Masters student Clarissa Ocampo to share her musical passions at aphasia awareness event

December 22, 2014

By Allison Hirschkowitz

On March 7, 2015, the UMass Stroke Support Group (SSG) will host their annual event to raise community awareness for stroke and aphasia, and to promote the student-run organization’s goals and mission of bridging the gap between SSG’s members and the local community.

Aphasia is an impairment of language affecting the production and/or comprehension of spoken and written language, usually as a result of a left hemisphere stroke. According to the CDC, stroke affects nearly 800,000 Americans each year, resulting in 130,000 deaths and leaving the majority of survivors with serious and chronic disability. Roughly one million people currently live in the U.S. with chronic, persistent post-stroke language impairments and resulting psychosocial consequences that can significantly restrict their ability to participate in routine activities associated with a meaningful life.

Stilled Longing is a classical concert featuring mezzo soprano Clarissa Ocampo, a 2nd year graduate student in the Master's degree program in Speech Language Pathology. She is the graduate student secretary and event coordinator of the UMass SSG, which is facilitated by Dr. Jacquie Kurland, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Disorders.

“I wanted to do more for the group and spread awareness,” said Ms. Ocampo. “After survivors in the group explained various everyday tasks that were now complicated by their residual effects from strokes, I knew I had to do more than just listen.”

Ms. Ocampo came to UMass Amherst after many years of professional concert performances as a trained opera singer. She is a nontraditional classical artist who approaches opera and classical music with a modern take, hoping to open eyes and ears to the crossover classical music scene.

In Asia and the United States, Ms. Ocampo was noted for her performances as Berta in The Barber of Seville; Flora Bervoix in La Traviata; Judith in Bluebeard's Castle; Olga in Eugene Onegin; Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro; and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado. Additionally, she has toured the United States and Canada, performing Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors and as Lady Thiang in the First Broadway National Touring Company of The King & I.

In 2002, Ms. Ocampo released her debut album Cradle Songs, a collection of art songs and lullabies from all over the world, sung in their original languages. Cradle Songs won Best Lullaby Album and Best Classical Album at the 2004 Children’s Music Awards.

Ms. Ocampo was raised in a home full of music lovers, drawing much of her inspiration from her father, who she watched perform in opera concerts and recitals. Now with a Master of Music in Voice Performance from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City, and while working on a second graduate degree in Speech Language Pathology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Ms. Ocampo brings the science of singing to the forefront as she works with her students and patients, as well as in her personal performances.

“My goal is for people to know that opera singers are not a different breed. We have a lot in common with other musical genres -- we’re all performers, we’re all artists. We have one form of expression. We just sing in a different style,” says Ms. Ocampo.

Guest artists Nadine Shank (Piano), David Nielsen (Oboe), Ron Bell (Trumpet), and Sarah Bish (Cello) will also be performing at the March 7th concert.

Local artists and graduate students in Speech Language Pathology will also be highlighted with video vignettes featuring the SSG survivors, compiled by Dimitri Mitropoulos; paintings by Krista Swanson entitled Marvels of the Mind; and a photography/audio interview exhibit by Diane Abatemarco inspired by the stroke survivors in our community.

The event will be held at the First Baptist Church on 434 North Pleasant St. in Amherst beginning at 1:30 pm. Admission is free; however tax-deductible donations will be welcomed. After paying for event expenses, money raised will go towards the organization’s mission of educating and providing support for stroke survivors and their families, while promoting awareness in the community about stroke and aphasia.

For more information, please contact graduate student co-coordinators of the event: Casey Tatro (tatrocm@gmail.com) or Krista Swanson (kswany9@gmail.com), or faculty advisor, Dr. Jacquie Kurland (jkurland@comdis.umass.edu).