The first time I met Tevyn was during one of my first turns as a tenor, singing Cavaradossi in act 2 of Tosca for a graduate coaching students project. Tevyn was the only tenor in the chorus for Tosca’s cantata. I was struck by how generous he was with his time then because he chose to do the chorus for this, despite the fact that his academic year had ended a few days earlier. But, as I’ve come to know Tevyn more I’ve realized this sort of generosity is not an anomaly for him, but rather his default. I’m reminded of this once again as he so graciously agreed to do this interview with me.
Me: What first attracted you to opera?
Tevyn: I was never interested in opera (or didn’t know anything about it) until I attended Oklahoma City University in 2010. Musical theatre was my main focus when I got there, but Dr. Catherine McDaniel (my voice teacher) gave me lots of classical rep to sing to build my technique. That was my first exposure to opera. It wasn’t until my sophomore year, when I was cast in the chorus of OCU’s production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, I completely fell in love with it. Opera is just exciting in so many ways. Portraying larger-than-life characters, the extravagant costumes, but the ability to sing gorgeous music over an orchestra without any amplification is what got me. And the notes the singers were hitting were unreal (I almost fell out of my chair when I heard The Doll Song for the first time!). I never heard anything like it before. It was then when I started thinking about becoming an opera singer.
Me: And you went from just falling in love with opera to your first big role the following year, Almaviva in Barber of Seville. What was it like taking on such a staple of the repertoire at such a young age?
Tevyn: That production was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Of course I was terrified when I got the score…so many notes. I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off, but I learned something after listening and watching various productions of Barber: the opera is so dramatically driven, and the story is best told when you are singing with the emotion of the character in mind, and not worrying about all of the fast/high notes. I got to a point where I was able to trust my technique and my ability to sing the role, and just have fun being Count Almaviva, because he is SO FUN to play. Not only do you get to be the romantic, you have tons of comedic moments! Almaviva is a role I can perform over and over again and never get bored, and I had the pleasure of performing it a second time last summer at Seagle Music Colony.
Me: While you were at OCU you also got to perform the stage manager in Ned Rorem’s Our Town, Tamino in Magic Flute and Ernesto in Don Pasquale. How important was it to be able to take on such roles in a safe environment?
Tevyn: It was great to do those roles at OCU because it allowed me and the rest of the cast to take risks and make mistakes without feeling any judgement from our peers. OCU is a wonderfully supportive environment, and my cast mates and creative team were always encouraging. For example, when I did Our Town, our music director knew how intimidated we were by the music, so at the first music rehearsal, he worked with us individually to make sure we all knew what we were doing, and even provided us with tools that made preparing our roles easier. If I ever sing Our Town, or Tamino, or Ernesto with a professional company, I know I’ll be prepared for anything.
Tevyn: You also performed the title role in Batboy and are currently in Dream girls. How important has versatility been for you as a performer?
Me: I believe being a versatile performer makes you a reliable one. With the opera and musical theatre world meshing together, it is important to be a well-rounded performer. This is a skill I learned from attending OCU (I don’t know where I would be without this school..really.). Music theatre majors are required to audition for operas and vice versa. It challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. Furthermore, because I’m a classically-trained singer, I learned how to sing contemporary styles while maintaining my classical foundation, so I can produce the most efficient sounds possible. Through that, I learned how to be a consistent singer in classical and contemporary repertoire.
People often ask me if I want to do opera or musical theatre, and the truth is I want to do both. I love both worlds very much for different reasons, and I don’t think I’ll be completely satisfied if I just stuck to one or the other. I love performing in shows like Dreamgirls, and Bat Boy was a blast (although singing with fangs in my mouth wasn’t that fun). I would also love to sing Nemorino someday, and would kill to sing Almaviva again. I just wanna sing, mama!
Me: My next question is one I’ve asked a lot in interviews, so much so that they should start paying me for the advertisement, what did you gain from your time at Seagle Music Colony?
Tevyn: I spent two summers at Seagle (2014 and 2015), and both times were a magical experience. The talent they bring in is unbelievable. I learned a great deal just from watching my colleagues perform in audition class as well as the productions. It’s a wonderful community, and I made friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s always a joy when we run into each other at auditions!
I also gained a wonderful support system from the Schroon Lake community. The patrons and guild parents that come to our productions, record audition classes, throw us parties, or simply invite the young artists to their house to hang out and get to know them are huge blessings in my life. Jim and Eileen Carnahan were my guild parents in 2014, and Lisa Reid was my guild parent last summer. I can’t thank them enough for making my experience a memorable one.
The mentors are equally as wonderful. The coaches I worked with pushed me every week to be the best performer I can be. Darren Woods is someone I respect deeply. He works tirelessly to nurture the young artists, because he sincerely believes we have something to offer to the world of opera and musical theatre. He makes sure that people in the business hear us, and I got to sing for people from Glimmerglass, Houston Grand Opera, and the Met Council Auditions, to name a few. Seagle gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a singing career. I miss it every day.
Me: You’re also one of the few people I know who did both their bachelors and masters degree at the same school. What do you think you gained from doing so?
Tevyn: The main reason I decided to stay for grad school was my voice teacher. She is one of the most brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I knew she had much more to teach me. Some people advised that I go to another school and study with another voice teacher, because it helps to have different ears. Although that is a good reason to switch teachers, I thought “Why fix it if it ain’t broken?”
OCU was also a great fit for me because the musical theatre program is very strong. During grad school, I focused on bulding my operatic technique and strengthening my musical theatre chops by taking extra classes. I got to perform in Bat Boy: The Musical, Don Pasquale, and The Magic Flute, and even perform in the OCU musical theatre showcase in New York City. I don’t think I could’ve done that anywhere else.
Me: And what’s on the horizon for you now?
Tevyn: In September, I will be working with Portland Opera’s touring outreach program, singing The Witch in Hansel and Gretel. After that, I plan on moving to New York City!
Me: Any roles that you desperately want to sing in the near future?
Tevyn: Nemorino in Elixir is at the top of my list right now, followed by Ferrando in Cosí. As for musical theatre, my all time dream role is Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. I would also love to sing Lola in Kinky Boots one day. I’ve been practicing dancing in heels. (Tevyn inserted a winking smiley face here that for some reason just looks awful on the computer I’m using for this, so pretend that the winking smiley face from your smart phone is here).
Me: What words of wisdom would you have for young students who are about to start their artistic journey?
Tevyn: For any young artists still in school, my advice is to stay committed to your work, but don’t be so immersed in your work that you forget to have fun and enjoy being a college student. My voice teacher gave me this advice, and I wish I followed it a little more than I did. In my first couple of years of undergrad, I was always looking into the future; where was I going to go for grad school, what repertoire I’m going to perform in my senior recital, etc. I’m glad I had someone like her to remind me to slow down and enjoy my life in the present. Focus on building your technique. You have plenty of time to worry about the big stuff. Which brings me to my next piece of advice: be patient. Singing is an ongoing process. Becoming an artist is an ongoing process. Enjoy every minute of it, even when you want to pull your hair out. I’m 23 years old (I’ll be 24 July 30th…YAS!) and fresh out of grad school. A baby. I still have tons to learn. Show up to rehearsal on time (aka early), prepared, and ready to work. Be kind and supportive to your colleagues, because they may be the people that could give you your next job in the future (and, of course, it’s the right thing to do).
For those out of school (and for those about to graduate in the near future), technique is everything. Consistency, longevity, everything. Although you may be terrified going into the real world without regular voice lessons (at least I am), trust your technique. Trust that you’ve put in the work to be the best singer/actor you can be and just have fun auditioning and performing in shows. When you reach a certain level, everyone is talented. Everyone is a great singer. Find what makes you stand out from the rest of the audition pool and use it to your advantage. Never stop practicing, and sing for as many people as you can. Going back to my first point, don’t get too consumed in your work. Find something outside of music that you enjoy to do. We all need a break sometimes.
Finally, this may sound cheesy, but it’s so important: no matter how hard it gets, never give up. Never, ever, ever give up.
Not only is Tevyn one of the kindest colleagues I’ve had, but his jovial energy is infectious. I love all of the interviews I conduct, but this one had me chuckling and/or smiling whilst reading every response of his. I’m not a betting man, but if I had to make a prediction I’d guess that Tevyn’s career is going to soar as high as his seemingly never ending high voice. God knows it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.