Rustin Senior Sings Her Heart Out

Rustin Senior Sings Her Heart Out

Rustin High School senior Emily Damasco has big plans for her future, and a big voice to support them. Damasco, a mezzo-soprano, was recently named a finalist in the 2018 National YoungArts Competition hosted by the National YoungArts Foundation. The competition is the culmination of National YoungArts Week, which was held this past January in Miami, Florida.Emily Damasco

According to their website, The National YoungArts Foundation was established in 1981 with the purpose of identifying and nurturing the most accomplished young artists.  Students from across the county apply for the competition, which features ten different disciplines: Cinematic Arts, Classical Music, Dance, Design Arts, Jazz Music, Singer-Songwriters, Theater, Visual Arts, Voice, and Writing.  The application process is intense. There are 10-thousand applicants per artistic discipline; seven are selected per discipline to participate in National YoungArts Week. Once chosen, the young artists spend a week in Miami working on their craft alongside distinguished master artists. At the end of the week, the young artists perform for a master artists panel and fellow attendees. In addition to receiving training and mentoring, finalists are awarded up to $10,000 in prize money. Damasco was named a finalist in Classical Voice.

Damasco, who has performed in countless recitals, said the competition was a unique experience.

"It was amazing. It brought me to a different realm. I cried at the end of my performance. I was so mesmerized by being on that stage. This is what I want to do. I want to perform."

The young opera singer has applied to Curtis Institute of Music, Julliard School of Music, Mannes School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Temple University. Her first choice is Curtis. She has auditions lined up at all five schools.

Damasco began taking voice lessons at an early age. At the age of 8 she performed in La Boheme with the Atlantic Coast Opera Festival as a soloist with the children’s chorus. She said her ability to sing was passed on by her grandmother who also sang opera.

"It skips a generation. My great-great-grandmother passed it down to my grandmother, and she passed it down to me. I hope that one day, I will pass it along to my granddaughter. My grandmother attended Julliard. Unfortunately, she got homesick and left, but she continued to sing."

Emily Damasco  Damasco credits her music teachers at the West Chester Area School District with helping to develop her craft, including Linda Mangold at Penn Wood Elementary and Ann Ellis at Rustin High School.  She studies privately with opera star Elizabeth De Trejo in New York City, whom she met at the Sherrill Milnes Teen Voice Program at the Savannah Voice Festival in Georgia in the summer of her 10th-grade year.

"It was fate that I met Elizabeth," said Damasco "She is the most amazing person. If I hadn't met her, I don't think I would be where I am today. The song she gave me to work on at the Savannah Voice Festival is the song I performed at the National YoungArts Competition in Miami. We've been working on it since then."

Despite her intense drive and dedication to opera, Damasco remains your average high school senior who enjoys spending time with friends and is dealing with a case of "senioritis." Before she embarks on the college journey she hopes will end center stage at the Metropolitan Opera, she will be featured in the role of Adelaide in Rustin High School's upcoming performances of 'Guys & Dolls' March 8-10. 

To view Damasco’s performance at the National YoungArts Competition go to