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Rachel Wallis: Queer. Feminist. Opera.

This blog is the ninth installment of UIC Radio’s Women History Month series profiling and celebrating the musical and artistic work of women throughout the month of March, as well as highlighting and promoting women’s organizations on campus. To read the previous entry in this series, click here!

It’s Women’s History Month! As a woman and a history major, I found myself ecstatic at the opportunity to write about some of my favorite kickass women in history! Lucy Parsons, Zora Neale Hurston, Jane Addams, and many more women came to mind, but I realized it was far more important to share the women making history right here in Chicago with the UIC community.

Rachel Wallis (pronouns she/they) is a 23-year old Roosevelt University student in the Honors Bachelor of Musical Arts program and is studying in Voice and Women’s and Gender Studies. Like many of our own UIC students, Rachel is involved in undergraduate research. Rachel is a part of the Newberry Library Undergraduate Seminar this spring. Outside of the seminar, however, Rachel also is working on an amazing project utilizing YouTube.

“This project gives a queer and feminist take on issues related to opera and music history in general and hopes to make opera more accessible to the public by sharing stories about opera on YouTube!,” stated Rachel when asked to describe the purpose of the project. Accessible is the key word here. Opera as a musical genre is something many find to be out of reach, confusing, and something belonging to the elite. Through Rachel’s YouTube series, a more general audience becomes privy to the nuances and complexity of a genre not ordinarily available to them. What makes her videos even more enticing is not only their accessibility, but her unique perspectives on gender and sexuality. It is not often that opera is regarded as an inclusive art, but Rachel flips the script with fresh and well researched takes.

When watching Rachel’s videos, it is clear to see the passion Rachel has for music and its intersections with gender and sexuality. “I remember literally being moved to tears when I first read about musicology (especially feminist musicology)! I was like, ‘Wow! I finally have language to describe what I’ve been passionate about working on for all this time! It’s a real thing!’ So since then, I’ve been working on feminist music research!”

Rachel drops new videos about every month. Catch the first video up now on YouTube!


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