Music alumnus wins national opera award

Author: Arts and Letters

Here’s the perfect Sunday afternoon for Paul Appleby: singing tenor at the Metropolitan Opera in the finals of a prestigious national competition.

Appleby, a 2005 Notre Dame graduate, was among four winners of the Metropolitan Opera’s 2009 National Council Auditions on Sunday (Feb. 22). The competition, which aims to discover and develop talented young opera singers, takes place annually in 45 districts scattered across 15 regions within the United States and Canada. An estimated 1,800 singers auditioned this year.

“Aside from all-consuming joy, I feel rather humbled to have won the Met competition. Winning it is the dream of just about every young aspiring opera singer, and I am no exception,” Appleby says. “So to join the ranks of singers who have won the competition over the last 50 years is humbling indeed.”

After graduating from Notre Dame, Appleby earned a master of music degree from the Juilliard School in 2008. A member of the Juilliard Opera Center, he is a candidate for the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

The win marks a high point in Appleby’s budding opera career. It comes on the heels of his Notre Dame education and at a time when the University is celebrating its commitment to the arts.

A broad liberal arts education

Appleby credits his undergraduate education with helping him earn the honor and the career opportunities it helps open.

“I know that whatever success I have as a singer has everything to do with the varied experiences and broader education that a liberal arts degree at Notre Dame afforded me,” he says.

That education included the singing he did as a vocal performance major and the literary analysis he performed as an English major—experiences that he says serve his everyday work as a singer who must “perform poetry” and “act out theater.” He believes the opportunity to study French in Notre Dame’s Angers study abroad program has also helped his singing.

“But more importantly,” he says, “my exposure to the cultures from which the great traditions of opera and art song come have informed my understanding and appreciation of this music and this tradition.”

In addition, Appleby says that during the year he spent studying in France, “the sheer adventure and fun I had made me a more open and interested person, and that has shaped who I am as an artist.”

Appleby’s father agrees. R. Scott Appleby is a Notre Dame history professor and the John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

“Notre Dame’s Department of Music gave Paul a solid foundation in music—in voice and performance—and we’re grateful for that,” R. Scott Appleby says. “Equally important is the fact that Paul is well educated. As an English major, he was able to expand his horizons and deepen his appreciation for the arts in general.”

Emphasizing the Arts

Appleby’s win comes during Notre Dame’s Decade of the Arts, a celebration of the University’s arts legacy and ongoing commitment to the arts that began with the 2004 opening of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center .

The accomplishment also reflects an emphasis that John McGreevy, I. A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, has placed on the arts. In a December address to faculty, McGreevy outlined the role he expects the arts to play in improving the intensity and sophistication of undergraduate education.

“We want our alumni, even if they do not work full time in the arts, to serve their communities on local art, symphony, and museum boards,” McGreevy said, adding that he wants students to have an “exposure to the arts broadly understood.”

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Originally published by Josh Stowe at on February 25, 2009.