A Voice Discovered
By Angela Oliver Messenger-Inquirer | Posted: Saturday, April 19, 2014 12:00 am
Tevin Vincent never knew he had a voice.
When the 22-year-old baritone started at Catawba College in his native Salisbury, N.C., he played tuba with the band.
He was sure he'd become a band director.
"I got frustrated with the tuba because the band wasn't up to par," Vincent said. "And really, I was tired of lugging it around. One day, Professor (Paul) Oakley pulled me aside and told me to try singing. I don't know what he saw in me, but he told me I had a gift and that I was going to be an opera singer."
After auditioning for three prestigious music programs, Vincent, who will graduate from Kentucky Wesleyan College in May, has decided to attend the Boston Conservatory of Music, where he will work toward his master's in opera performance. He is one of three students accepted into the program.
He was also accepted to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the University of Kentucky.
"I'm thankful I auditioned for all of the programs," he said. "But when I walked around (Boston's) campus, I just felt that smile. That smile that's not just on your face, but in you, all over you."
Vincent was also attracted to Boston because he was familiar with Andrew Aultenbach, the music director of the opera program. He met Aultenbach at Oberlin in Italy. He was on the faculty at Oberlin's opera program that Vincent attended last summer.
As part of the Catawba choir, Vincent's voice also took him to Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland, "a long way from Salisbury," he said.
Vincent, who has one older brother, said his parents encouraged him to study computer science or medicine.
"My parents are fierce in a way," he said. "They didn't really support music. They divorced when I was 13, and that was rough. So, I was raised by my grandmother, pretty much. She supported it."
Vincent said his parents have changed their feelings toward music a bit. When the Kentucky Wesleyan Singers made a tour stop in Greensboro, N.C., his mother and grandmother were there.
"They were impressed with the choir," he said. "I was happy to see them."
A lack of classical music outlets in Salisbury, a city of about 33,000, made the decision to move to Owensboro an easy one.
When Oakley was hired at KWC in 2011, many of his music students followed. Though Oakley's November 2012 death left the singers in grief, Vincent said he'll always keep Oakley in mind as he sings.
"It was really hard when he died, and it still is," Vincent said. "Now that I'm more into this, more into the history, I just think of all the questions I could ask him, all the conversations we could have. He was like a father."
Dennis Jewett, associate professor of music and director of voice and music education at KWC, who also came to the college with Oakley, said he's proud of Vincent, and all of his students.
"There's nothing in his background that would've led him to opera," said Jewett. "He didn't sing as a kid, his family isn't musical. It's something that has grown in him. He's realized he has a voice."
Vincent also regards Jewett as a father figure and mentor. Jewett helped him research graduate programs and prepare for the auditions.
"He's also introduced me to a lot of opportunities in Owensboro," Vincent said.
Beyond the KWC choirs, Vincent has performed as a soloist in the Owensboro Choral Society's annual "Messiah," and with the Owensboro Symphony Chorus and First Presbyterian Church choir.
"Owensboro has been a breath of fresh air," he said. "When I have a solo, I feel like a shirt from Concord Cleaners; just stiff and starched, like ‘I hope I get this right!' It's meant so much to me to meet such kind, supportive people."
Seven other singers will graduate in May. They are each excited about their senior recitals. Vincent's will be at 5 p.m. on April 27 at First Presbyterian Church, 1328 Griffith Ave.
He'll sing some Handel, some Copeland, a few spirituals by Moses Hogan and Paul Johnson, and some Gershwin, including "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," one of Jewett's favorite songs from his childhood days in a school band.
"It'll be hard to see everybody go," Rashad Brown, a New Jersey native and member of the singers, said. "But, we'll all celebrate. I'm glad to see their success."
Vincent said he's excited to learn more about "keeping your face alive and acting," in the opera performance program.
"So many of my classmates and peers were born to sing, they've been working at it from an early age," he said. "This is all still new to me, but I'm ready to learn. I'm ready to be pushed to another level."
He hopes to sing on the Metropolitan Opera stage one day.
Men's voices don't fully mature until their mid-30s, Jewett said, "so, I'm looking forward to seeing how big his voice gets. He's gone from a singer with a pleasant, young voice to one with so much color that drives and resonates a whole room."
Though the whirlwind of performances and the possibilities after graduate school often become intimidating, Vincent said, he's only learned from it all.
"The biggest lesson?" he said. "Gratitude."
Angela Oliver, 691-7360, [email protected]