What have you been up to since graduating from the University of Illinois?
After I graduated, I moved back to Nashville to be with my family because my father was terminally ill, and he ended up passing not too long after I moved back. I decided that I would stay in Nashville for at least a year to be with my family and save money while doing young artist auditions. During this time, I reached out to Michelle with the idea for Opera Offstage, and we began planning and working on it back in October.
What were some of the most useful things you learned at UIUC?
I think independence was the most important skill I learned during my time in UIUC. In undergraduate programs, there are long lists of requirements, where in graduate school you have a lot more flexibility with your courses and focus. I started really exploring different ways of performing and creating music in graduate school. UIUC is very good about allowing their students to cross-train in different areas than their main degree, and the Krannert Center draws such a wide variety of artists and performances. It really opened me up to possibilities beyond just opera and musical theater.
What is one of your favorite LTI memories?
When I was understudying Elvira [in LTI's production of Don Giovanni], the two other Elviras and I got together to listen to an audiobook that Nathan Gunn had recommended to us for character study while we made Valentine's Day cookies. the book was Pimp: The Story of my Life by Iceberg Slim. Needless to say that audiobook might be one of the wildest things I've ever listened to, and the three of us had an absolute party listening to it. It definitely bonded the three of us, and we had a great time working on that show together.
How has it been transitioning out of graduate school and into the wider world?
I went straight from high school to college to graduate school, so it has been an interesting transition back out of academia and into the professional world. You inevitably lose a lot of the structure in your life when you're no longer in school. I definitely oscillate between feeling prepared and ready to take on the world and to being at a loss as to what my next steps should be. I actually credit working on Opera Offstage with helping me refocus myself on my goals and motivating me to keep improving as a musician. Ultimately, I'm happy to be out in the wider world and working again.
How did you and Michelle meet? How did you decide to create this podcast?
Michelle and I actually met as freshmen music majors at Pepperdine University, and we've been friends ever since. I came up with the idea for Opera Offstage when I realized that there is very little good representation for classical singers in online spaces like YouTube, podcasts, Twitch, etc. It's a huge untapped market, especially for young singers. I reached out to Michelle about working together on this project because she has an incredible work ethic and we really balance each other in terms of skills and focus, plus we have very similar senses of humor. I've always been interested in creating online content, but it wasn't until recently that I had an ideas as to what I actually wanted to create.
What is the goal of this podcast? How do you go about achieving that goal?
The ultimate goal of this podcast and YouTube channel is to help bring classical music into the modern world. We hope to accomplish this by being very open about what being a working musician is like, all of the funny, terrible, and wonderful parts of it. We also want to highlight the amazing work that is being created right now that is often overlooked. Our hope is that by pulling back the curtain on classical music, we will create a much stronger music community as well as invite interest from non-musicians who want to know more about classical music.
How do you decide on topics to cover?
Michelle and I both have running lists of issues that we wish had been covered in school and oddities of the classical music industry that we believe deserve attention. We also keep a look out on social media to see what other singers are talking about or interested in. Then we pitch ideas back and forth to see what we both find interesting and often ideas end up being combined into a larger episode or broken down into a more in-depth series.
What kinds of topics are you looking forward to covering? Why are these topics important to your audience?
I'm very excited for our episodes on side gigs, mental health, and opera in film. Side gigs is a great episode because it really helps break down how to choose jobs that pair well with pursuing a career in classical music. It is a topic that goes largely unexplored because everyone has different skills, but we did a solid breakdown of the pros and cons of many different fields and options to get everyone started. Mental health is going to be particularly interesting because we're reaching out to some experts in the field to really help us explore the particular challenges of working in such a competitive and occasionally isolating field. I'm glad we'll be combining personal experiences with professional expertise to create a more holistic image of mental health in classical music. Then opera in film is simply a very fun topic because there are some very good and bad representations of opera in movies and television. You would also be surprised by how many shows and movies give away their plot by putting in an aria from an opera with the same storyline. Plus it's a fun way to show that almost everyone has heard opera, even if they don't know that they've heard it
What do you think are some of the biggest issues facing young singers today? What is your advice to overcome these obstacles?
There are two large issues facing young singers today that have been at the forefront of my mind. Number one is visibility. Classical music lacks the kind of visibility that I feel comes much more naturally to other artforms. The best advice I can offer in the face of this is to make your own art and put it out into the world. Make new art, make silly, unimportant art, or just make anything that moves you. Don't keep making the same art we've always made. You have a unique voice, and you should use it. The second is the reckoning of older pieces. A large portion of the music we perform every day was written in a different time with very different values than we have today, and we are only just beginning to have a larger conversation about how we approach those pieces. For this, all I have to say is be open to the conversation, no matter how difficult it is.