Kevin Thompson, an American bass currently portraying Zemfira’s father in Opera Carolina’s production of “Aleko,” taught a master class at Johnson C. Smith University today, where students experienced moments of musical transformation.
“If you don’t remember anything else, [remember] you have to be hungry,” Thompson said. “Nothing risked, nothing gained. You never know how you’re going to meet people.”
Said JCSU choir director Shawn-Allyce White: “You are always on stage. You are always performing.”
Four students performed individually, followed by a group performance. “Kevin Thompson was great,” Rontavius Allen, senior tenor said. “I’m going to take all of the points that he gave me and put it together for my recital on April 26.”
Taequan Owens, a freshman tenor who worked one-on-one with Thompson, said: “My outlook now that I need to open my mouth more, and to make sure that I’m breathing out before every phrase, and try to keep that in mind while I’m singing the whole time.”
Thompson encouraged the students to connect with the story their song told and use physical as well as vocal expression to do so. “I really enjoyed having Mr. Thompson here,” said junior Brooklyn Miller a mezzo-soprano who performed individually. “He gave me some great points to work on. He helped me to loosen up because I tend to be tight, and he helped me to really just let go.”
Said Thompson to Miller: “What does that music say to you personally? Put yourself there. I need you to create the scene. Make this personal. It has to be larger than life. You have to paint that picture.”
Said senior Aaron Pendleton, a bass: “I’m glad that Mr. Thompson was here to give us the experience that we had.”
As a bass, Thompson tends to portray villains or an older paternal figure—characters who are required to sing low notes. Throughout the master class the students learned to embrace the story of their characters.
“He’s ridiculous, because even though he’s a bass he can go all over the place,” Owens said.
Said Thompson: “That’s one of the best parts of the job. I’m one of the nicest people, but playing the Devil is a lot of fun.”