While most soon-to-graduate students dread the post-celebration question of their future plans, one Lee University student can smile and relay the news that she has secured a contract to sing opera professionally in Germany.
Kelsey Frost, who will graduate with a B.A. in music with a vocal emphasis and a bachelor's degree in music education in December, accepted the role of Ciboletta in the Hildesheim Opera House’s production of “Eine Nacht in Venedig” by Johann Strauss for the 2013 season.
Her work begins immediately after graduation: The operetta opens in February and runs through the first part of June.
Frost’s role encompasses a solo and parts with the chorus, and as her vocal coach, Tony Deaton, associate professor of music at Lee University, explained, will involve several performances a week as part of a full-time, professional opera singer’s schedule.
“This will be the first step and a pretty good first start,” Deaton said. “We say in the business that roles beget other roles. Depending on how far she wants to pursue [singing professionally], she will continue to get better, and [with] better roles, [she] could sing in some of the major opera houses of Europe eventually."
Deaton also lent perspective to the exceptional nature of this opportunity: Most singers earn their first noteworthy professional roles after completing graduate-level study. Frost landed her role before she even finished her undergraduate education.
A musical changeup
Originally born in Hildesheim, Germany, Frost comes from an opera family. Her father, James Frost, currently serves as the director of Lee University’s opera theater and as an associate professor of music.
Both he and Frost’s mother performed at the Hildesheim Opera House as a soloist and a chorus member, respectively.
During a trip to visit childhood friends this past summer, Kelsey arranged to meet with the professional theater’s musical director and choir director. She intended for the appointment to be geared more toward a conversation about how she could improve her voice and if, in their professional opinions, she could even make the cut.
“I wanted them to give me some suggestions as to what my next step could be and tell me whether they thought I would make it as a performer,” Frost said. “I got to the theater on the scheduled date, and it ended up turning into a real audition.”
The audition led to a contract offer on the spot, as well as the compliment that they thought she would surely move on to bigger roles with better companies, although the Hildesheim company was more than happy to be home to the beginning of that career path.
Born to opera
While at Lee University, Frost has completed eight semesters of vocal training with Deaton. She performed in the Choral Union and the department’s opera productions each year, singing in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patient,” Puccini’s “Suor Angelica,” Purcell’s “Dido and Aneas” and Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“I was in my first profession, opera, when I was 11 years old in the children’s chorus and fell in love with opera then,” Frost said. “Growing up with it just makes it something I cannot imagine living without.”
The quality of Frost’s voice is perfectly suited to the demands of opera, explained Deaton. She commands the power and range to sing out over an orchestra and chorus into a large hall without the help of a microphone, and her voice carries a vibrant, exciting tone.
Frost, who is currently student teaching in an English-speaking school in Thailand as part of a Lee University international program, said she hopes to continue singing opera professionally in Europe after this role. She plans to see what the audition process brings her.
“Kelsey is such a good role model for other students, showing that yes, you too can pursue the dream of opera,” Deaton said. “It can be done with perseverance, desire and passion. She is a prime example that it can happen.”
Updated @ 8:20 a.m. on 10/26/12 for clarity.