“When I was a child, I used to sing quite a lot, but often by the evening my voice was gone completely. My parents sent me to a speech therapist who forbade me to sing and gave me all kinds of exercises to do. Well, actually I never stopped singing, but I didn’t take up real singing till I was 16. Before that age I was part of a classical dance and theatre group, with which I even travelled to Japan several times. There I bought a compilation cd with jazz singers, like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. I liked that kind of music, and I felt I wanted to sing too.”

She got herself a quite inspiring teacher at the music school in Bolzano, from whom she learned to sing all kinds of music, varying from jazz and classical to contemporary pop music. “I still remember the first song I sang there: ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon.” More importantly, at the music school she discovered that her voice wasn’t too bad, and that she could stay in tune pretty well.

After high-school she left Bolzano for Köln to do a bachelor. She stopped taking singing lessons, being unable to find a good teacher. Once, in Rotterdam she took up guitar lessons, and started writing her own songs. “Mostly songs about my own life. In English, though I would love to write in Italian one day. The style is a little bit of everything, R&B, jazz, even electronic sometimes. Over the years I discovered that jazz music is the root of all kinds of music I like today.”

She just had her first big performance some weeks ago, at a talkshow in the Schouwburg, accompanied by Codart students Federico Castelli (guitar) and Jimmi Hueting (drums). Till then Anna Bernard, in Rotterdam, could only be seen on stage at private gigs and at the Guilty Pleasure Expo, in April in Rotterdam. Still, she wants to focus more on music than before, though for the time being she wants to combine her hobby with her studies and an eventual career. “Of course it would be fantastic to make a professional career out of music, but I have to reach a certain level to do that.”

It’s all or nothing, in her eyes, that’s why Anna – in her youth a skier of some distinction – gave up on sports and theatre, to be able to concentrate fully on music. “I do believe I have something to tell with my music, and that it is different from a lot of other music. Not for nothing, music is called a reflection of the soul. All the experiences I have had until now can be heard in my voice, I think.”

‘I do believe I have something to tell’

Italian Anna Bernard (23) from Bolzano has been in Rotterdam since September last year as a master student Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship. She’s also a singer, and recently she took up playing the guitar as well.

text Gert van der Ende photography Michel de Groot