On Sunday night the power went out in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We believe it was because one of the brightest lights in vocal music was extinguished. Texas born mezzo-soprano, Nina Hinson Rasmussen (1941-2018) passed away on Sunday, August 26 after suffering a massive stroke the day before. Nina was a native of Dallas, attended Woodrow Wilson High School and earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Oklahoma University. She arrived at the University of Southern California, to pursue a Masters of Music degree, with her voice in ruins. Her teacher there, William Venard, the famous American vocal pedagogue, both repaired her voice and planted a seed that grew into Nina's life-long interest in teaching with a specialty in repairing voices. A 1967 winner of the San Francisco Opera Auditions, she won the Metropolitan Opera West Coast Regional Auditions in 1968 but, after accepting a contract to sing in Germany, she became ineligible to go on to the finals in New York. Her professional career began in Kaiserslautern, Germany and continued at the Staatstheater Kassel. In all, she spent five years in Germany, performing more than 80 roles, singing in major opera houses throughout Germany, France and Switzerland, specializing in the heroines of Wagner and Verdi, and performing the role of Carmen more than one hundred times. After returning to America in 1974 and settling in Los Angeles, Nina sang at many leading opera houses, including Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, and Houston along side the likes of Placido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, and Jonathan Mack. She also performed oratorio and symphonic repertoire with many of the world's leading conductors, including Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Edo de Waart, Michael Tilson Thomas, Erich Leinsdorf and Georg Solti. A distinguished pedagogue, Nina began her teaching career at the University of Southern California. An artist-in-residence and professorship at the University of California at Irvine, where she chaired the vocal and opera departments, followed. Her final tenure was at UCLA as a Distinguished Professor of Voice. Her summer festival teaching included seven years in Santa Barbara as the director of the vocal program at the Music Academy of the West and six years as the principal voice instructor for the highly respected apprentice program at the Santa Fe Opera. She also maintained a private voice studio in Boston and Los Angeles for over 30 years where she taught both opera and early music. Her studio included many of America's finest medieval and baroque singers and her professional opera students, including several Grammy Award winners, are found performing in opera houses around the world. In 2007, Nina was awarded a special citation by the Los Angeles Music Center for her enduring contribution to music education. After "retiring" to Santa Fe in 2007, Nina continued to teach privately, was a three-term Board Member of the Desert Chorale, their first Angel Award recipient, and was recently made a Trustee Emerita for her long and dedicated service to the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. She and her husband, Dr. Scott Rasmussen, met singing in a choir and she was passionate about assuring that the tradition of great choral music continues. She was a generous and knowledgeable Board Member, and a true advocate for the singers; often teaching them for free, giving them helpful feedback, and looking out for their interests. In recognition of her tireless work to perpetuate great choral singing, and with the blessing of Scott and Nina's family, members of the Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Desert Chorale have established the Nina Hinson Rasmussen Fund for Singers in her memory. Nina and Scott were great travelers throughout their lives and were gracious, generous and stalwart friends to many. Relationships mattered more than anything to Nina and she did the work of maintaining them, hosting frequent dinner parties, inviting friends and family to visit and stay in their charming casita, or regularly picking up the phone to keep in contact with her many old friends around the world. Nina is survived by her beloved husband of 51 years, Dr. Prescott C. Rasmussen, sister Carol, son Dmitri, daughter-in-law Maggie, niece Dixie, great-niece Rachel and great-nephew Andrew. Nina also leaves behind a huge and widespread musical family made up of former colleagues and the multitude of students she taught throughout the years with intelligence, love and honesty, freely sharing advice based on the knowledge she accumulated over her long career. Nina will be greatly missed, but the impact she had on so many will live on forever. A Mass of the Resurrection in celebration of the life of Nina Hinson Rasmussen will take place on Saturday, October 20th, 2:00 pm at The Church of the Holy Faith, 311 East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501. In lieu of flowers please donate in her name to the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program or to your favorite musical organization.
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." - Plato