Originally published in Carolina Performing Arts’ program, CONNECT.
My passion for opera and classical music marked me as an outsider in my hometown in Eastern North Carolina. As a first-year at UNC, I was thrilled to finally live in a place where classical music and the performing arts are cherished and appreciated. The UNC Music Department and Carolina Performing Arts quickly became my home, and safe spaces for me to assume the roles of audience member and performer in various classical productions.
Late in my first year at UNC, I was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in London the following semester through the Honors program, where I would also have to find a related internship. I had dreamt my whole life of seeing an opera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, enjoying a London Symphony Orchestra concert at the Barbican Centre, and, if I were really lucky, somehow scoring a ticket to one of the BBC Proms. I simply could not pass up the chance, so I impulsively sent my application to the program two days before the deadline.
Once accepted, my next step was to find an internship in the world of classical music that would both benefit me as a performer and challenge me as a student. I met with former CPA Executive and Artistic Director Emil Kang, and confessed I was clueless as to where I should intern and what exactly I wanted to do. I will never forget Emil’s response. He told me he believed I would benefit most from interning at a classical music agency, an option I hadn’t considered simply because I doubted it would be possible. Then, he pulled an opera magazine off his bookshelf, flipped to the back where there was a long list of London music agencies, circled some names, and instructed me to research them and email him in a few days. Ultimately, I earned an internship in the opera department of classical music agency Askonas Holt, and soon I was off to London.
Fast-forward to the end of the fall 2019 semester. I have fallen in love with London. I’ve seen several operas at Royal Opera House. Thanks to the UNC Music Department, I reveled at a BBC Proms performance at Royal Albert Hall. And, thanks to Carolina Performing Arts, the entire UNC Honors London, Burch Music Fellows group, and I enjoyed a London Symphony Orchestra performance at the Barbican and were even able to meet members of the orchestra.
My internship at Askonas Holt has been a most unforgettable, life-changing experience. I have learned the ins-and-outs of artist management, gained access to professional opera productions, and met numerous singers who are at the top of the opera world. In fact, American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, who is giving a concert at CPA with the UNC Symphony Orchestra in February, is managed by Askonas Holt.
I am forever grateful for Carolina Performing Arts for giving me the experience of a lifetime by interning at my dream company. Now that I am nearing the end of my time in London, I feel great sadness to be leaving, but am also looking forward to stepping back into my role as a student-performer in Chapel Hill. I am thrilled to see both Isabel Leonard and the London Symphony Orchestra perform in Memorial Hall this spring, and I count my lucky stars to attend a university where my passions are validated, nurtured, and celebrated.