#HOTSpeaks: Mother’s Day Edition
Behind every opera lover is a story of how they discovered the art form. Often, family plays a big role.
Many of the staff and supporters of HOT have a mother to thank for their love of music. Today, HOT celebrates the musical mothers and children who have kept opera alive from generation to generation.
Passing on music
When HOT Studio singer Leslie Goldman’s daughter and only child was only 10 months old, she could already match pitch with her mother.
“I was singing so much when I was pregnant with her that I think she just came out naturally loving music,” Leslie said, beaming with pride.
Leslie is one of HOT’s principal singers for its Opera Express productions. Opera Express condenses well known operas for an audience of children and tours throughout Hawaii each year. This year Leslie played played both the witch and Gretel in the production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever prepared to be a mother,” Leslie said, “but I think my being patient with the kids on the tour reminds me how important it is to be patient with my little baby when she gets older. And I think singing for the Studio just enhanced my joy of getting to be a mother.”
Leslie is going to try to encourage her daughter to take up music, but she said she will be understanding if she doesn’t want to.
“She can do everything and whatever she wants,” Leslie said.
Following in footsteps
Some people naturally fall into music without any coercion. But former HOT Studio singer Ethan Moon needed a little nudge in the right direction from his mother.
When he was in Kindergarten, his mother – a music teacher and pianist – required that he join choir and take piano lessons.
“I didn’t want to be in choir,” Ethan said. “But she made me go, and I fell in love. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
Now 18 years old, Ethan is in his first year in college and pursuing a degree in music. Not only does he still sing in choir at the university, he also plays piano, guitar, and bass.
“I’m following in her footsteps,” Ethan said. “I want to be a music teacher, and that’s what she’s been doing for decades now. I think she would be proud”
Without his mother’s support and the push that she gave him, he wouldn’t be as musical as he is now. But sometimes that guidance can flow both ways.
Encouraging Each Other
Like Leslie, HOT Education Coordinator Blythe Kelsey’s mother was also singing opera in the days before she was born. And Blythe and her brother, baritone Quinn Kelsey, grew up under their mother’s piano as she taught voice lessons. Along with being a voice teacher and vocal coach, their mother was a choir director for their church and high school.
“We had absolutely no choice but to be involved in all of her many musical endeavors,” Blythe said. “So taking up music was a pretty ongoing thing from a very, very early age.”
Blythe always knew she wanted to pursue a music education, but when Quinn started college in the late 1990s, he was considering other majors. Around his Sophomore year, his mother stepped in and told him to change his major to a music degree.
“It was one of the few times she’s actually put her foot down about things like that,” Blythe said. “I would like to have hoped that he would have come to that decision on his own, but perhaps he needed a little bit of influence. And there’s no influence like a mom’s.”
Since then, Quinn has sung around the world, including in roles for the Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, and Opéra National de Paris. In 2016, he returned home to sing the title role of Rigoletto in Concert with HOT.
Now that they are both professionally involved in music as adults, Blythe and Quinn have turned the tables. The two work together to stimulate their mother to continue performing as well as teaching. “It’s always good to remind her of what she is capable of and what she loves to do,” Blythe said.
Thanks to a little encouragement from Blythe and Quinn, their mother is still singing before an audience. Most recently, she sang in the chorus of this season’s production The Tales of Hoffmann.
Developing a Passion
But for some, a musical influence flows in the opposite way altogether. When HOT Board member Gail Atwater speaks about her love for opera, she does so passionately. But she wasn’t always that way.
At around 10 years old, Gail’s daughter joined the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, or HYOC. Gail hadn’t shared opera with her daughter, so the choice came as somewhat of a surprise.
“I was not interested in opera at the time,” Gail said. “But I got a crash course in opera.”
Gail’s daughter was chosen for the children’s chorus for a number of HOT operas over the year, and as a result, Gail attended several opera rehearsals and performances. One of her Mother’s Day cards from her daughter was even an opera-themed poem. Before long, Gail wanted to go to see as many productions as she could.
Gail’s daughter is now on her way to becoming a surgeon, along with singing as a hobby on the side. And Gail now credits her involvement with opera to her daughter.
“Through my daughter’s involvement in HYOC, I developed my own passion for opera as a unique medium that offered the choral music, beautiful orchestration and grand stagecraft all at the same time,” Gail said. “I really got hooked on it, and I’ve been hooked on it ever since.”