Melissa Stewart-Hoffman describes it as magic.
“In life, I’m shy, but when I walk through the music note doors, and up to the third floor studio, I feel like myself,” said Melissa, a voice student at the Conservatory. “I guess singing, it just does something, it’s a certain magic."
A 16-year-old from Mulberry, Fla., Melissa first felt that magic when she was 12 years old and saw La Bohème at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
“It was like a lightbulb going off in my head. I’ve always loved singing, but that’s when I knew I wanted to be an opera singer,” said Melissa.
After a few years of taking local voice lessons, she decided to try the Patel Conservatory in the summer of 2011 with our Vocal Arts Academy.
“When I started at the Conservatory, I think that’s when I felt at home...It was an amazing discovery,” said Melissa.
That fall, she began private voice lessons with instructor and Patel Conservatory music chair, Gregory Ruffer. She auditioned for Opera Tampa Chorus and had the opportunity to perform with them throughout the season.
The experience of performing with the opera company affirmed her love of the art and desire to pursue a classical singing career.
“The last performance I did (with Opera Tampa) was Aida, and I think that was my favorite...it felt easier and reassured me even more,” she said.
This past summer, in addition to attending our Classical Voice Intensive, she earned the honor of attending the prestigious summer program at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio.
She attributes her success to the training she received at the Conservatory.
“(Ruffer) is the best teacher. His experience and his honesty with me in how I need to improve, and just the environment,” helped her grow as an artist, she said.
She loves performing opera because she enjoys singing in different languages and learning about the various operas and their histories. Becoming a different character draws her out of her shell, she said.
“The music transports me to a different era,” said Melissa. "I sing not only to express myself and to be happy, but so other people will enjoy it."
A junior at Polk State Collegiate High School in Lakeland where she’s earning college credit for classes, she takes private voice lessons weekly with Ruffer in preparation for college auditions and hopes to attend Oberlin.
“I’m really thankful for the Conservatory,” said Melissa. “I feel truly like it is my second home.”