Author: Rochelle Cecil
Date: April 4, 2014
Categories: Alumni|Music

Breaking into the music industry may seem like a task higher than most are able to achieve, and according to industry statistics, this would be true; But for some Houghton graduates, not only have they broken into the music industry, they have made it their day-to-day life.

Houghton Alumni, Brett Potts ‘09 and Joanna Stolzenburg ‘11 have managed to develop budding careers in the music industry in different and separate ways, and they are all loving it.

The Stories – Brett Potts

Potts is currently working with the Chicago Lyric Opera as a tenor two in the supplementary chorister and just finished auditioning with the Chorus of the Met in New York City.

He first started with the Lyric Opera of Chicago (LOC) last year in a production of Wagner and will be performing in another production with the LOC this coming season. Along with his work in the opera, Potts teaches private piano and singing lessons in his apartment in Chicago and has been auditioning for other parts around the city.

“Moving to a new city, getting situated and finding new friends is always a challenge,” Potts said. “But it’s also rewarding to go out and meet new people and establish oneself in a new city. It’s definitely a growing experience.”

Originating from Syracuse, N.Y., Potts chose Houghton because of family connections. “Both of my parents went to Houghton as well as some other family members, so it was a natural choice,” he said.

After graduating from Houghton in 2009 and then living in Buffalo for a few years, where Potts worked while singing in community and church choirs, he decided to move to Chicago last year.

Now in Chicago, his days are active and never constant. “What I do during the day really depends on the day,” Potts explained. Some days Potts is teaching, other days he has six-hour rehearsals, other days he has a combination of both along with a lot of personal practicing in between.

But for Potts, it’s all worth the reward of working with the LOC. “Performing is very rewarding,” he said. “Being a part of something that’s that big and being able to perform with some of the best trained opera singers is a great experience.”

“Community is a huge part of what I enjoyed about Houghton.  I felt free to figure out what I wanted to do with life in that kind of environment,” Potts said. “Overall, Houghton has a lot of people with different ideas and opinions. It’s a place where people are willing to talk about things and are open to evaluating opinions.”

The Stories – Joanna Stolzenburg

When Joanna Stolzenburg graduated from Houghton, she was a music education major and figured that she would move directly into teaching. “It just didn’t happen,” she said. After about a year out of school, Stolzenburg was invited to perform. “I didn’t think that was something I could do,” she said. “I didn’t think I had the skills.”

Apparently she did have those skills, because she has recently accepted a one-year contract with the New York Lyric Opera Theater and was also a part of their Emerging Artist Program. “God has given me the confidence and the opportunity to pursue this career He’s placed in front of me,” she said. “I never thought I could do this.”

After auditioning for the Emerging Artist Program in December, she was contacted two days later with an offer to join. The program was held in New York City and involved taking classes and a number of lectures from renowned musical masters, such as Elizabeth Hastings.

It all culminated on a performance February 16.   “The program gave me the opportunity to meet other performers and to start making connections,” Stolzenburg said. “I was able to meet with good people in the music world and got a lot of good information from the experience.”

Since finishing the Emerging Artist Program, Stolzenburg has been in two productions with the New York Lyric Opera Theater. She was “Spirit” in The Magic Flute and “Lucy” in The Telephone.

Stolzenburg also began working with a program on Long Island through All Access Productions. The program works with local schools and puts on the production of No More Victims which engages high school students through dance and music with positive messages aimed at combating bullying, teen violence, teen suicide, peer pressure and other teen issues. “It’s something that I really wanted to do,” she said. “I’m able to use some opera in it and it’s exciting to go into schools and meet with students and positively impact them.”

“Houghton is the foundation of what I’m doing right now and where I’m going,” commented Stolzenburg. “I use my Houghton training on a daily basis. It gave me the tools and confidence and start in whatever I do.”