Jacob Bernado likes to sing songs with his friends. This is one reason why the senior Vocal Performance major from Issaquah organizes fundraising events on his own time to support important causes.
More importantly, Bernado’s passion for classical music inspires him to bring what some view as an old, antiquated art form - opera - into the 21st century in a tangible way while also supporting the things he cares about.
The senior’s fundraising event, “Patchwork,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 17 in room 16 of the Performing Arts Center to support the Sean Humphrey House, an organization in Bellingham that provides care and housing for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. No tickets are required to attend the event, but donations will be collected at the door.
Bernado and a group of a few other students will combine different mediums of art including classical voice, spoken monologues and visual art to highlight LGBTQ+ performers and bring awareness to the continued HIV/AIDS crisis.
Last year, Bernado put on a production that raised money for the Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood. He wanted to do something that would take a stand amid the political climate following the presidential election, as well as find more representation for female composers. Similar to “Patchwork,” the event was set up as a concert, using art pieces to create the setting.
Bernado notes that while he organizes these events simply because he enjoys singing with friends, he chooses issues he’s passionate about. After hearing about the Sean Humphrey House from events he attended through the Queer Resource Center, Bernado found it to be a great cause.
“With the Sean Humphrey House this year, it was really important to me to highlight LGBTQ+ performing artists at Western,” Bernado said. “I think so often, as a gay actor, I’m expected to play straight a lot — which is fine. If I didn’t want to play straight, I wouldn’t be an actor. Or, people have to play a certain gender that is maybe not their identity. But I’m really excited to get the opportunity to kind of release that and not have to play a certain character that may be limiting.”
The name “Patchwork” is a nod to Bernado’s goal of weaving together different art forms, as well as a reference to the AIDS Quilt Songbook, a protest work composed for baritone William Parker during the AIDS crisis, which served as a basis for the project. After listening to an album based on the songbook, Bernado fell in love with the music and wanted to do something with it.
With the Sean Humphrey House this year, it was really important to me to highlight LGBTQ+ performing artists at Western.
The three main components will be contemporary and classical songs using lyrics from poems written by American composers and lyricists who either lived with AIDS or died of it. The monologues will be taken from plays written about the AIDS crisis.
As someone is singing or giving a monologue, paintings from Frank Moore, an artist who based his work on his experience living with AIDS, will be projected to help illustrate the particular emotions of the song or monologue.
Bernado found it particularly important to honor the legacies of some of these composers.
“A few of them have passed away and their works aren’t that really well known, I just kind of stumbled upon them,” Bernado said. “So that’s also really important to me, to highlight works that don’t get performed enough.”
Theatre and Music major Gabi Gilbride is the assistant director for the event and Bernado’s helping eye. Gilbride thinks it’s important that people are getting a platform to tell their stories.
“It doesn’t happen enough that people take time to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard and experiences are shared that might be different than their own,” Gilbride said. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for people to come and learn about different forms of art as well as different life experiences that a lot of us are really lucky to not have gone through.”
On top of being a full-time student, Bernado puts in a lot of work to make events like “Patchwork” happen. Amid creating a rehearsal schedule and finding time to rehearse, he depends on donated time from other students and faculty to help with music, lighting and managing the performance space.
Bernado said he is grateful for the help he has received on the project from the WWU Opera Club, which donated money to reserve the space for the production. Western’s Choir Director, Tim Fitzpatrick, helps out by accompanying performers on the piano, and was also the piano accompanist for Bernado’s Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood fundraiser last year.
Following his graduation from Western, Bernado wants to continue combining the arts to support important causes. His dream is to own a small opera company that stages events like “Patchwork” to challenge what people normally think of opera.
For more on the event, see https://www.facebook.com/events/195011187891334/?ti=icl.