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November 8, 2012
By Tovah Goodman
Albert Lee is the director of the Nevada Chamber Opera and vocal professor for the School of the Arts. He began teaching at the University in 2012.
I started at University of Connecticut pursuing my undergrad degree in business. I was raised performing in a traditional gospel church, but wasn't exposed to classical music until my senior year of high school. Once I discovered my passion for classical music, I switched to a music major and eventually got both my masters and doctorate in music. After I got my masters degree from Julliard, I spent the next eight years performing. I was a singer with Opera Center Saint Louis, went on a fellowship with the Aspen music festival and studied in Italy as well as Austria.
The shift to teaching came in 2008 when the economy started going downhill. I realized with more singers graduating and fewer jobs available, the security as a performer was not going to exist much longer. After my masters I did a year as a visiting faculty at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. I never thought of myself as passionate about teaching but during that year, my opinion completely changed. That is why in I decided to go back to get my doctorate and apply to teach music.
I was called for three interviews late in the job search and ended up being offered all three jobs. I chose University of Nevada, Reno because I was a creature of the east coast. I am from Connecticut, lived in New York City, lived in Philadelphia, I have family in North Carolina and Georgia, and I had been out to the west coast but never lived here. I felt like it was an opportunity to broaden my horizons and also offer a different perspective of my field to my colleagues and students that is uniquely east coast. I felt like it was the best decision for my long-term journey.
My research project is specifically Langston Hughes as a seminal figure in American music culture. We think of Hughes as a literature figure but as a singer I am usually singing music that has been composed using the poetry of literary figures. The intersection of both music and literature is integral to what I do. Looking at this particular literary figure and seeing that Langston Hughes was involved in so many aspects of American musicals, I find it to be really interesting. It is not the way we normally see him specifically which is particularly fascinating.
I am trying to create a broader partnership between Nevada Chamber Opera, which is the opera group here at the University, and the Nevada Opera. There is little collaboration now but I think there is opportunity for there to be a mutually beneficial partnership. From the school's perspective, it is an opportunity to connect to the real world of professional arts as well as begin to look at educational outreach in the arts to the broader community. The opera company will get the opportunity to have young, fresh talent who are looking for professional experience.