Chorus Member Profile


Tracy Bailey

25-Year Chorus Member: Tracy Bailey

Singing is an art that takes years and years of hard work to perfect, and 20-year May Festival Chorus member Tracy Bailey knows this first-hand. Over the years, she has undergone two separate surgeries to address vocal cord injuries, and despite the challenges, her voice is healthier than ever.

If you were to ask Tracy who the musician in the family is, she might say that it’s her sister Gretchen Wessel, a May Festival Youth Chorus Alum and elementary music teacher in Worthington, Ohio. In fact, Tracy first attended a May Festival performance in the audience when her sister sang in CarolFest in the late 1980s.

Knowing the high standards the May Festival holds for its chorus members, Tracy was a little bit intimidated when she finally decided to audition in the spring of 2001. While she didn’t make the first audition, Director of Choruses Robert Porco and May Festival accompanist Heather McPhail armed Tracy with constructive feedback, a recommendation to take a few voice lessons, and an invitation to try again. A few months later, she returned for her second audition, and her hard work over the summer with voice instructor Karl Resnik at the Musical Arts Center in O’Bryonville paid off with an invitation to join the Chorus.

Tracy’s first performance with the May Festival would be just a few weeks later at Carnegie Hall to sing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem and help the country heal after the events of 9/11. She could hardly believe the honor of being able to perform in the historic venue. Of course, she wanted everyone she knew to be able to come and see her perform, but with airlines still adjusting to the new normal, it wasn’t going to be. Instead, her husband Dale would go on his own to see Tracy in the audience. Even this would prove to be a challenge.

Tracy departed for New York City with the May Festival and still knew very few people in the Chorus. She was excited for Dale to join her and keep her company, but unfortunately, his flight from CVG – which would make it to New York the day of the performance – was cancelled. With very few alternative flights available, the scramble was on. Dale quickly befriended another gentleman on the cancelled flight who had found another option to get them to Manhattan that day… departing from Columbus, Ohio, in a matter of hours. This man offered to help Dale get through security quickly in exchange for a speedy ride to Columbus, which Dale happily obliged. As they rolled up to the terminal, this man jumped out of the car, explained Dale’s situation to the airport staff, and they whisked him through to his gate just in time.

Meanwhile, Tracy fretted about whether or not she would have a single person she knew in the audience for her performance at Carnegie Hall. She sat on stage waiting to perform, scouring the audience for her beloved Dale and didn’t see him. Her heart sank, until, just as the house lights dimmed for the performance, she saw him walking briskly down the aisle. He had arrived in Newark without a moment to spare on his way to see his bride perform at Carnegie Hall. Tracy immediately went from utterly depressed to profoundly happy as she watched him take his seat.

Tracy, a travel agency owner and retired information technology specialist, is hooked on performing big choral works with her May Festival family. When she was faced with the choice to take a year off from singing or undergo vocal cord surgery to remove a polyp, she opted for the surgery to maintain her connection to music. While she was healing, she eased her voice back into singing those high notes again. After a second surgery to fix a tethered vocal cord, she continued to work with her voice teacher Karl Resnik and vocal health expert Wendy LeBorgne to make a full recovery.

The break from singing over the course of 2020 allowed Tracy even more time to heal from her most recent surgery, and she says some of the protective behaviors she had developed to cope with it have fallen away. During the pandemic, Tracy has begun studying voice virtually with Avery Bargasse, through the support of May Festival donors, who has encouraged her to explore this new freedom in singing and let go of old habits. Today, Tracy is excited to return to the stage for the 2021 May Festival as a member of the women’s chorus. Congratulations on 20 years as a member of the May Festival Chorus, Tracy!

Learn how you too can support the May Festival Chorus with a contribution to our annual fund here, and get to know Tracy a little better by listening to some of her favorite music our Spotify channel.