Q & A With TWS Alumnae Clarisse Tonigussi (Class of 2011)

When did you graduate from TWS?  Can you please share a special memory of your time here?


I graduated from TWS in the class of 2011 and I have so many fond memories from my time in high school, it’s going to be very difficult to choose just one!  


Some especially fond memories that bring tears to my eyes just thinking about them were the many, many lunch breaks I spent with Ms. Gross going over all the Grade 12 Functions I didn’t understand. She was always patient. Ms. Gross, you are a literal saint.


Another memory that sticks out in my mind was the time my friends and I sat in the middle of the forum and had a “laughing session,” which began with us looking at each other and ended in full blown laugh/screams for several minutes straight. You don’t find that kind of joy everywhere.


I still miss the Wednesday morning singing we did every week. Those are some of the best memories I will ever have.


How has attending a Waldorf school impacted your life?


I’d like to think I was already a pretty cool human from the moment I was born, but I don’t know if I would have been the same person had I not been a Waldorf student my whole life. My Waldorf education has given me perspective, it’s given me a deep understanding of life, it’s given me decent people skills (shaking hands with your teachers every day is just one example of how Waldorf creates people persons) it’s given me an appreciation of nature, it’s given me the ability to sew my clothes when they rip, and most importantly Waldorf has given me the best of friends, students and teachers included. I love my Waldorf friends. Two days ago, I hung out with past TWS students, Jenna Pattison, Aaron Kay, Ryan McNamara, and Patrick Philpott. They came together to celebrate my 25th birthday and Jenna even DREW ME A BIRTHDAY CARD.  



What avenues, education or profession-wise, did you pursue after graduation?


Following my education at TWS I went straight into a 4-year degree in Voice Performance (or what I like to describe as singing school for those who may be wondering) at the University of Toronto. After graduating with Honours I dove into a 2-year Masters degree again, in Voice Performance at the University of Toronto. During the last year of my masters I began developing The Canadian Women Composers (CWC) Project, a recital tour that supports music written by Canadian women, and have since travelled throughout parts of Canada with the recital. Thus far, the project has been very well received and I look forward to bringing one performance to TWS next April. In the future, my hope is that the project will expand to include a season of recitals in Toronto performed by various Canadian musicians each year as well as helping younger classical musicians build their own tours in support of Canadian women composers. (for more information on the project visit www.canadianwomencomposersproject.com)


I have sung the roles of Emmy Perth in the opera Der Vampyr, as well as Papagena, and the First Spirit in The Magic Flute with Summer Opera Lyric Theatre. I have also worked with Toronto Operetta Theatre singing shows The Mikado and The Student Prince. I will be singing Arnessen’s Magnificat with Barrie Lyrica Chamber Choir this winter, and working on the role of Heather in the new composition Jack & the Beanstalk by Bill Lavigne. I am a performer with the Toronto group the Hedgerow Singers, and a featured soloist with the touring company Opera Luminata.


In my life, I don’t intend to strictly sing classical music and that is why I have continued to write my own pop-inspired songs throughout all my classical training. This year, I have recorded a few songs with music producers in Toronto and am looking forward to continuing that work in the future.  


Since TWS is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, what advice would you (as a student from the past), give to a student graduating from TWS this year (a student of the present)?


Here is all of my advice to the students at TWS:


-Whatever you decide to do, make sure you know deep down inside yourself you’re doing everything you possibly can to do it well.


-Don’t stress about things as much as you probably do.


-When you go to university/college make sure you eat and sleep well. I spent the first few months of the first year of my undergrad extremely sick because I went to bed too late. Seriously, just go to bed if you can.


-And drink lots of water.  


-Study for tests up until the night before, but don’t try to cram everything in the morning. That’s so stressful. Why would you do that to yourself? You could be drinking a nice cup of tea and eating a decent breakfast instead.  


-Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t be doing something (unless it’s dangerous, obviously). If that were true none of us would be doing anything.  


-Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Always tell someone when she/he has dropped something on the sidewalk. There will be someone there to tell you when you’ve dropped something too.