Renowned opera singer teaches students art of classical singing
Gregory Turay has taken his opera talents all over the world, and his latest stop is Transylvania as Kenan visiting artist in music for the 2011-12 academic year.
Turay spent the last 15 years performing at opera houses around the world, including Japan, Poland, Spain, and England. He’s earned numerous accolades, notably the prestigious 2000 Richard Tucker Award, which is presented to an artist who, in the opinion of a conferral panel from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, is on the threshold of a major international career. He was described by the London Times as “one of the brightest natural talents to have emerged from the U.S. in recent years.”
Turay, a tenor, graduated from the University of Kentucky and is currently teaching at UK part time while working toward a Ph.D. in vocal performance. He comes to Transylvania to teach voice classes and offer workshops for students studying vocal performace. In his short time at Transylvania, he has been pleased with the quality of the music students he’s worked with.
“I’ve been quite impressed with the level of the students here,” he said. “They work hard, and they’re really smart. I’ll have students in my 9 a.m. classes show up 15 minutes or even a half hour early. They’re so disciplined—just all-around great kids. Quite a few could have careers in music.”
And Turay knows his fair share about music careers. In 1995, he won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions at 21 years old and then won the 1996 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. That launched his professional career, which saw him perform in productions including Don Giovanni, Cosi Fantute, Rigoletto, A View from a Bridge, and Street Scene.
His opera background allows him to help students master the classical technique of singing, in which singers lower their larynx for a larger sound that allows them to sing unamplified by a microphone. It is a foundation of opera, but it can also be used in pop music.
“There’s the ‘old school,’ where they sing legitimately, and the ‘new school,’ where they sing pop,” Turay said. “Some of our students like the musical theater style, and you can still sing pop with a classical technique, but you can’t sing classically with a pop technique.”
Although he has reduced his number of performances recently due to his study and teaching schedule, Turay continues to perform in Lexington and abroad, including a performance last year in Bordeaux, France, a concert with the Atlanta Symphony in April, and a starring role in the UK Opera Theater production of Romeo and Juliet in October. He plans to do a recital at Transylvania early in winter term with music professor Greg Partain accompanying on piano.
“It’s a real treat being at Transylvania,” he said. “The talent level and the number of students here are great, which is pretty rare at a school like this. But I’ve always maintained there are opera singers everywhere; they just haven’t tapped into it. If the students are hard-working and driven, like ours are, that’s a good recipe.”