Spring Alumni Concert Series feature: How the “opera bug” bit James Baumgardner ’09
Music, Music Alumni, University Center for the Arts | February 07, 2012
As the opera program at Colorado State University grows, so too does the number of accomplished CSU opera theatre alumni. One of the first to audition for and perform in CSU’s opera theatre program, James Baumgardner ’09 admits that the “opera bug bit” him after he chose voice as his required instrument for a Music Education degree.
“I had never taken voice lessons and I had never performed a solo. I was in a rock band in high school and if you would have told me then that I would be an opera singer, I would have thought you were crazy,” says James. “I didn’t think that opera was the direction I was heading in, but I auditioned for the program and got a lead in Cosi fan Tutte my sophomore year. I ended up really enjoying it and I kept working with it.”
On Wednesday Feb. 15 James performs as the third guest artist in the Alumni Concert Series at CSU. His performance at the University Center for the Arts coincides with a guest appearance in Opera Colorado’s production of The Marriage of Figaro on February 11, 14, 17 and 19 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver. As for his return to the Organ Recital Hall, James is looking forward to performing in the intimate and acoustically sound venue.
“I have been to recitals at Juilliard and I have sung in auditions at the Cincinnati Conservatory, but I think that the Organ Recital Hall rivals the spaces at any major conservatory,” says James. “It is a beautiful space, the acoustics are phenomenal and there is not a bad place to sit.”
Graduating from CSU in 2009 with a B.M. in Music Education and 10 lead opera theatre roles under his belt, James had a head start in developing his opera career.
“I got a lot of leading roles at CSU, which was great because at most universities it’s unheard of that you would get that much leading role experience,” says James. “I graduated with good, solid lead roles which helped me get into the Central City Young Artist Program in 2009. When I had auditioned for the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer program in 2010, I felt that my experience at CSU was leading that audition.”
Now in New York City, James is auditioning for roles at various opera companies and studying with former Metropolitian Opera baritone Mark Oswald. Though it seems that moving to the Big City would be a likely choice for any performer, James says that his decision to move to the East Coast will open up more opportunities for him across the country.
“The popularity of opera is growing in the West. Big companies in the East are struggling while smaller companies are starting to pop up in the middle of the country,” says James. “Still, there is more of an opera audience on the East coast. There are more teachers, smaller companies and more opportunities. It’s interesting because if you want to work in a place like Colorado, you have to come out here to learn how to become a professional in the field.”