Nina Cremer: opera singer finds her voice

She sat quietly, lightly strumming her fingers on her kneeto a silent melody, patiently awaiting her performance, gazing adoringly at a student playing guitar.

And then Professor Parnell called her name. It was her time.

She rose gracefully out of her seat and approached the classroom’s center stage in an elegant blue and black suit. Looking up at her audience of peers, her hands began to shake slightly; her face became distant and eyes glazed.

The accompanist began to play, and Nina Cremer released an entrancing voice, as fine-tuned as a bird's song, upon the audience.

Cremer, a 24-year-old musical theater major at Santa Monica College, has known since a very young age that acting is her first love.

“Acting was always my passion. There was nothing else I ever wanted to do,” said Cremer.

Though the voice in her performances suggests years of fine-tuning that crisp, operatic quality she possesses, Cremer only began taking singing lessons about a year ago.

While she always felt music was a tremendous part of her life, she never connected it with acting until an SMC professor guided her towards musical theater classes and voice lessons.

Acting and singing together afford Cremer everything she enjoys in performing.

“Music is the only embrace that you can fall into, that will catch you and comfort you, without you having to say a single word. Its so universal," said Cremer. "To me, music has always been that comfort. When you’re lost for words. When you can’t explain why you are feeling the way you are feeling, music can catch you.”

For Cremer singing and acting are the best of both worlds. The combination works harmoniously.

At the beginning of the school year, Cremer auditioned for SMC’s highly prestigious Applied Music Program designed to help music majors of every type hone their musical talents for performing and transferring to four-year universities.

When she first heard of the program, she was intrigued by the opportunity, but was convinced she would not be accepted her first time auditioning. She was more than aware that this was the third attempt for some students.

Cremer was accepted into the program the first time she applied. She recalled the phone call and how for the first time she understood the meaning of the phrase "jumping for joy."

“I was jumping for joy and breaking down crying," she recalled.

While Cremer enjoys singing music in English, she also enjoys expressing herself in the four languages she speaks fluently including French, Spanish, and German. She also knows some Chinese. Oddly enough, there is a slight Irish accent hiding in her voice as well.

Not only does Cremer have natural singing and acting talent along with a humble character to match, her personal story is international in scope.

Born in Western Germany, she always felt she belonged in America.

“I felt like I was born in the wrong place. My heart was born in English not German.” said Cremer.

From an early age, she had dreams of coming to America and fulfilling her goal to be an actress. Her family however, did not share or support her desires.

So at 19, Cremer left home in what she called, “an act of freedom,” and began a long journey to various parts of the world, knowing that her true home would be somewhere in America.

“Something inside told me, ‘what you’re looking for is there, that is where you belong.’ It was the language and a feeling inside.” said Cremer.

After a short-lived stay in Ireland with some friends, Cremer arrived in Seattle, WA and soon headed south along the coast, never straying far from her favorite place in all of nature, the ocean.

Luckily for her, she became an au pair for a family living in Pacific Palisades. Living with this family made it easy for her to go to school nearby and get around the often difficult part of international student life, safe housing.

Nearing the end of her first year in America and at SMC, Cremer was sure she would be sent back to Europe, being unable to afford the expenses that come with being an international student.

Just after Christmas, however, the family she was staying with explained they could not bear the thought of her leaving, and offered to house her and pay for the rest of her schooling.

“There was a feeling inside, like the weight had lifted off my shoulders, I finally found my home.” said Cremer.

She is still hesitant however, to settle in and build strong connections having moved so many times for various reason since she left home.

“The world is so great, but I sometimes feel like there’s not a single string attached to this world for me. I’m here but I don’t know if I can stay here," said Cremer.

It is her heart’s longing for a true home and her scattered past that bring a quality of sadness to her most powerful performances.

She values a performance that makes her cry and believes in her ability to stir emotions when she sings.

“Its nice to laugh and its fun, but it's for an instant and then it's gone," said Cremer. "A deep feeling lingers. It's on a deeper level, it stays with you. It means something.”

Though Cremer has been accepted into several prestigious programs, is excelling in her musical studies, and recently received a part in SMC’s spring opera, "Luisa Fernanda", she still doubts her musical abilities.

She attributes this lack of confidence and fear of failure to her struggles in her personal life, specifically her separation from her family. Her drive is fueled from this.

“My parents didn’t believe in me. I guess I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m not worthless, that I am good for something.” said Cremer.

Perhaps more than she knows, Cremer is surrounded by a supportive community of her peers, professors and families who believe she truly has talent, grace and a unique sense of kindness that is both endearing and contagious.

Visit to watch Cremer sing Debussy's aria “Romance” as well as a piece she wrote herself called “I Have Your Heart” along with her piano playing.