I'm so thrilled to be sharing a woman I've looked up to since I was a little girl today! I went to high school with Maria and we participated in choir and musicals together. Since she's a few years older than me, I was always in awe of her talent and how she treated everyone with respect. I'll never forget how important she made everyone feel in our cast, even though she was the star of the show.
Check out her website to hear her perform: marialindsey.com
Tell us a little about yourself and your career
My name is Maria Lindsey and I am a classically trained opera singer, and voice teacher. I never expected to pursue a degree or career in the arts, but through the right guidance and assistance, I saw a pathway forward and am extremely grateful for that. I have a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Vocal Performance and have performed professionally throughout the United States. I got started at BYU-Idaho when my first voice teacher, Dr. Jon Linford, approached me as a freshman after hearing me sing in a non-major voice class I had enrolled in for fun and asked if I had considered majoring in voice performance. I didn't know anything about being a voice major, or having a career in music, but I knew I loved to sing and that it was something I excelled at.
Right after graduating I immediately began my Master's Degree at The University of Colorado in Boulder and then began auditioning and working for professional opera companies. Some of the larger companies that I've worked with are The Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, The Ravinia Music Festival, Opera Omaha, Opera Colorado, and Opera Memphis. Besides performing in operas or as a soloist with large choirs or orchestras, I also began teaching private voice lessons on the side and realized how much I loved it.
Teaching voice has become a huge part of my identity as a musician and I hope to continue doing it throughout my life. This coming year I will be performing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in the chorus of some of their larger productions, which I'm very excited about. I'm also married to my amazing, supportive partner, Nick, who has been my confidant and champion. (And we have two awesome cats that you can follow on instagram- hahaha @drewtoday).
How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?
The community of women that I've been lucky to surround myself with have been vital to my growth. The funny thing is, I never had the thought "you know, I need to find myself a core group of women and get support from them," but that happened all on its own because there was a need in my life to find like-minded, supportive women who I could relate to. I think most women are in a similar position no matter what life path they choose. In fact, I've naturally gravitated towards women who I feel I can be vulnerable with about my career and life choices as a woman and not necessarily women who were following the same exact career path as me.
All of the women that I'm close with have shown me that it's possible for me to forge my own path even if it's something that feels unfamiliar and new. That's been the greatest strength to me; learning that just because something is new and difficult, doesn't mean it's wrong. Women have to constantly combat negative stereotypes about almost all aspects of their lives, so finding a core group of women who can relate to that feeling and who can support each other in that is essential.
As an artist, how do you ensure that your voice is heard as a woman in the arts?
Being a woman in the arts is interesting. I see a MILLION ways the arts are dangerously behind in its inclusion of women, and on the other hand I see a field that blossoms and flourishes because of all the women that are involved in it. What this means to me, is that as women, we have to keep moving forward and demanding space where there wasn't any before. Most importantly we need more women running these arts organizations and being in leadership positions that determine hiring, programming and community outreach and engagement.
Right now, these organizations are almost all run by men, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just naturally can limit the art being produced and the way that art is produced. I think that as women begin to have the opportunity to manage and lead these organizations, we'll see much more diversity in women's stories, women's experiences and women's leadership. And as an important side note, this same thing is true for all minority groups in the arts, not just women.
For me personally, I've tried to forge ahead by understanding that I have something to offer and something valuable to bring to the table as a woman. I have had to continue to pick myself up and move forward when there were many, many times I wanted to just throw in the towel. I guess the way I ensure my voice continues to be heard is that I continue to try contributing to the arts without feeling like I need the permission from anyone other than myself. This doesn't mean that I ignore the advice and mentorship from those around me, but it means that I'm learning to let go of self-doubt and fear, and especially the self doubt and fear that comes from the stereotypes I was inherently taught as a woman.
What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?
If I could tell my younger self anything it would be that that the things you think are catastrophic are not catastrophic! Keeping perspective in all of our losses and gains is key. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that things will not happen the exact way you had planned for them to happen, and that that's okay. Learning to grow through each unique experience is the most important step in progression. This will eventually lead to having perspective in long term goals, something that would have been helpful to me when I was just starting off my career.
What is your career-related mantra?
I would say my career related mantra is "You have worth. You have something to offer." Women can be especially self deprecating, and I learned much later in my life to let go of those toxic behaviors than I should have. Brené Brown was a saving grace to me! If you haven't read her... go do it! She does a beautiful job at teaching people to let go of the shame and self doubt that can feel ever present and suffocating.
Learning that each person, no matter the career or life choice has something valuable to say and something to offer others is so important. And it's something I'm still working on every day.