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An Inside Look Into the Life of an Aspiring Opera Singer

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

When you think of majors at Florida State University (FSU) the first that come to mind are business, marketing, nursing and the basics. You don’t tend to immediately think of voice performance majors. This niche major tends to have a very different schedule from the typical student, they not only have to have talent, but also a passion for what they do and unbelievable dedication. I interviewed a voice performance major, Cierrah Touchstone, to get an inside look into what it takes to be successful in their field and what their day-to-day can look like. 

Her Campus (HC): When did you realize that singing/opera is what you want to pursue for your future?

Cierrah Touchstone (CT): The first time I realized singing opera was not only something I wanted to do for the rest of my life but also a viable career choice was during my sophomore year of high school. It was my second year competing as a soloist in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition in Las Vegas. I was excited but I had never been one to win competitions or get solos, so I was not expecting much. After I got home, I got a call from my voice coach saying I needed to come back for the winner’s concert. I won first place in my division. One of the best parts for me was the $50 check that came with the 1st place certificate. I had never earned money for anything besides chores, so I knew this had to be the real deal.

HC: What about Opera and singing, in general, is special to you?

CT: The most special things to me about opera are its uniqueness and complexity. Opera is one of the most difficult forms of singing. One song can take hours, weeks, or months of practice and fine-tuning to learn and perfect. However, that also means the satisfaction and fulfillment you feel when you finally get to perform in front of a live audience is just that much greater.

HC: How does a day-to-day class schedule look like for a voice/opera major?

CT: As a voice performance major I am currently enrolled in 9 classes with a total of 16 credits for the fall. At first, I was definitely a little intimidated, but my course load and schedule have been a pleasant surprise. Out of those 9 classes, only one is a GE course and the rest are music courses like piano, music theory, and voice lessons. There is definitely a lot of studying and solo work but when that work is practicing piano or learning a new repertoire it hardly feels like work.

HC: What advice would you give to someone trying to pursue opera?

CT: To someone trying to pursue opera a very important piece of advice I would give is that natural talent is important, but opera is such a complex and demanding art form that hard work and dedication are worth more than anything. Looking back at the beginning of my classical journey it definitely did not come naturally to me, but for four years I met with my private voice coach every week, practiced for hours on my own, auditioned and competed for every opportunity possible and it paid off. I experienced a lot of rejection and disappointment, but it only made the success that much sweeter.

HC: What would you say is the hardest part of being a voice/opera major?

CT: The most difficult part about my major is also my favorite part about my major. While being surrounded by other devoted and incredibly talented musicians, is incredibly uplifting and motivating, it can also be extremely disheartening and intimidating. While I love and cherish the experiences and learning opportunities I have alongside my fellow voice performance majors, I constantly struggle to not see everything and everyone as a competition and compare myself with others and their achievements. 

HC: Do you have any plans or goals for pursuing your major post-grad?

CT: The ultimate goal is to join an opera company and perform all over the world. However, as a musician, you have to be open to all aspects of the art in order to maintain a stable career. Other possibilities for me will be attending grad school if I feel I still have more to learn, singing in different settings such as cruise ships, background vocals, etc. or even potentially teaching privately in my own studio. Music performance at any level is such a difficult career to get into and keep stable especially if you have tunnel vision. While I will always have my main goals and big dreams it is exceedingly important for me to keep my options open and welcome any opportunity that comes my way.

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From Naples, FL Kaitlyn is a student at FSU majoring in Editing, Writing, and Media. During her time at FSU she’s worked on the undergraduate literary staff before moving up to the masthead as well as being apart of the Beta Mu Gamma Phi Beta chapter.