10-year-old Soprano Singing Sensation, Alexa Kaufman
By Jane Kingsu-Cheng
At first glance, Alexa Isobel Kaufman is your typical 10-year-old girl, but there is more to her than meets the eye. She is the youngest soprano of the Philippine Opera Company, and loves singing classical songs such as Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus, Pie Jesu, and Caro Mio Ben. “I like them because of the way they sound,” shared Alexa.
The eldest of two sisters, her parents David and Mai chose the option to homeschool their two daughters due to the amount of travel they needed to do because of work. Homeschooling is already a daunting task for parents, what more homeschooling while travelling? Their mother Mai saw this as an opportunity to teach their two daughters about the world they live in. This resulted to the birth of their YouTube channel and Instagram, Our Classroom Today, where the girls share their daily life of exploring and learning.
With so much that the world has to offer, parents are integral to guiding the children in giving them the right information at the right time. David and Mai have been doing a great job exposing them to the wonders of the world, and pushing them to try new things as experience is always the best teacher. “In her 10 years, she has already been to 28 countries and each one has been an eye-opening, learning experience. We try to immerse her in the history and culture of each place. She gets to take an active part in almost everything that we do, like navigating where we happen to be at,” shared Mai.
Ice skating, fencing, ballet dancing, acting, and pursuing the arts have been part of Alexa’s interests. “But singing is first, foremost, automatic and ubiquitous. Singing has never been an effort for her. At every opportunity to sing, she has never hesitated. She now goes for lessons, it is a special treat and a joyous occasion every time. When you don’t have to try so hard, it could only mean it is your natural skill. Since it seems to be second nature to her, this can only mean that it is her natural inclination.”
Sing a happy tune
Mai recounts that Alexa started singing at the tender age of 4. “It was something she did on her own. It is like being in a continuous opera wherever we go. In fact, her grandparents in England would literally cry when she would fly back to Manila, because the house is so quiet and there is no more singing. Her father is often unable to read a book because of her non-stop singing,” she laughed.
Was singing a conscious choice for the parents? Apparently, not. But both sides of the family love singing and music. The young lady reminisced, “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to sing. My mom always had music, mostly classical and jazz music in the background. Dad with his deep voice would sometimes sing in the car in an operatic way. I would make up dances, sometimes in one of my frilly dresses. Then if the music had words, I would sing along. The higher the notes the happier and more relaxed I felt.”
Her mom added, “Alexa was exposed to music even when she was still in my womb. I would listen to classical and jazz music almost every day to feel relaxed when I was pregnant with her. I had a difficult pregnancy. She’s been constantly singing growing up, reading and memorizing lyrics on her own. Singing just seemed like a natural extension of her character. It was not a choice. I think it is who she is.”
More than just a mother’s love
The proud parents would always let Alexa sing whenever she wanted to, supporting her passion, even if it’s just at home. Soon, it escalated to singing in front of family and friends, at private parties and in their church. People took notice and kept showering praises to this amazing little singer. This inspired the parents to bring her to meet vocal coaches for assessments. Mai disclosed, “They were all complimentary: that she has a good ear, easily picks up a note and a tune. It finally occurred to me, when people with vast experience in the world of music continually gave positive feedback, that she does have something special. This God-given gift is not just a mother’s natural love for her daughter’s singing, but actually validated by the masters.”
Alexa was also filled with pride. She remembers this boost of confidence she received from her mom’s Italian friend, Laura Troisi. On their last night in Verona, she sang the only song she knew in Italian, Nella Fantasia. Laura was so moved that she told Alexa that she must come back to study singing. “I didn’t know that her father was the founder of the Verona Oscar Della Lirica International Opera Awards,” exclaimed Alexa.
As for the parents, their favorite moments include “singing with all her heart to some abandoned grannies here, and to residents at an old folks home in the United Kingdom, watching them smile through their tears, my heart almost burst.”
Support and complement
David and Mai started seeking the musical greats to coach their little lady. Currently, she is being trained by coloratura soprano and librettist Fides Cuyugan Asensio who is a Professor Emeritus Voice under the Music Theater and Dance Department in the University of the Philippines. Tenor Francisco Aseniero also took Alexa under his wing. Both are referred to with the highest regard in the music industry. “It is very important for us to find a teacher who will help us care for and encourage the growth and development of Alexa’s vocal skills. We usually look at the background of the teacher and observe how they interact with Alexa,” added Mai.
Aside from working with the best mentors, the parents also made sure her passion for singing was supported with the right exposure. This is done so by bringing her to different art performances to further develop her passion for music. They also make sure that Alexa doesn’t feel the pressure to compare herself with others. And true enough, this has been ingrained in the young Alexa: “I will just take it one step at a time because for me, it’s about enjoying the moment, enjoying the process, enjoying the lessons, meeting new people, learning from them, giving them joy and having joy from these experiences. I don’t really need to dream about winning a competition, or being a superstar. For me, just touching another person’s life is already a dream come true.”