From Opera to Folk: Westminster Alum Releases Debut Album

Sally Louise in red dress on album cover

May 11, 2021

By Liz Dobbins ('21)

Music is a personal experience: from taste and favorite songs to the go-to playlist that defined an era of your life. It's the backdrop of our days and can change our mood in an instant. While many of us remain in the space of avid listener and fan, music consumes Westminster vocal performance alum Sally Louise Drutman ('17). "To be a musician or an artist doesn't mean that you just like doing it and it feels like a hobby," she says. "There's no other thing in my life—in life itself—that I would rather be doing for the rest of my life. I can do day jobs no problem. But music has been the constant."

Sally has pursued her passion for music since she was a kid, from learning guitar and writing really bad childhood songs, to becoming a classical singer and making her way to Westminster's music program, to today, being a grad school dropout and releasing her debut album, My Hands Are on Fire.

Sally found her voice in classical music at the age of 15. "I won fifth in state at my first competition, and I was like, "Okay, actually, maybe I'm good at this,’” Sally recalls. Through high school she continued to train classically and after visiting family in Utah, touring Westminster, and meeting with then Westminster vocal teacher Michael Chipman, Sally fell in love with the college. "When I think of Westminster, I have an overall wash of determination. I was so determined to get my degree and be an opera singer," she says.

At Westminster, Sally worked with her music professors to learn the range of her voice while pursuing opportunities such as performing with the Utah Symphony and entering—and winning—competitions. “Being able to have a home base on campus—and feeling like I have this really good learning environment that was nurturing my creative musical side and technical abilities musically—helped me do the things I wanted to do off campus," Sally says.

After graduating, Sally moved to Berlin, Germany to pursue opera professionally. She performed opera in crowded bars with a collective that made money off tips, was paid in pizza, performed as a soloist for a benefit concert in an opera house that survived WWII, and was almost signed to an opera house. During her time overseas, Sally discovered the side to opera she loves: the casual form of music that is appreciated and accessible.

Her next move was back to the US to find her place in the music world. Still wanting to pursue opera and needing a competitive edge, she enrolled in graduate school at Eastman School of Music in New York. "Getting into Eastman was like a pipe dream come true," she says. "Eastman is right on par with Julliard. It is one of the top schools in the world."

Enter the global pandemic and a feeling Sally describes as deeper than burnout. "I was halfway through my first year of my master's, and I felt like a slave to it. I thought "This doesn't feel fun anymore and I kind of hate opera,'" Sally says. Validation from her professor led Sally to drop out and reevaluate her plans. During this time, Sally began to write. "I had a flood of songs coming out of me," Sally says.

Sally recorded her entire album from home. She collaborated with musicians across the US and a sound engineer based in Sweden to produce My Hands Are on Fire. Dropping May 14, the album follows a period of Sally's life. "This is an expression of being in a situation that I never imagined I would be in," Sally says describing the message behind the album. "And thinking hard about certain aspects of life: what it means to be with someone and love and being both feminine and masculine at the same time—to be bold and feminine and soft. It's about this duality of being human."

The whole album is an immersive experience extending beyond the funk, soul, and psychedelic sounds. "I put so much work into the atmosphere and the actual look of it," Sally says. "The packaging of the CD, the album cover, the photo shoot that goes with this whole thing—it's big and bold but also soft and feminine. It's art nouveau meets '70s psychedelic."

Sally is already working on her next album and plans to see what the singer-songwriter path has to offer. She will be touring, gigging, and performing as much as possible as the world begins to open. But for now, Sally hopes listeners will experience and enjoy her debut album. "My hope is simply that people enjoy it. That it becomes a soundtrack to a period of someone's life because so much music has become the backdrop of a period in my life.”

Stay up-to-date with Sally and be the first to know of any new releases by following her on Instagram @sallylouisesings and on Spotify at Sally Louise. Visit sallylouise.bandcamp.com to purchase My Hands Are On Fire.

Sally Louise in red dress in field

Listen, Purchase, and Experience Her Album

Keep up With Sally

Behind the Album

  • Sally Louise, artist and songwriter
  • Leo af Ekenstam, sound engineer
  • Chris Palace, drums
  • Jordan Rabinowitz, bass
  • Olivia Rose Edvalson, photos
  • Alison Coté, album cover design