News Column

Stratford grad to pursue an opera career

May 19, 2014

By Jenna Mink, The Macon Telegraph



May 19--Many high school graduates will spend their summers relaxing before they head to college. They will go to parties, make beach trips and take advantage of home cooking.

But not Maggie Bergmark.

Then again, the Stratford Academy senior and budding opera star is anything but a typical high school graduate.

Bergmark, 18, will spend her summer in Italy, where she will sing in the opera "La Rondine" as part of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music summer program.

It's a program generally reserved for older college undergraduates and graduate students, but Bergmark is no amateur when it comes to classical music. She has been singing in church choir since she was young. When she began taking voice lessons in the eighth grade, her singing teacher suggested classical music.

Bergmark got her first taste of opera performance when she attended a high school summer program at a North Carolina music center, where she was part of two operas.

"I really fell in love with it. ... It's that pure emotion," she said. "Not a lot of people get to do it. It's a tough game to play, but I love it so much that I'm willing to work for it and try my best."

Bergmark will attend the Westminster Choir College in New Jersey this fall, where she plans to pursue a degree in music and performance. After attending graduate school, Bergmark plans to eventually pursue a career in opera.

"Classical music has a different aspect to it than anything else," she said. "And I know that, in a way, the art is dying, and I would really love to be part of the mission to keep it up."

Not only is the art rare, but it is unique for such a young student to pursue a career performing in operas. Generally, people decide to pursue an opera career as college students or older, said Laura Voss, music teacher and band director at Stratford.

"She is the first student I've ever had that actually knew at 18 that's what she wanted to study," Voss said, adding that other students have wanted to study voice. "She's the first kid I've ever had that said, 'Opera -- that's what I want to do.' "

It's not the only type of music that interests Bergmark. She is in her school's symphonic, jazz and pep bands, and she plays the clarinet, bass drums, piano and the ukulele, an instrument she picked up at summer camp.

She placed first in the state of the operatic division of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. She also was selected during an international audition to perform at Carnegie Hall. Bergmark has been the region and state winner of a vocal competition three of the past four years.

"As a teacher, sometimes you get students that just work incredibly hard and are successful, and sometimes you get students who have a natural gift," Voss said. "Just once, maybe, do you have that rare student who is both, who has a natural God-given talent and works incredibly hard. And that's Maggie."

Although the road to an opera career will likely be a tough one, Bergmark has the support of her family and friends, she said, and she is committed to her passion.

"If you truly love it ... then you try your best and go out and follow your heart," Bergmark said, "because you'll never know if you don't try. But you at least have to try."

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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(c)2014 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

Visit The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) at www.macon.com

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Source: Macon Telegraph (GA)


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