Walker Reaches Crescendo On Portland Opera Fellowship Year

Alexis Walker Standing Outside The Portland Opera's Hampton Opera CenterOpera was not a first love for Alexis Walker ’23. It was a taste she acquired as a student at Pacific University.

Her first introduction was through pieces assigned to Walker by her voice teacher, Anne McKee Reed. But during her junior year, a chance to experience the world premiere of Beatrice at the Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center as part of a History of Singing on Stage class turned the self-proclaimed metalhead into an opera fan.

“It was a beautiful production,” Walker recalled. “Having it in a small space and hearing how big and resonant everybody’s voices were pulled me in.”

Now the music performance major from Forest Grove is learning what it takes to bring such a production together. Last fall, the Portland Opera selected Walker as its second-ever Ensemble Leaders Fellow. The program was developed in 2022 to provide advancement opportunities for individuals who have been historically underrepresented in the world of opera in both administrative and artistic roles.

The fellowship has provided an eye-opening experience of what it takes to run a professional performance company. During the one-year program, Walker has had the opportunity to rotate through the opera’s various departments, developing skills in public relations, promotions, finance and other administrative departments as well as production development.

“The main goal was to better the skills that I didn’t have a chance to develop before,” Walker said. “Things like advertising for oneself, creating a brand, and building my leadership skills.”

The fellowship builds on arts administration experiences that Walker received while she was a student at Pacific. She helped out in the Music Department office, working with administrative assistant Leah Sayre and faculty members, and assisting in coordinating Concert Hour, a weekly performance class for music performance majors. Both experiences provided outside-the-classroom learning opportunities that supplemented her vocal work.

“I was creating programs and dealing with all of the administrative work that happened in the department, as well as helping Scott (Tuomi) out with whatever he needed” Walker said. “At the end of the day, I was performing, but I was also doing the administrative work as well.”

Walker’s Portland Opera fellowship included working as a member of the production team for The Snowy Day, a one-act opera based on the Ezra Jack Keats’ children’s book which was produced in March. Her experience included taking part of production meetings, taking part in artistic planning and assisting in promotions.

Her biggest surprise? The budgeting that goes not only into putting on a production, but the overhead it takes to run an organization like the Portland Opera. Walker worked with the company’s artistic director, Alfrelynn Roberts, to learn the basics of budgeting with a production in mind.

“I was able to create my own faux budget and see what is financially available to build up a production,” Walker said. “Building an opera costs a lot. Even doing a college-funded performance or theater project costs a lot of money.”

Walker is confident that the skills she is learning in her fellowship will only further her music career. She teaches voice in addition to her Portland Opera work and looks forward to building up her private studio. She also plans to continue to perform, either as a soloist or with a group.

She won’t close the door on a future career with the Portland Opera. The company’s first Ensemble Leaders Fellow, Jasmine Johnson, joined the staff as corporate relations manager and also performs as a soloist locally.

“That is definitely an option. But right now I’m enjoying being an administrator, helping out where I can with everybody,” Walker said. “The world’s my oyster at this point, so I’ll see what happens.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2024