Focus on Faces
9/18/2006 1:37:08 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. As with many New Mexico Junior College employees, Anne Turner Tsonis' story is far more vibrant than what her business card describes: Adjunct Music Faculty Voice Instructor. You see, Anne's voice is one many of us unknowingly grew up with, straight from the musical scores of some Hollywood movies.
Being born into a family in the professional music industry and growing up in Hollywood was obviously a great start to her illustrious career. Anne's grandmother was one of the first women to graduate college with a music degree from Oberlin College. Her parents were in the professional music business, as well as teachers and church musicians. "I can't think of a time when I didn't know music," Anne explains. So, it was no surprise that one of Anne's first memories is standing in her crib singing while her parents gave private voice lessons in their home. It is also no surprise that, during her many years of teaching, Anne has made a tremendous impact in the lives of many students.
Anne's parents provided numerous professional musical opportunities for her through television and radio. Anne grew up in Hollywood, the spot light. Anne stated, "Kids had to be careful growing up in the spotlight." Of course, most would assume the obvious such as fame and fortune, but she meant those words in the most literal sense possible. "The (spot) lights were so bright that they would burn your skin, especially in television," Anne describes.
After years of going to school on set, Anne wanted to be a "regular" student in a "regular" high school, so she attended North Hollywood High. Fortunately, the desires to sing and act were still strong, so she held lead roles in many of the school's musical and theatrical productions.
Anne was intent on attending UCLA after high school. Utilizing a voice scholarship, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Voice Performance and double minored in Language and Theatre Arts. She also obtained her teaching credentials in Secondary and Special Musical with a Lifetime Community College Credential (Master Degree equivalency).
Anne could sing in eight different languages, so after college, her career flourished as a professional singer. She traveled the world, singing on cruise ships and nightclub tours. Her voice has been heard on over 40 soundtracks including box office hits such as Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Camelot, and Hello, Dolly!, to name a few. She has worked with great names such as Luciano Pavorotti, Leonard Bernstein, Steven Spielberg, Igor Stravinsky, Johnny Mathis, and Barbara Streisand. One of Anne's favorite memories is when she sang in the musical Candide at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with Leonard Bernstein.
For a time, Anne and her family settled in Oregon where she taught music at Southern Oregon State College and Rogue Valley Community College. Anne even starred as "Madame Butterfly" in an Opera Company in Medford, Oregon, and sang in Peter Britt Music Festivals and the Willamette Opera and Symphony.
Later, after moving back to Los Angeles, Anne transitioned toward professional singing again. Her two daughters grew up in the Hollywood life, each being musically talented as well. On many occasions, her daughters would go on set with her, landing children roles in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, the hit sitcom One Day at a Time, and in the Los Angeles and New York city operas.
Always interested in travel, she attended an L.A. travel school and moved to Palm Springs. There, she started and managed a cruise program for five offices. During this time, Anne was also the Voice and Opera Director at College of the Desert. She traveled by day, taught singing at night, and sang in local performances whenever she could find time.
Coined as a 'Dual Career Dynamo,' Anne has received numerous awards and accolades throughout her life including Woman of the Year, Most Inspirational, Lifetime Award, Outstanding Community Service, and Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year. Anne has also received a Certificate of Special U.S. Congressional Recognition for Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the Community, was nominated for Marquis' Who's Who of American Women Silver Anniversary Edition in 2005, and was selected for Empires' Who's Who of Executives and Professionals, 2006-2007 edition.
Anne chuckles when people ask her how she got to Hobbs, America. With her oldest daughter and husband, and two granddaughters, living in Hobbs already, she felt as though it was a place that she could enjoy living while being close to family. Although, she laughs, what cinched the move for Anne was the friendliness of the NMJC staff. "Ronnie Gray and Chris Eubank took me to lunch, and long distance phone chats with Mickey Best really convinced me that NMJC would be a good place to work and that Hobbs is a nice place to live." Since moving to Lea County, Anne's husband, youngest daughter, and mother have made Hobbs their home as well.
Anne's legacy of service overflows into the community. She is currently a member of the Southwest Symphony Artistic Committee, Lea County Music Teacher's Forum, and the Lea County Commission for the Arts, where she teaches their summer teen vocal workshop. Anne also serves as Choir Director at the First Presbyterian Church, teaches at Raabe's School of Music on the weekends, occasionally adjudicates local music contests, and is a vocal coach and soloist for the NMJC Community Chorale concerts.
"I've lived in big cities and experienced the spot light, but now I want to be with family," Anne explains. And family has grown to include her students at NMJC, where she teaches class, private voice lessons, and in 2005 started the Ultra-Tsonics Opera Club. Anne may not have bright lights focused on her anymore, but the kindred heart shared with each aspiring student at NMJC definitely makes the world a brighter place.