SIP Series: Caleb Stoltzfus and Olivia Stein

Caleb Stoltzfus was travelling by train to his tutor’s studio in Philadelphia when images of the Escalon—the saints’ resurrection—slid out of his head and into his sketchbook.  

“Recently, people tend to shy away from overt religious themes in art,” he says, but being trained by a Catholic artist, Stoltzfus says, “Religious themes were naturally integrated into my work. I’m giving my testimony through this piece.”  

Stoltzfus is a visual art major trained in both classical and modernist art schools, and the painting has elements of both the archaic and contemporary. Orange and blue tones similar to those used in Byzantine churches are layered throughout the piece, while in the background of renaissance-like nudes is an abstract, swirling structure. He says it depicts “a mysterious force” synonymous with the Holy Spirit.   

The 5 ½-by-7-foot oil painting inspired by the sketches was recently carted into the Jackson lobby for some finishing touches on the figures. One, with an uplifted index finger and shining features, is the Christ himself. Balanced in his arms is a resurrected man whose body glimmers in light emanating from Christ. Both figures glide heavenward towards a sky-blue half circle while escaping the ruddy browns and greens that dirty their feet.  

The contrasts between the celestial and earthly are gradual, and even the light-filled heavens contain some of the rough texture in the lower regions. Through this, Stoltzfus suggests that heaven might be a material place. He says, “if anything, it is reassuring to know there is more significance to what we do now. Earth is God’s creation, and the material is not something fickle to God.”

Stoltzfus’s painting will be on display at the Kresge Memorial Library on April the 28th after the gallery’s opening at 7 p.m.

In high school, vocal performance major Olivia Stein, never imagined that she would study classical music in college. Stein preferred orchestrating indie benefit concerts and only sang classically because she had to. However, when she began singing arias at Covenant, she was awed by music that “would make your whole body vibrate when you sing.”

 In her SIP, “Can’t We All Get Along?,” Stein compares both classical and modern pop-Broadway styles to see how different the two techniques really are—particularly the long-term effects they have on one’s vocal chords.  Surprisingly, the variation is all in the singer’s head.

“I’ve had 5 different teachers over five years, and there were always different people telling me to do different things,” she says. However, when altering style, “It’s not like our bodies, whoop, evolve.  Instead it has to do more with the space manipulation of sound.”

Stein came to this conclusion after comparing the teaching of classical great, Giovanni Lamperti with Seth Riggs, coach of Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, and Natalie Cole. Speech Level Singing techniques—commonly used in contemporary music—focus on producing steady, continuous sound. She found that Lamperti’s Bel Canto, a technique emphasizing the freedom of sound and use of breath, can actually be adapted to modern singing.    

Both techniques can equally damage a voice if inadequately taught. She says, “a performer who sings correctly should be able to sing well into their sixties.”

Stein argues that while physically switching between styles in not all too difficult, some performers are simply better at one than the other, as “not all are given the flexibility, environment, or ability to do so.” When entering a “business that will suck you dry,” she says it’s important to find your niche: “Do it if it’s your bag of tricks.”