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Singer Sunday: a baritone hits the books


Baritone and doctoral student Andy Stuckey

Editor’s Note: What makes a classically trained performer go the academic route? Baritone W.A. “Andy” Stuckey talks about the challenges involved in taking his talent back to school for a doctoral degree, a primer for talented singers considering the same path.

Welcome back to Operatoonity, Andy. When did you decide to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts?

Well, the initial process was more of an exploration that led to a decision.  For many reasons, I was not feeling that the career was providing enough satisfaction to continue full-time.  I love singing and performing but I was starting to become conflicted about not contributing more financially to my family and was feeling some internal pressure to pursue other avenues of employment.  As I really started to distill my strengths and my passions I realized that while I may not have achieved the level of success that I wished for myself, I have accumulated a bank of knowledge and experience that is singular and perhaps somewhat valuable.

This realization uncovered a need to start to pass the knowledge on to a new generation by moving into a teaching career.  Up until this point I had not maintained a vocal studio and had been focused on raising my children and fostering my solo career.

What made you pursue academia, and how did you choose your graduate school. In other words, why a DMA?

Because I had not maintained a vocal studio I did not feel comfortable jumping into the academic world directly.  Although I have my Master of Music degree, I had been solely focused on my solo career and felt that in order to make the transition to teaching effectively, I needed to re-immerse myself into the academic world and the DMA, or Doctor of Musical Arts, was the avenue that seemed best for me to do so.  Also, from doing research, a DMA is almost a requirement in the current job environment due to the competitive nature of Voice Faculty positions.

Rutgers University offered me a nice scholarship and that was really the determining factor.  I knew that I was not willing to put the financial health of my family at stake in order to complete this degree so the scholarship to Rutgers was a real and somewhat unexpected blessing.


Andy as Baron Scarpia in Tosca

How much more do you have to do to obtain your terminal degree?

I am on schedule for a 3 year degree completion and have completed 1.5 years officially.  However there are many obstacles and challenges that await me.  Because it is a terminal degree the standards are rigorous and demanding.  There are a series of written and oral comprehensive exams that are not at all a “sure thing”.  In fact, it is not unusual for the DMA to take much longer to complete. Let’s hope this won’t happen in my case!

Do you hope to combine teaching and performance someday?

Absolutely.  I will always be a performer and the realization that the two are not mutually exclusive was an important facet to this pursuit.  That being said, it is a VERY tenuous balance and I would have serious problems leaving young students for too long.  Continuity is so important when helping a young student build their technique.  I will be a better teacher if I continue to perform though.

Are you teaching as well as studying?

As part of the degree, there is a small pedagogical requirement that involves real teaching. Surprisingly, I haven’t been able to start teaching much because of the demanding nature of the academic classes and my already hectic regular
schedule.  It’s a busy time.

What kind of classically trained singer might enjoy the route you’ve taken?

A DMA isn’t for everybody. It’s a rigorous pursuit.  In spite of appearances, (HA!) I tend to be rather bookish and enjoy learning so it suits me well.


Another shot of Andy in performance

Any challenges? Regrets? Unexpected opportunities or bennies as a result?

I am challenged every day by singing.  Some days it’s a great reward and some days the burden becomes stifling.  I keep experiencing amazement at the talent of the great singers around me and that I hear on recordings.  I have a very deeply held feeling that music and art are immensely important to our culture and a testament to the fulfilled potential of our beautifully imperfect humanity.  It’s a humbling privilege to be able to bear a small banner for it.

No, not too many regrets thankfully and there have been many benefits from returning to the academic milieu.

The most surprising discovery has been the wonderful relationships that have developed with my voice teacher, academic faculty members, and my fellow students.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

This may sound strange, but a key concept that led me down this road was when my “Why?” turned into “Why not?”.  If you’re considering a change of almost any sort, as you carefully weigh the options ask yourself “Why not?”.  It makes a difference!  Why not?!?

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If you’d like to talk further with Andy about his career choices, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wastuckey or friend him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wastuckey. You can read more about Andy at this Operatoonity profile.



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Filed under Interviews, opera education, Q&A, Singer Sunday

got bassos?

Profondo, buffo, dramatic buffo, basso cantate. If you enjoy hearing a low, male voice (and presumably the singer that comes with the low voice), then let me recommend two online sites for you. A pair of very different, yet well-purposed compendia you bass-bari lovers many find useful:      

The Basses Site

Luigi Lablache

The first of these is a website called The Basses Site and features photos and bios of famous basses of every stripe, from Theo Adam, a bass-baritone born in the 20th century to Luigi Lablache, a coloratur bass, who sang many Rossini roles and lived during the same time period.      

It is an informative, entertaining whirlwind tour of operatic basses, complete with dozens of colorful photos.      


Also replete with colorful, engaging photos is the second reference of a completely different tenor (pun wholly intended) — the popular blog which I have listed in Links You’ll Love called, “Barihunks.”      

If you are looking for rotund bassos to readily tickle your funnybones, stick to The Basses Site because there just aren’t fat rolls to be found on the hunks of Barihunks.      

Anders Froehlich

Contrast the roly-poly Luigi with the American baritone and  Connecticut native Anders Froehlich, currently featured on Barihunks for his work with Opera San Jose.      

Go ahead, spend a few minutes–five, ten–okay an hour scrolling through Barihunks.      

Now, this might just be the red-blooded American woman in me crying out to preserve the high level of manli-, um, -ness, I mean manly appeal  on stage. (Whew, is it hot in here or is it me?)  Who says we’re not in the Golden Age of Opera right now, in a manner of speaking, in an important sense–the cosmetic, manly appeal sense. Perhaps not all-encompassing sense but certainly a significant one. Ahem.

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Filed under Classic Opera, Performers

why do women fall for bad boys?

Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Giovanni

Alpha males. Cads. Rakes. Men behaving badly. Whatever you call them, every woman knows them by their swagger. Just as Don Giovanni can claim to smell femininity, women can smell bad boys, too, literally and figuratively.  Women know what havoc bad boys can wreak in their hearts and lives and yet they still become involved with them…or secretly long to.  

What is it about bad boys women find so hard to resist?   

In a nice little article at Self-Growth.com, Chris Williamson lists seven reasons why women love bad men. Basically, Williamson contends bad boys are confident, adventurous men who appear to be in control but are always testing the boundaries–yours, theirs, and everyone else’s–all qualities women find very appealing.  

The opera Don Giovanni is based on the legend of Don Juan, who lived in the early Renaissance. Giovanni is the ultimate bad boy who’s broken hearts all across Europe. He’s had ninety-one women in Turkey alone, according to a funny line  from an aria sung by Giovanni’s manservant, who catalogs all the women his master has bedded (but never wedded). Yet, audiences never tire of hearing about or seeing Giovanni’s sexual exploits on stage. Baritones love to play the part. And audiences love watching a quintessential ladies man (especially when they look like Teddy Tahu Rhodes).   

Will women ever stop being attracted to bad men? Hard to say. Maybe, like me, they prefer to marry good men in real life, but I certainly hope they still long to escape with a bad boy in a good book. I have such a bad boy in DEVILED BY DON, my Argentine baritone Leandro Vasquez, who’s so good looking, he could definitely be a contender on www.barihunks.blogspot.com if he were a real opera singer and not just a character in a comic novel.   

Is Leandro Vasquez someone you want your daughter to date? Absolutely not. Is he fun to read about? I certainly hope so.

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Filed under Character from DEVILED BY DON, Classic Opera, DEVILED BY DON, Don Giovanni, Performers