Amelia Huchley SC ’23 hopes CCO Concerto Competition win is first step to making it in the world of opera

Amelia Hunchley sings accompanied by a pianist.
Amelia Huchley SC ’23 performs at her junior recital on Nov. 12. (Courtesy: Anne Harley)

Vocalist Amelia Huchley SC ’23 made history this past Saturday when she and pianist Catherine Wu HM ’22 won the annual Claremont Concert Orchestra (CCO) Concerto Competition. While students have participated in the competition for years, this is the first time in over a decade a vocalist has won. With Huchley’s historic win, that status quo has been broken, opening up new possibilities for future competitors.

“It’s really wonderful that now we have … a kind of precedent-setting award to a vocalist,”  Anne Harley, Scripps College Associate Professor of Music, said. “It makes it possible for other vocalists to imagine that they might someday also apply and compete and win.”

Huchley performed Mozart’s “Exsultate, jubilate K.165” during the competition, which occurs annually and draws musicians from the 4C Joint Music Program. The winner of the competition has historically been a pianist or, occasionally, a violinist, according to Harley. The competition’s prize is the chance to perform as a soloist with the backing of an orchestra, a crucial yet rare opportunity, especially for singers. For vocalists, there are multiple music genres that require singing with an orchestra, such as oratorio and opera.

“If you don’t know how to sing with [an] orchestra, it’s very, very difficult to start a career in voice,” Harley said. 

Amelia Hunchley smiles for the camera.
(Courtesy: Mark Kocina)

However, the reality is that not many music students who concentrate on voice in school go on to pursue a professional career. Harley said she has had only two students do so since 2009. Despite this, Huchley says that in an ideal world, she would like to sing professionally, and that is her plan. Unlike most music majors, she isn’t double-majoring. This commitment to music and her competition win represent a positive step forward in her future aspirations. But she’s not naive about her future prospects, either.

“My voice isn’t old enough for me to sing opera,” she said. “It would be, like, another five years at the absolute minimum before I’d be considered the right age to be breaking into opera … It’s not a case of being cynical. It’s just a fact that I need to be capable of doing something else to earn a living. Because even if I do make it — become a professional opera singer — there are going to be a lot of years in the middle where I’m not breaking even on that.”

Huchley understands that the path she’s headed down won’t be a simple one, but she’s going with resolution and confidence; the knowledge of the odds she’s up against hasn’t dissuaded her from trying. 

“At a lot of turns, I do get a lot of people saying to me, ‘You know how hard it is to make this work, right?’ And I do,” she said. “But on the other hand, I feel like I’m learning, and I’m making progress with my voice, and obviously some people do become professional opera singers. It’s not like it’s never going to happen … I know it’s going to be really difficult. I do feel like I owe it to myself to try it and see if I can do it.”

“I do feel like I owe it to myself to try it and see if I can do it.”—Amelia Huchley SC ’23

Many artists can’t identify exactly why they love their chosen art form — it just speaks to them. However, Huchley is clear about why singing is so significant to her.

“I think that there’s a lot of pressure in the world right now for us to be productive and to produce things and to contribute to the GDP and things like that, and as a result, fine arts are given this reputation of not being serious or not being a good investment of your time,” she said. “I think that, ironically, is what helped me get so serious about them because I feel like when I’m working just to work, it gets boring. It feels pointless … But when I’m working to produce art … it’s a completely different feeling.”

For Huchley, this feeling is most vibrant when she’s performing live in front of an audience.

“Live performance is creating something that’s never going to happen again,” she said. “Even if you get up and do the exact same performance the next day, even if the performance that you did was recorded, it’s never going to happen exactly that way again, and that is really freeing.”

Ultimately, while Huchley has clear hopes and dreams for the future, she greatly appreciates how performing allows her to remain rooted in the present.

“You kind of have to be in the moment if you’re going to make it work,” Huchley said. “That’s a mindset that I really want to have. I want to enjoy the life that I’m in right now instead of constantly being stuck in the past or in the future.”

For those also interested in pursuing singing, voice lesson auditions for the spring 2022 semester are now open. Visit the Voice at Scripps website page to learn more.

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