2015 Stories

Jordan McClellan

“My first opera experience in Europe was in 2010 when my father was on business in Milan. I was in college and I begged him to take me with him so we could watch an opera at La Scala (I also promised him I would practice my Italian). My father works in the fishing industry, an industry I grew up in from the age of 10 to 18. I worked on fishing boats in Alaska every summer for 8 years. Some incredible experiences with grizzly bears, moose, beluga whales, living on boats, summer days that lasted until 3 am and of course the freshest salmon you could eat were all part of my growing up. If someone had told me that my father’s job would have resulted in the best opera experience of my life I don’t think I would have believed it.

We arrived in Milan in quite possibly the coldest winter they had seen in years, undeterred, I approached the concierge about tickets to the opera. La Scala was putting on Rigoletto, one of my favorites with the legendary Leo Nucci as the title role. My father begrudgingly obliged (he bought his first suit for this very occasion). In the days leading up to the performance I walked to the theater every day, I would sit outside on the benches and just look at it. Here stood an opera house established when America was barely a unified country. All I could think of was the history of such a place, all it had been through, all the talent that had passed through those doors, the standing ovations the major operas that were first heard on that stage; if those walls could talk.

I dressed up (as much as an American can in one of Europe’s most stylish cities). I can still remember walking to our seats and being so overwhelmed by the beauty of the theater that I felt choked up. When my father and I were ushered to our seats, the overture began, and I knew I was in for something special. The intimacy of the theater, the dynamics that the artists and orchestra could explore, the immense amount of feeling and emotion that the singers put into their singing was inspiring. When the opera ended my dad said it was the best opera he’d ever seen.

When I think of what I want to do with my music as a singer I always think of that performance. There is something truly magical about making music in place where it all began. My dream is to sing opera and concerts in the venues they were originally meant to be performed in, and to feel that inspiration that the composers and original artists must have felt when they were singing and playing this music for the first time. I hope one day to inspire and move people in the same way I felt that night at La Scala in Italy.”

Danielle Smith

“I never expected to be a singer. I always loved to sing, but having braces in my late teens made singing awkward so I never considered lessons. From the age of 12, my passion was my job as a professional horse trainer, and my training in Tae-Kwon-Do. (I was, and still am, a 4th degree black belt.) Then at the age of 18, I had a serious knee injury and could neither ride nor train. Since I was “down for the count” anyway, I decided to have my wisdom teeth taken out. The dentist recommended light singing to recover from the surgery, so I joined a choir with my mother, and found a voice teacher. My voice teacher was at Westminster College, so I decided to attend. I could get a good liberal arts degree. it was close to the barn where my horse was, and music majors don’t have to take too many math and science classes. It seemed like a perfect solution. However, I didn’t realize how seriously Performance is taken. I was not accepted at first, so I set myself to prove that I could do it. I buried myself so deep in practicing that I ended up sending my horse home because I never found time to ride. I was thrown into a scene from Un Ballo in Maschera as a Jester and I was hooked.

“Now I am a Senior Vocal Performance major. I love performing. I cannot stop singing throughout the day. I wake up thinking about music and I stay awake at night practicing.
“I always loved training horses, and I was good at it, but it was always more of a job than a true passion. Singing is part of my soul and I am eternally thankful to my teachers for helping me discover that passion and talent was hiding inside me.

“I am grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities that continue to present themselves and I look forward to what lies ahead!”