e asked several professionals how they got here, and what their take is on our Southeastern region. Here’s what they told us.
Doug Singleton, Executive Director
North Carolina Dance Theatre, Charlotte
“I was an Air Force brat – born in Savannah, lived in Virginia and Massachusetts. When my father was transferred to Charleston, he decided to keep the family there,” said Doug Singleton. “I got involved in community theatre and realized at 13 that I could actually go to college and study what I loved – theatre and operations.” He graduated from the Governors School of the Arts, got the Emmett Robinson Scholarship at the College of Charleston, and finished school with a BA in Fine Arts, studying both performance and administration.
Charleston is the home of the world-renown Spoleto Festival, and during college, he made contacts and ended up with an internship at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He moved to New York (one trunk, two suitcases), and after more than five years traveling worldwide with Alvin Ailey, (Munich was a favorite stop along the tour), he married his college sweetheart and they had a baby. It was time to settle down, even though he’d risen to become stage manager before he left.
“I moved to Charlotte and went to work for the North Carolina Dance Theatre,” he explained. “We have such artistic excellence in Charlotte, and our leadership team here – Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and his wife, Patricia McBride, are rock stars in the ballet world. When they decided to move to Charlotte it was evidence that there was and is opportunity here.”
Mr. Singleton speaks to the cultural amenities throughout the city, including the museums, arts, and great theatre. “Frankly, I didn’t believe it could be as good as it is here,” he shared, adding that it’s a wonderful city in which to live and raise his three children.
For folks attending their first ballet, he’s got advice. “Ballet has changed so much,” he said. “We are not your grandmother’s ballet – we’re cutting edge and contemporary ballet is the meat of our repertoire. We present
Sleeping Beauty as well as a fabulous
Nutcracker each holiday in conjunction with the Charlotte Symphony, but this year, we’ll also perform 10 different ballets that are different, vibrant and current.
For us, it’s about more than collaboration; rather, we are creating art and a unique experience in time and space. If you miss it, you’ve missed an opportunity.”
Linda Jones, Executive Director
Salisbury Symphony, Salisbury
Linda Jones has put retirement on the back burner for a while. The Indiana native was raised in Florida and worked in New York City, but North Carolina has become home and she plans to keep it that way. As for Salisbury, the small town of about 40,000 is a bit north of Charlotte, but every bit its own cultural entity, with a phenomenal symphony where Ms. Jones is executive director.
“There’s unbelievable talent in this area,” she said. “Musicians travel from everywhere to work with David Hagy, our musical director for the past 24 years. The way he programs is truly delicious, and he very seldom repeats anything.”
In 1967, the president of historically black Livingstone College met with the president of historically white Catawba College, and expressed enthusiasm for creating a local orchestra. They believed that the community would support such an endeavor and it has – for almost fifty years!
“When you think about how it requires close to $40,000 to put a symphony orchestra on stage, and this is our 45th season, it’s just amazing,” she said.
“It takes an entire community to support the symphony, and this particular community is creative, intelligent, mindful of its history, and compassionate. I told my son I wanted to stay here, and he was surprised until he visited. Now he understands.”
Ms. Jones says that a visitor should come to town, stay in one of the B&Bs or fine hotels, eat at a wonderful restaurant, enjoy the performance, then stay for a reception to meet the musicians. “It will be a fantastic evening,” she promised. “I often tell people to attend one of our performances and, if not satisfied, I’ll return their money. No one has ever taken me up on that.”
Peter Barton, Adjunct Professor OF Voice
University of South Carolina, Columbia
If you’ve never attended an opera, make sure your first experience is with one of the top ten, such as
La Traviata, or
The Barber of Seville. That’s good advice from baritone Peter Barton, an adjunct professor of voice at the University of South Carolina who will obtain his doctorate in December. He’s performed as Germont in
La Traviata and Figaro in
The Barber of Seville, as well as leading roles with opera companies throughout the country. For the last five years, he’s spent much of his professional time in the Southeast and now has settled in Columbia, where he frequently thrills opera enthusiasts at the Palmetto Opera’s
First Thursday events, held at Villa Tronco, in Columbia, which he calls the only New York supper club in the region. “I believe opera is all about the voices,” he explained. “We listen with our entire bodies and it doesn’t matter whether we can understand the words, because the voice transcends language and becomes experience.”
Professor Barton trained in opera, music and drama at the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas at Austin. A global nomad, his first 13 years were spent in North Africa, Spain and Italy. “I always loved to sing and enjoy all of the performing arts including Broadway as well as dance (he’s a certified ballroom dance teacher),” he explained. After going back and forth and “doing the starving artist routine,” he left the performing arts for a 20-year financial career that included Fannie Mae, Price Waterhouse and the Export Import Bank of the U.S.
During his time working in IT at George Washington University, he began performing again. And now, for the past eight years, Mr. Barton has served as Director of the Vocal Program for the
Amalfi Coast Music & Arts Festival in Italy,
in addition to positions at several regional universities. Why the move to Columbia? He was attracted for a variety of reasons.
“It’s such a livable city,” he observed. “There’s a great quality of life, assisted by the university and the fact that it’s a state capital. People are really friendly here and there’s a civic pride here, and everything you want is available in a smaller city, without the chaos – or traffic – of New York, or Washington.”
Timothy Myers, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor
North Carolina Opera, Raleigh
Timothy Myers commuted from New York to Raleigh for the first two years he was Artistic Director of the North Carolina Opera. In August of 2010, he made the move and now calls Raleigh home. “The talent level here is very high – it impressed me so much for the size of the city,” he explained. “During my first two years commuting, I was amazed that the people I met had such diverse interests and great curiosity. It’s an area of incredible diversity and that attracted me and essentially helped me to fall in love with the region.”
Although he is a classical musician, he enjoys other forms of music, including Indie. “I did not know the extent of the Indie Rock scene in Raleigh,” he said. “The Hopscotch Festival
draws people from all over the United States and beyond. It’s among many wonderful surprises I’ve found here.”
Maestro Myers has been a wonderful surprise to the opera lovers in the Triangle as well. During his relatively short tenure as one of the youngest artistic leaders in American Opera, he has bolstered the artistic standard of the company, expanded the audience, and diversified the repertoire. And, he’s invited collaboration with renowned artists like Carolina Ballet Artistic Director Robert Weiss, who will direct Philip Glass’s
Children of the Game, NC Opera’s second production for the upcoming season.
Despite his young age, Timothy Myers has experienced a world of opera and orchestra, including the Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts, New York City Opera, Opera Africa, and the Atlanta, North Carolina and Milwaukee symphony orchestras. He has conducted many of the world’s finest orchestras and traveled extensively. Now, however, he seems to have put down roots.
“When you travel as part of your career, and work on several continents, you tend to shy away from fully relating to any one location – because you’ll be leaving soon,” he shared. “Now, for the first time, no matter where in the world I am traveling, I look forward to my return to Raleigh. I am very happy, here.”
Dr. Charles Jones Evans
Long Bay Symphony, Myrtle Beach
“We are reversing the notion that Myrtle Beach is just a resort,” says Dr. Charles Evans, Musical Director/Conductor for the Long Bay Symphony. “Myrtle Beach is becoming a cultural beacon and the symphony is helping to enhance this new image. We have a responsibility in this community to help make it healthy, enriching and complete, and those changes are visible on so many levels.”
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Dr. Evans has been a driving force for the symphony for 16 years, and during that time, he has established a new standard of excellence to the organization and its concerts. His wealth of musical experience includes professional orchestras and music festivals throughout the U.S. and in Europe, where he recently made guest appearances with orchestras in Romania and Hungary.
Tune into NPR and you’ll frequently enjoy one of his orchestral performances. And that’s not all. Regarded as a champion of 20th Century classical music, his background also includes performing with popular artists such as Judy Collins and Maureen McGovern.
So why the Grand Strand? “It feels good to be in this area where there are new audiences moving in and visiting frequently who expect a symphony,” he explained. “Our challenge is to connect who we are as an orchestra, with who they are as audiences with expectations, and we’ve seen our supporters grow very nicely.” Dr. Evans appreciates the range of services and health care in Myrtle Beach, and the often under-recognized cultural opportunities, as well as the advantages of living near Coastal Carolina University where he serves as an adjunct professor.
“I’ve been involved with
the youth orchestra for
about 15 years,” he
said. “It is extremely
rewarding to see those
young players develop
skills and passion for
music and go on to
universities, and in
some cases music
conservatories. We are
helping to create the
cultural needs of the
next generation of
orchestras and audiences
– all in this fantastic
community.” He says the
phrase he hears most
often from first-time
audience members should
be the motto emblazoned
on a Long Bay Symphony
t-shirt: I had no idea
(that this area had a
of this caliber).
Katherine O. Pettit has worked as a writer, magazine editor, printer and
public relations consultant. The Columbia resident has published
more than 250 articles in magazines and newspapers. Her writing
explores a variety of subjects including travel, lifestyles, business