After Chase Taylor sang his first aria during an audition for a community college choir, the conductor asked him to stay after to talk. Chase thought he was in trouble.
“‘Would you ever consider focusing on opera?’” Taylor said the conductor of Anne Arundel Community College asked him that day.
The then 17-year-old, who was in a 1980’s rock band named Penguin Love Affair, threw his head back.
“I laughed in his face,” Taylor remembered after he finished singing in Prospect Park last week. “But I did say that I would consider taking free voice lessons.”
He took free lessons and ended up “falling in love” with opera. [Click the video to see Taylor in action]
That summer, in 2002, his polished singing brought him to Italy with the Institute of Musical Studies in Maryland to sing along the Amalfi Coast.
When he came back he went to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts to study voice and then he went to get his MA at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
Now he is a freelance tenor, focusing on opera music. He shuffles around doing auditions and landing gigs, but the life of a freelance localist is tough, he said.
Last week, Taylor, who is a 27-year-old who lives on the Upper West Side, responded to a Craig’s List advertisement asking for a male opera singer for a “children’s educational enrichment” video. He went to Prospect Park to meet the director and videographer and he sang various arias.
When Park Slope Patch stumbled upon him, his voice was tossing around with the leaves, like “feather in the wind” while singing Verdi’s “La Donna e Mobile.”
On December 17 he will apply for a residency at an opera house in Zurich, Switzerland. This March he will be in Chicago’s production of “Show Boat.” He will then come back and have competitions in New York City to get ready for the Glimmerglass Festival, where he puts on four productions with an opera house, May through August.
He was born in Richmond, Virginia where his mother was in the Department of Defense and his father was in the Air Force. His childhood was speckled with moving, Taylor said he has lived in over 20 states.
But no matter what state he is in, the woods of Virginia follows him. He said every morning before he checks the weather on Google he uses his nose.
“I have strong country ties,” he said while standing among the trees in the park, looking at ease with the leaves and trees. “I go outside to smell the weather. Depending, I will say, ‘it smells like it is going to rain today.’”
Taylor said the economy has hit the singing business hard. He said that the fee to audition has increased, making each audition more expensive.
“You need a reputation and before you get that you have to pay for it,” Taylor said, explaining that a singer has to pay for singing lessons, buy a suit or gown, pay for sheet music and pay to audition.
“Basically you have to pay to apply for a job. If you’re a mason, you don’t have to pay to lay bricks for the first day and then they’ll hire you, but if you’re an opera singer you do.”
He also said that companies do not want to take risks with new talent, so there are very few openings.
“You either let this cripple you or it makes you stronger,” he said.
And in the city, competition is tough.
“We are all here, New York is full of singers,” Taylor said. “It’s fun but every audition feels like a championship game. You go in, lay it all down and you either win or lose for that particular company for the year.”
So far, he won an encouragement award from the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. His last big gig was with the International Vocal Arts Institute, which brought him to Tel Aviv for a month of five concerts and one opera at the Jaffa Music Center.
He is still in the beginning of his career, but he believes being a freelance opera singer is the same as any other business.
“Being an opera singer is a lot like being an entrepreneur with a start-up. In any given business you have to prove your value and you need to create a grassroots-level of support and resources,” Taylor explained before he left Prospect Park. “You have to be viable, trustworthy and relevant. As a singer, all of this applies.”
If you are interested in contacting Chase Taylor for his tenor vocals, please E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.