Music student discovers passion, drive to perfect craft

Courtesy Photo of Kathryn Parsley
Courtesy Photo of Kathryn Parsley
By Haley Davis

For master’s candidate Kathryn Parsley, music is the underlying connection between all mankind, and she’s made it her goal to follow it.

Parsley grew up in Mesa, Ariz., and started singing in her junior high choir.

“I joined because I wanted to get to know a boy. For the record, it never worked out with him,” Parsley said.

However, she found something else — a passion and talent for music and singing.

She continued to get involved in music during high school and then studied music with Dr. Glenn Bennett at Mesa Community College.

As her voice teacher and mentor, Bennett encouraged Parsley to study with his teacher Jack Coldiron, professor of voice at Baylor.

She came to Waco and graduated from Baylor in 2011 with a bachelor’s in music performance.

After finishing her undergraduate work, Parsley took a year off after marrying her husband Andrew and decided to return to Baylor in fall 2012 to study with Dr. Robert Best, associate professor of voice, in order to pursue her master’s in vocal performance.

“Kathryn’s passion for the art of singing and, in particular, the size of her voice makes her a great performer and someone to work with,” Best said.

After he heard Parsley sing a dramatic mezzo-soprano role in last year’s Baylor Opera Theater production, he decided to work with her on training her voice to be a dramatic soprano.

“I felt she had much more potential for long-term growth,” Best said. “Kathryn’s ability to sing some parts of the soprano repertoire will allow her to be competitive for higher levels of competition and, most importantly, it’s where her voice lies most comfortably.”

While at Baylor, Parsley has been involved in several music ensembles and has also obtained leading roles in the opera department’s last two main stage performances. One of Best’s favorite things about Parsley, he said, is that she is serious about her singing and vocal growth, but many of their lessons are spent laughing throughout them.

“Singing is serious business, but it can’t be so serious that you can’t allow yourself to enjoy the physical act of it,” Best said.

Parsley has been attending St. Alban’s Episcopal Church for two years and is involved in the choir and other musical performances with the church.

“Kathryn is a very talented singer and a hard worker in rehearsal. She also has a delightful sense of humor which I much enjoy,” Howard Thompson, St. Alban’s choirmaster, said.

Thompson has worked closely with Parsley and says she has a strong voice with a strong-willed and dominant personality.

One musical moment that stands out in Thompson’s mind is Parsley’s soloist performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” which is from the book of Psalms and includes the Book of Common Prayer. Parsley has performed the song eight of the last 10 years in choirs and as a soloist during the Christmas season.

“Christmas music brings out the best in people in both the sacred and secular worlds,” Thompson said. “So much great music has been written about this story and season in the sacred world. In the secular world it goes from the meaningful to the sappy, but it still evokes special feelings and memories for most of us.”

Parsley said her favorite Christmas memory was the time she performed with a singing ensemble in Arizona. They went caroling at home for people recovering from an illness or medical treatment.

Most of the people clapped and cried, enjoying the performance of the singers. However, one woman repeatedly cussed at the group and sang alternate lyrics to the Christmas songs.

“Although maybe they were so hard of hearing that they couldn’t hear her over eight trained singers. At any rate, it was by far the funniest thing I’ve ever experienced while performing,” Parsley said.

This Christmas season, Parsley will be a featured soloist in the Vivaldi Gloria performance hosted by St. Alban’s at 7 p.m. Sunday, as well as a performance at St. Matthew’s Christmas Eve Service at 7 p.m. and St. Alban’s Christmas Eve Service at 10 p.m.

Performing live and collaborating with other artists is something Parsley said she enjoys most about music. She said audio and digital recordings cannot capture the magic that happens during a live performance.

She said she loves to create something wonderful, unique and anomalous for just a single moment in time that benefits everyone who is witnessing it at the time and calls music a pure miracle.

In the future, after finishing her master’s at Baylor, Parsley said she wants to perform in operas and eventually teach singing in an academic setting. She wants to be a mentor to others who share the passion for music.

“The emotion conveyed in song is real and translatable beyond words to every living soul that can hear,” Parsley said.