O is for Opera singer: Student sings out of her shell

Owensboro junior Kate Douglas warms up her voice with her vocal coach, associate music professor Wayne Pope, in the fine arts center on Tuesday.

Zirconia Alleyne

Owensboro junior Kate Douglas remembers being shy and freezing up in front of crowds when she was younger. With a love of music, Douglas, 20, came out of her shell and started singing opera.

In high school, Douglas sang in chorus and acted in the musical “Guys and Dolls.”

She said people are a little shocked when they find out she sings opera.

“Some people are like ‘Really? You’re so small’ or ‘Do people really do that anymore?'” Douglas said.

She admits that she wasn’t even interested in opera until she came to WKU.

“They introduced me to opera, and I found out it’s really cool,” she said. “I enjoy it a lot even though it can be difficult at times.”

Before singing, Douglas must warm up to keep her voice from tiring. She does breathing exercises, which train her abdomen muscles, to help with breath support.

Under the direction of associate music professor Wayne Pope, she has learned what it takes to be a good opera singer.

Douglas said that Pope “went crazy” with a lot of technical voice exercises during her freshman year.

“There’s a lot more to it than I would have ever expected, but it’s really rewarding when the way that you sound grows so much in a short amount of time,” she said.

Opera isn’t all about singing, though. It involves acting through expression.

Earlier this week, Pope coached Douglas and other students on how to emote feelings with only their faces.

In pairs, students sat face-to-face, stared into each other’s eyes and mirrored emotions, such as pleased, passionate and horrified, which Pope called out from flash cards.

“The eyes are the windows to the soul,” Pope told them.

Using her voice and the techniques she learned in class, Douglas performed as a townsperson in the opera “The Devil and Daniel Webster” last spring. She also starred as Chip in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Douglas said that before she performs, she gets a little nervous, but she knows that it’s nervous excitement.

“It’s fun to get up on stage and portray a character and have audience members relate to that and react to what you’re doing,” she said.

Glasgow senior Jameson Price, one of the few males in the voice program, agreed that opera is incredibly difficult, but he has a lot of fun with it.

“It’s a huge combination of art,” he said. “I just love the grand gesture of it.”

Price played the lead, Jabez Stone, in “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” which he credits as his hardest but most gratifying role.

“It takes time to learn everything like complex rhythms,” Price said. “But when you work hard on something and are able to perform it, it’s rewarding.”

Even though opera isn’t a mainstream art, Douglas enjoys that people still respond to it when they hear it.

“Most people just assume that opera is a little bit of a lost art, but it really actually has a huge impact on society,” Douglas said. “When they actually hear it, they’re normally pretty impressed.”

After college, Douglas plans to take time off before pursuing a master’s degree in vocal performance. She wants to continue singing opera and one day open a private voice studio.

“No matter where life takes me, I think I’ll definitely try to keep singing and acting as long as I can,” she said.