Alumni sings around the world


Soulisa Pathammavong, People Editor

Class of 2008 alumni Eric Jurenas is having an amazing career as a countertenor in Europe and in the U.S. Before making a name for himself, Jurenas started here on the stage of AHS.

Jurenas was involved in all the performing arts departments at AHS to help balance out the IB classes he was taking. By his senior year, he was part of the Symphonic Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Percussion Ensemble, Annandale Singers, Men’s Chorale, and Thespian Society.

“It was something I was always interested in, and even then I had no expectations of doing it professionally,” Jurenas said, “Chorus, Band, Drama – having access to those classes and making friends through those activities helped me through the stresses of high school.”

Overall, Jurenas enjoyed his time at AHS and believed it was an interesting community. After going to college in Ohio and living and traveling in Europe, it made him realize how much the diversity at Annandale positively affected his life outlook. 

“Everyone talks about the diversity, and I think the Annandale student body, at least in my day, took it for granted. Diversity wasn’t unusual for us, and that’s how it should be everywhere!” Jurenas said.

Aside from the diversity, Jurenas believed classes at Annandale weren’t that bad either.

“IB English was definitely harder than my college level English classes, so I was prepared, even if I have PTSD from all those sleepless nights doing IB homework in high school,” Jurenas said.

From his experience at AHS, Jurenas wished more had stuck with him (outside of social connections). Like most teenagers, he didn’t really care about homework or about learning new things. 

“I wish I had seen the real world upshots of learning as a teen… but alas…,” Jurenas said.

These last few years made Jurenas realize that he wishes he had paid a little more interest in some of those subjects for a more varied education.

“I took four years of Spanish at Annandale, but I didn’t really care (and I wish I did),” Jurenas said. “One thing I love now are languages: I’m well versed in German and working on my Spanish, Italian, French, and even Dutch.”

Jurenas communicates with people in different languages every day, which has become very important for his profession as a countertenor.

In college, Jurenas was struggling to find a satisfying path and discovered his ability accidentally.

“People loved it at parties, singing high was a great party trick, but people had mentioned that I could actually use it legitimately in the classical music world,” Jurenas said.

Jurenas then began his research into the subject, which later grew on him. Many people were very supportive of his decision and a lot of different opportunities became available for him. Jurenas was singing all over the U.S. in places like San Francisco, New York City, the Midwest, and Santa Fe.

“I was on the fence about graduate school, but after a year off to discover what I wanted to do with my life,” Jurenas said. “I decided to apply to the famous Juilliard School in New York City, and if I got in, I would commit myself to it.”

After a hard year and long audition process, he was accepted into the college. Jurenas had a great time there and it allowed him to make great connections. He received his Masters degree from The Juilliard School and his Bachelors from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati.

Jurenas later went on to being a countertenor, which is a male singer with the highest adult singing voice and a strong, pure tone. Although this kind of singing has been used in pop singing for so many different kinds of music, such as Frankie Valli, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Justin Timberlake, the countertenor is used predominantly in the operas from the Baroque period, roughly 1650-1775. It had been a fringe element of classical music for 30 years beginning in the 1960s and became more common, especially in Europe, in the late 90s.

“A countertenor is probably one of the oddest things you’ll come across today on the opera and concert stages,” Jurenas said. “Countertenors sing in the modern female range, so you can imagine the kind of looks and reactions I get as a full bearded man.”

Aside from being a countertenor, traveling and spending months in new cities is something Jurenas enjoys about his profession.

“It can sometimes be tough living out of a suitcase for months, but as a young guy it’s very interesting work,” Jurenas said.

He also enjoys being immersed in different cultures and meeting people from different backgrounds.

“The first year working in Germany was tough due to the language barriers, but I’ve gotten a lot better,” Jurenas said.

From his profession, Jurenas has been able to work with several groups as a featured artist and has received many awards from several vocal competitions. While being given many opportunities and traveling around the world, Jurenas continues to make a name for himself in both the opera and concert scene.

“My work takes me all over the world. This year I am in Berlin, Vienna, Denver, London, and other parts of Europe. Who knew that I could earn a living singing high?!?” Jurenas said.