Alumni Spotlight: Nina Guo '11

Nina Guo ’11 performing with Eddie Kass.

October 1, 2019

Soprano Nina Guo ’11 sings worldwide, including performing at Westridge last year with her double-bass partner Eddie Kass. Spyglass talked with Guo about her job and her advice for students who want to pursue a career in music.

Q: What are you doing currently? What is keeping you busy these days?

A: I am a professional opera singer. I specialize in singing contemporary and experimental music, particularly chamber music. Most of the time, the operas I am in are brand new, with the composer still alive. I usually premiere the operas, meaning I am the first person to sing it, and the operas that I am in are quite small most of the time. So unlike operas that happen in a big theatre such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the operas that I am in will have maybe five to ten instrumentalists. Last summer, the opera was even based in a community house.

Q: What made you want to become an Opera singer?

A: I think that singing and working on music is challenging. It was and continues to be the most challenging that I’ve ever tried to do. I like to be challenged. It also combines a lot of things that I am interested in. Even though I mostly perform opera music, I really like history, so when I started singing classical music, there was a strong history aspect in which you have to research and understand the style of the period. I really like to work with language, so when I sing, I work with poetry. So whether or not I’m singing with some kind of dialogue, poetry is the most common text we have as singers. You’re always trying to figure out what it means to you and what it means to the context of this language, which may or may not be English. That was something I was interested in—essential literary analysis.


Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

A: I really like feeling like I did something that will make someone’s day better. Right now, we are working on a lot of things that will connect people who have never been online before, and feeling like I’m a part of that is really cool. I really love my team, so anytime I can get lunch with them and hang out with them has been really fun as well. Right now, I’m really focused on learning because I am still so new, and just realizing that I’m becoming a better engineer and learning is overall a satisfying feeling.


Q: What is your favorite part of your job? 

A: I think even though it’s singing, and that I’m performing the same music over and over again, it’s always different, and that’s something that I love. I wouldn’t switch it for anything. You never know what it’ll be like, you never know who you’ll meet, and especially in my line of work, you’ll never know what kind of music you’ll hear that would just knock your socks off. Always something new, and always something unexpected.


Q: How has Westridge affected your career and where you are today? 

A: Definitely the work they do with text. I work with words for my job: understanding text, understanding the meaning of a really complicated poem, understanding what dense text means, and how to transmit that meaning. That is all training that Westridge gave me. 


Q: What advice would you give to students who want to pursue a musical career?

A: Say yes. Say yes to everything. Say yes, and then figure out how to make it work. Don’t be scared, because it’s worth it. We suffer a lot, but it is worth it. So just do it, make it work, and say yes.