Jennifer Wiggins is a trained opera singer whose day job is in a pharmacy

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Wiggins, a member of the Opera Carolina chorus for the past two seasons, plans to be a full-time opera singer one day. For now, she’s a full-time pharmacy technician with Harris Teeter. When others were ordered to isolate and work from home, she was among the essential workers who had to continue reporting to work – in person – each day.

The masks that some people consider optional aren’t optional for her. She wears one eight-and-a-half hours a day. She takes it off during her 30-minute lunch break. Many of her customers are seniors, and she has to speak at a loud volume for them to hear her from behind her facial covering. 

Wiggins earned her undergraduate degree from Furman University and her graduate degree from the University of Illinois in 2017. She currently takes voice lessons from Harold Meers, an operatic tenor who has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, among others. 

“I’m a better singer because of him,” she said. He says that now – while opera singers can’t perform – is a great time to build technique. That’s what we’ve been working on.” The Charlotte-based student and Charleston-based teacher use FaceTime for their lessons.

Besides her voice lessons, she hasn’t been doing much singing these past few months. She’s too exhausted. “When I get home from work, I take off my scrubs, shower and get in bed,” she said. “My work schedule doesn’t leave time for singing.”

Wiggins misses socializing – and something more mundane. Wearing lipstick. “I used to love putting it on for a pop of color,” she said. “But, there’s no point in wearing it behind a mask.”

Wiggins enjoys her work, and said it has particular significance now – during the COVID crisis. But her ultimate career ambition is to be an opera singer. And a Wagnerian one, at that. “It’s such big music and involves a big orchestra and chorus,” she said. “Most performers are 35 or 40 before they’re ready.” 

For now, she’s content to work behind the counter (and behind the mask) as she awaits her return to the stage.