Amanda Russo Stante

Pittburgh native Amanda Russo Stante has music in her blood.

Description of the following video:

From the time we’re toddlers, I think it’s something that everybody wants to feel, is that they belong. I went to a private high school, where my dad was the music teacher. And it was on the other side of the city, so it was about a 45-minute to an hour drive to get to school. There was a party that I remember hearing about that I hadn't been invited to. And I think it was somebody's birthday party, and not being invited to a birthday party was a big deal because the majority of my class had been invited. And I think the excuse was, oh, well, we just assumed you wouldn't be able to come because you live so far away. Yeah, and that definitely stuck with me. Ever since then, I've always tried to include people, and I've been very sensitive when I have felt that I was excluded, as I think most people are.

 

Do you remember from your lifetime somebody that made you feel a part of something? A person, anybody that made you feel like you belonged, like that welcomed you in, just will always stay in your memory for that?

 

Mmhm. Sorry, I'm getting kind of emotional.

 

It's okay.

 

Well, I guess the, the reason it makes me emotional is because I feel so blessed because I can think of a lot of people in my life who have made me feel included. The one that has stuck with me and the most meaningful was when I was an exchange student in Germany. And my host sister was 18 going on 19, and she wanted nothing to do with me. But then when I went to my first day of school, I remember a woman -- a girl, now a woman -- but she just introduced herself to me right away, had me sit next to her. And that was just -- I'm so thankful for Ute because I then became friends with all the girls in my class because she was so popular because she was so open and kind. That's a person who knows what it is to make someone feel included and feel comfortable. And I could go on about other people, but, yeah. I'll probably just start crying again if I do that.

The daughter of a high school music teacher, Amanda grew up in Pittsburgh — a quirky city of legends such as performers Gene Kelly, Stephen Foster and Lena Horne.

After high school, which included a year in Germany, Amanda moved on to Carnegie Mellon's School of Music to study vocal performance. It was at this small Pittsburgh school that the mezzo-soprano found roles in iconic shows such as "A Little Night Music," "Alcina," and "A Chorus Line." It's also the first place she found a sense of belonging.

Between productions, Amanda surrounded herself with people who shared a love for singing and performance.

In 2008, Amanda's passion brought her to Bloomington to study at the Jacobs School of Music. Being with people who were dedicating their lives to the arts and living and breathing music made her feel that she was not only on the right path, but also right where she belonged.

She soon lent her talents to numerous productions at Indiana University, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Akron Symphony, the Wooster Symphony and the Harvard Symphony — all while pursuing her Ph.D. in voice performance and literature.

Everybody was in that situation at one point. Being open and accepting to those around you can often times be contagious.

In May 2016, Amanda received her doctorate from Indiana University.