Daniel B. Cole 93C came to Emory as a freshman,
he wanted to be a doctor. But after he earned a D in biology,
he changed his mind and became an opera singer instead.
kind of versatility has continued to serve him well. This year,
Cole will sing the roles of Colline in a production of La Boheme
in Cologne, the king in Aida at a Lisbon opera house, and Sparafucile
in Rigaletto at Opera Illinois.
is the first year that Ive booked a full year of singing,
he says, so I dont have to do temp work in a lawyers
office or something.
life of a professional operatic performer, exciting though it
may sound, is not glamorous at all, Cole adds. The
hardest part is that its a huge investment. You have to
have time and resources for voice lessons, coaching, training,
and development of your career, and most important, try to improve
as a singer all the time. Olympic athletes who are really successful
dedicate themselves 100 percent, and singers need to do the
same kind of thing.
played the piano as a child, then, demonstrating his trademark
flexibility, joined a hard core punk band in high school. As
a student at Emory, after his run-in with biology, he decided
to major in music. During his studies at the University, Cole
worked closely with Alfred Calabrese, a music professor who
is now teaching at Brevard College.
was, without question, the most important influence on me and
the reason I am doing what I do today, Cole says. He
is a great musician with a high standard of excellence, very
demanding, inspiring, and encouraging.
Calabreses suggestion, Cole went from Emory to the renowned
Indiana University School of Music, where he earned a masters
degree in conducting and began working toward a Ph.D. He was
assisting the conductor on a production of Tosca at Opera Illinois
when he met Robert McFarland, an internationally recognized
operatic performer. Cole took a few singing lessons with McFarland,
and a light came on: I knew then thats what I was
supposed to be doing, he says.
studying under McFarland at Temple University for just five
months, Cole advanced to the semifinals of the Metropolitan
Opera National Council of Auditions competition, having won
at the district and regional levels. Coles success opened
doors at small opera companies, landed him some singing roles,
and led him to seek a manager in New York.
Coles operatic career is taking off, buoyed by an ever-widening
range of roles. In addition to the major appearances in Europe,
hell sing a handful of smaller roles this season, including
a two-month stint at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis where hell
be the speaker in The Magic Flute. At thirtyyoung for
a bass performerCole says hes often competing with
more mature singers, but he will hit his vocal prime in about
seven or eight years, a luxury in a business typically kinder
guesses only about a hundred operatic performers in the country
make a living entirely by singing, and even fewer hold a permanent
place in one company or opera house; most are contractual performers
like himself. It makes for an uncertain future, but Cole, true
to form, keeps an open mind.
is like a faith journey, he says. The key is to
be persistent, hang in there, and try out as many new roles
on stage as you can. By the time Im thirty-five, Ill
feel like I can sing a handful of roles anywhere and be totally
comfortable. Thats how you ensure your success when youre
new: Be patient, persistent, and grateful for the work you get.P.P.P.