By Andrew Lunsford
The Bible states, “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all”. The experiences I have encountered thus far in my young life, have taught me that it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict what might or will happen in the future. 10 years ago, if you had told me that I would be embarking on a career in Opera by going back to school as the oldest freshman in the Class of 2013, or that I would have owned a multi-million dollar corporation by the time I was 26, I would have told you that you were crazy. However, here I am 10 years later, and both are true.
My Name is Andrew Lunsford. I am 30 years old and I am a freshman at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. I am married, and I have two wonderful boys, ages 8 and 5. It is only at this late point in my life that I have discovered I have a special gift.
Most of us grow up with dreams and ideals we would like to pursue in our lives. Most of the time we do our best to follow those dreams or ideals until we get bored with chasing them, we get distracted, or we find something better or more important to us. I was one of those people. When I was a young child, I wanted nothing more than to be a Casa Bonita Cliff Diver. Fortunately that dream did not come to fruition. Instead I found my something better. I met a beautiful girl, married her, and we started a family. I worked very hard to provide for them and give them the best life I could. But as I quoted before, “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all”, the economy slowed, everything changed for us, and a “New Beginning” was born.
Here is what happened.
I married my beautiful wife Kenya when I was 20 years old, and this past September we celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary. Our first son was born shortly before my 22nd birthday, and when I was 24 years old when we had our second son. It was around that same time that I started my first business.
After operating that business for some time, I came upon another business opportunity in manufacturing. It involved the fabrication and installation of granite countertops. In 2004, I took advantage of this opportunity and started a new company. By the time I was 26 years old, it had grown into a multi-million dollar corporation. As of the second quarter of 2007, I employed a staff of 40, and was on track to achieving 6 million dollars in sales for the year.
Sadly, the downturn in the economy ruined the profitability of the company causing the business to fail. As a consequence I was forced to declare personal bankruptcy.
This was a very difficult period of time for my family and me. We lost our income, our credit, both of our vehicles, and our home. In fact, we lost virtually everything we had, except for each other. But, as a result of that, our family banded together, and became closer than ever. It is also during this time that I discovered my voice.
I had always sung while I was growing up, but mostly to accompany myself on the guitar while playing Rock, Folk, and Jazz. I grew up with a Musical Theatre influence mostly due to my sister and mother, but never had very much exposure to Opera. Most of the Opera I heard up to that point was on spaghetti sauce commercials. One day I was singing, and pretending to sound like an opera singer, and thought, “I wonder if I could sing Opera?” So I went down to the music store with my father and we picked out the sheet music to the aria Nessun Dorma. We chose that aria, because we had heard Pavarotti sing it, and it was just about the only one either of us knew. My father had to buy me the $7.00 piece of sheet music because I could not afford it.
I could not really read the music at that point, so I watched Pavarotti sing it over and over again on YouTube, following along with the “black dots” in my copy until I figured it out. Once I had figured it out, I sang it for a friend named Amy Stuemky, who has considerable operatic experience. Amy insisted that I continue developing my voice, and introduced me to Dramatic Baritone, Charles Edwin Taylor. Charles took me to his voice lesson with Ken Cox, the Chair of Voice and Director of Opera at Denver University. It was Ken who gave me my first Operatic Training. After that, I started studying in depth with Tenor, Todd Queen, the Chair of Music, and Director of Opera at Colorado State University.
I never even dreamed of the chain of events that have taken place since learning that first aria. Not only have I discovered a passion that I never knew that I had for one of the world’s most beautiful art forms, but also a new unexpected dream has emerged. The act of pursuing that dream and having the courage to do something that many people think is a little crazy has already led to many beautiful moments and opportunities for my family.
It’s true; I am older than your average freshman. I am starting a career in singing quite a bit later in life than most music students. However I have found my age to be an “asset” rather than a “liability”. I now have the requisite maturity and the life experience to apply to my training and my performances in order to be successful, and achieve the goals I have set for myself. I am now an experienced businessman who has the scars of learning real life lessons in the real world, and understands not only the value of education, but also the value of hard work.
I have succeeded in my life, and I have failed. I embrace my failures and do not wish them away. It is because of the failures that my life became quiet enough to find my voice. It is because of the challenges I have faced, that I am the man I am today. It is because of these experiences that I will succeed.
To quote the great educator, Booker T. Washington:
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome”
The world is ever changing. Many people have been faced with dramatic circumstances leading to a re-invention of lives, and realization of undiscovered talents that may never have been found if not for the very drastic, unexpected, and in most cases unwanted changes that many of us have had to face. I know that I am not alone in these struggles, and that many of our friends and loved ones have had to undergo similar hardships. But throughout the world there are many people discovering amazing things about themselves. Amazing gifts they never new they had, amazing strength they never knew they possessed, amazing spirit to rise above what is and what once was. By who’s courage to start again, and to forge new paths and to continue on are redefining their lives. By redefining our lives perhaps we are redefining a country, and by redefining a country perhaps we are redefining a world.
So the next time you are faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or situation, or you just don’t know what you are going to do, push ahead, keep an open mind, and a courageous heart. You never know, maybe you will end up becoming an Opera singer.
Mr. Lunsford is a Colorado native. In 2009, he won 1st Place in the Colorado/Wyoming Open Division of The National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition. In 2009 he was also a finalist and award winner in the Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition, and was recently recognized as an “Outstanding Student of the Arts” where he was awarded a grant from “Allied Arts, Inc.” in Denver, Colorado. Andrew has enjoyed a wide array of concert and solo work, and most recently has completed training at the intensive Opera Young Artist Program at The Crested Butte Music Festival high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. During that time Andrew had the opportunity to train with Maestro David Syrus, the Head of Music for London’s Royal Opera House-Covent Garden, and Director Sarah Meyers of the Metropolitan Opera.
Mr. Lunsford is currently training in one of the world’s pre-eminent voice programs, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In recognition of his exceptional talent, Mr. Lunsford was awarded the prestigious “Premiere Young Artist Award”, “JSOM Music Faculty Award”, “The Ildebrando Pizzetti Memorial Scholarship”, and the “Marianne V. Felton Friends of Music Voice Scholarship”. Andrew is currently training under internationally acclaimed soprano Carol Vaness.