EMILY SAMSON TEPE, also known as “IVA”, is one of the very few formally trained classical singers to enjoy success as a pop singer and songwriter. Described early-on as Madonna meets Enya, she’s now a rising star with a sound all her own, written up by Billboard magazine as an artist to watch and garnering rave reviews for her unique sound and style.
Her shift from opera to pop came thanks to an appearance on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien. After a chance meeting in New York, she was cast for their “Staff Talent Show” as the girl who sings outside the range of human hearing. Band leader Max Weinberg liked her voice and she was invited to return the show several times as a singer and actress. In the midst of her conservatory training at The Juilliard School and The Manhattan School of Music, she began to play at New York clubs and Off-Broadway venues like The Public Theatre, The Cutting Room and Pianos. Then, in 2004, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to study Scandinavian classical music in Stockholm, Sweden.
Her time in Stockholm marked a time of intense creativity, and she decided to remain in Sweden to explore how her musical influences could be expanded into more popular genres. While maintaining a classical recital schedule, she wrote and released two albums of her own original music, the self-titled “IVA” with French-New York label Vurse, and “Ivolution” with Sweden’s Martin and Andreas Karlegård. 2008 marked simultaneous breakthroughs with her debut at the Royal Opera, Stockholm, as Tamar in the world premiere of Sven-David Sandström’s opera Bathsheba, all while releasing “Ivolution” with Universal Sweden to Swedish national radio rotation on stations like P4 and Hitmix and television appearances on TV4.
IVA’s vocals and stage presence have been compared to that of Celine Dion’s for her vocal range and fireworks, though IVA’s are operatic. Since returning to the United States a year ago, she has been nurtured by the World Café Live in Philadelphia, a venue linked with tastemaker station WXPN, and The Queen Theatre in Wilmington, DE, where she played to a sold out crowd this summer. She’s also been championed by the baby grand at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House, the venue where she made her debut at nine years old. This past year has also included a special appearance at Opera Delaware’s Opera Ball, premieres of music by composer Paul Fejko, concerts with trumpet player Barbara Prugh, and her debut on WSTW 93.7’s Hometown Heroes.
After two electro-acoustic pop albums, IVA’s been crafting a more organic sound featuring all live instruments as she works on material for a third album.