With graduation near, Estefania Wilcox, a graduate student who is studying the human voice, is gearing up for her final recital as a UNM student.

Wilcox has been singing ever since she can remember. It all started with her family, she said.

“The earliest memory that I have is of the women in my family singing to me,” Wilcox said. “My grandmother, my mom and my aunt always sang to me and I loved to sing with them. My grandmother taught me how to harmonize.”

Wilcox said she tended to love classical and lyrical music, although she did have a Spice Girls phase. She took piano lessons and sang choir in high school.

When it came time for college, Wilcox decided to study to become a music educator. Her goals evolved, however, when she was cast in an opera.

“I thought, ‘I like singing, and it’s my instrument, and this is like the Olympics for singing,’” Wilcox said. “You learn so much about history, about language and about the technical things to allow your voice to do things you never thought you could do. That’s what defined my path to go into performance.”

Wilcox compared training to be a singer in a classical environment to running a marathon — it takes endurance and time.

“A lot of these things happen internally, so it’s an introspective process — learning to sing, being in tune with your body, being in tune with your psyche and making these things happen,” Wilcox said.

Artists of all kinds are very connected to their emotions and that affects their work, she said.

“For me, it has been about learning how to navigate through the emotions, learning to navigate through life and allowing life to help me become a better artist instead of going against the current,” Wilcox said.

When the current gets rough, Wilcox perseveres with her faith and her family. She once had to take a temporary break from singing due to health problems, and it was her faith and the support and love of her family that got her through it, she said.

“I am a believer and I believe that there’s a reason for all of us to be here,” Wilcox said. “Realizing that even though I was going through a hard time, it wasn’t permanent. It was just a temporary block that I needed to overcome to be stronger. Sometimes we get stuck in that one moment and don’t think about all the other small victories that we have had along the way and realizing that hey, I overcame that, and that — what makes me think I can’t overcome this? The answer is, I can.”

Wilcox said that there are smooth parts of our journey that are important to recognize, too.

“Our journey is not always about climbing up the mountain,” Wilcox said. “You may encounter some plateaus along the way where things are just kind of staying the same. But even through those times, if you are not growing vocally, you are growing in other areas that enhance your art.”

Wilcox is from Jacksonville, Alabama, and taught at Jacksonville State University as an adjunct professor. She came to UNM with her husband, who is also a singer, and her one-year-old son to finish her graduate degree.

"(Teaching) is kind of like passing the torch on,” Wilcox said. “Everything that has enriched me as a musician, passing it on to those people.”

Wilcox is close to finishing her degree. Her graduate recital is on Friday, April 14, and she will be singing works in different languages, exploring three main themes: love, lust and bullfighting.

“For me, the goal is to be able to present the music with integrity, respecting the composer’s wishes and adding my own life experiences to the interpretation of those works,” Wilcox said. “Being able to share a gift, to share the music with other people, to kind of create a connection with other people — it’s the whole human experience. I think that that’s what art is about.”

After graduation, Wilcox wants to care for her son, organize recitals for her local community and continue to teach.

“I think that at a time like this, where we have so many different opinions — whether they be political or anything else (that) is going on in the world — sometimes it’s a good reminder for all of us to be in touch with our humanity and to understand that life at some level is hard for everyone,” she said.

Wilcox’s recital is in Keller Hall on April 14, from 2-3:30 p.m., and admission is free.

Ariel Lutnesky is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @ariellutnesky.