.org/action/ri.