Thank You, Leon, Day 70 (9 of 25)
With a weekend too full of travels and contemplations for my current focus here, my head swims with happiness and sadness, excitement, and plans too grand to set in motion just yet. Earlier this past weekend, however, I had the fantastic opportunity to celebrate the wonderful direction in which my life went just a few years ago, to the Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland. When I received the invitation to honor Leon Major, the Director of the program, of course I had to find a way to make the trip work.
Five years ago, my dear friend since eighth grade, Nicholas Houhoulis, contacted me about the possibility of auditioning to fill the unexpected mezzo soprano position available in Delores Ziegler‘s studio. After a whirlwind audition in Maryland on my day off from the Bard Summerscape’s Regina in upstate New York, followed by an immediate acceptance and attendance only three weeks later, I think Leon Major’s initial interest and memory of me surprised me the most. When he remembered my performance as a chorister from his production of Don Pasquale at the Opera Company of Philadelphia from the year prior, I caught my first glimpse of his brilliance.
Today, I recommend the opera studio to anyone who asks. Designed on many of the principles set forth by Stanislavski in his opera studio, no other postgraduate opera training program I know offers such a comprehensive study of acting. Among its other opera-related requirements, with straight acting, Shakespeare, improvisation, mime, mask, movement, stage combat, opera performance classes, workshop classes, and even a recitative class during my study there, I owe Leon Major so much for my life as a singing actor. Each group of incoming students receives tailor-made instruction and productions, depending upon the talent and voice types available, and Leon truly provides an oasis of opportunity for any smart and hard working singer blessed enough to gain acceptance into the small studio.
Early this weekend in the studio’s main rehearsal room on campus, I happily hugged my professors and friends while waiting to surprise the guest of honor and marveled at how much I actually missed everyone. Rarely in life do we have overwhelmingly positive experiences with no regrets such as the two years I spent at Maryland Opera Studio. Since much of that responsibility falls to its creator and sustainer, Leon Major, I stood, hooted and hollered, clapped, and smiled with everyone else in that room with a full heart and all sincerity. With all of the new thoughts and confusing possibilities and so many events both happy and sad to attend, I know I have a solid foundation to keep me grounded and performing my best in any situation, thanks to everyone at the Maryland Opera Studio and especially Leon. As he said in his speech to us, “I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but thank you.” Thank you indeed, Leon.