Lamont Watson '08 has been singing all his life. Growing up in Philadelphia, he sang with his family at church. At Earlham, he majored in music. And now, as a graduate student at New York University (NYU), he is training to become a professional opera singer.
"The dream is to perform in different countries, to travel the world and perform in opera houses," Watson said.
Striving toward such an ambitious goal takes enormous effort. Watson, a tenor, takes music and education classes, vocal training, workshops, and he performs,en route to a Master of Music degree. He's considering a dual degree in both opera and vocal pedagogy; if he does pursue it, he'll graduate in the spring of 2012.
In the spring of 2010, he was cast as Ferando, a major character in an NYU production of Mozart's opera Così fan tutte. The show involved long rehearsals six days a week for several months. "I ran cross country and track in college, and I thought I could never be any more exhausted than I was after a meet, but no," Watson said.
"I felt a little sad but also very, very excited when the show was over," he added. Even driven opera students need some down time; Watson said he and his friends like to go dancing or out to eat in their spare time, just like other graduate students.
As a child, Watson was surrounded by music. "Growing up in a religious family, singing is just part of what you do, it's like breathing," he said. Watson's mother wouldn't let her children listen to secular music or watch much television beyond the arts channel. From the arts channel, the children picked up on opera and imitated it in their play.
Opera came up again in high school, when Watson's church choir director heard his solo singing voice and recommended that he pursue classical music. "I enjoy singing many styles of music, but opera is like the marathon of singing. It's a discipline from which I constantly see rewards," Watson said.
Watson also loves drama, but never considered it as a career until he realized that the best singing performances include a great deal of acting. "The great performers, even in pop music, when they're singing a song they're actually singing to someone. It takes a lot of acting to get into it and feel that emotion, and to communicate that to an audience," he said.
Pursuing that sense of truth is what led Watson to NYU's classical voice program, which uses method of singing and vocal technique developed by the late Barbara Doscher. This approach emphasizes cultivating one's own unique sound, rather than impersonating someone else's, Watson said. "It's not about trying to be the next Pavarotti and doing it poorly by imitating him," he added.
Watson certainly took advantage of musical opportunities at Earlham. Watson took three years of concert choir, and also took part in Gospel Revelations, a cappella choir, Gamelan, and Madrigals. He performed in plays and musicals, orchestra, and jazz ensemble. While Watson enjoyed many aspects of his Earlham experience, his participation in these musical ensembles stands out as his favorite part. "They were my opportunity to shape and sharpen my craft," he said.
Now that he's had a taste of life in New York City, he's completely won over by its charms. He loves the energy, the diversity, and the variety of perspectives. He also enjoys meeting up with fellow Earlhamites who live in the city. Regardless of where he goes with his career, New York is where he wants to be based. "I just want to live in New York, it's the city for me," he said.