There was a warmth to Stuart Skelton’s voice as he laughed about the sheer luck that landed him across the globe in Cincinnati, Ohio, from Sydney, Australia. “I definitely didn’t think this would be my path,” he says. Now a Grammy-nominated tenor and the 2014 International Opera Awards Male Singer of the Year, Skelton is critically acclaimed for his outstanding musicianship, tonal beauty and intensely dramatic portrayals. And he couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Skelton began performing at the age of 7, when he started singing at St. Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, Australia. Yet it was only after completing his undergraduate work in economics and law at the University of Sydney that he feels his passion for singing was given the chance of a lifetime. He was awarded a scholarship to travel overseas to pursue various vocal auditions, and Cincinnati made the list. “In a sense I was doing something totally unheard of,” he recalls. “Most vocal performers head to London from Australia as opposed to the U.S.”
After seeing countless programs across the states, the level of dedication among the College-Conservatory of Music faculty, as well as the state-of-the-art facilities, tipped the scales. “That was it — my opportunity to give singing professionally a shot, which I had never given any thought to actually doing for a living.” And lucky for us (and our ears), it has worked out. Skelton has appeared in many of the world’s most celebrated opera houses, singing with such companies as the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, English National Opera and Paris Opera.
Finding Home in The Queen City
Skelton recalls being intensely focused on what needed to be done during his graduate studies at CCM. He says it’s that type of focus and self-awareness that allows one to intentionally hone in on their craft. He was able to share this sentiment with students during CCM’s Sesquicentennial Celebrations, and will do so again this fall during a multi-part masterclass — opportunities he calls “an absolute joy.”
“Masterclasses are a two-way bridge of trust between the teacher and student,” he says. “When you put yourself out there as a performer in front of the audience, the students gain a certain level of trust in you once you start working with them.”
Skelton says one of his happiest moments professionally has been returning to CCM to work with students and witness the next generation of performers. His advice? Apply the parts of every life experience you can use to your advantage and don’t bother with rest. “You’ll spend much more time and enthusiasm embracing the things that are helpful and instructive.”
And with a full performance schedule until 2023 spanning all over the world, Skelton’s 25-year career shows no signs of slowing down. No matter where he goes, he says it’s important to create small pockets of home; it makes you feel less alone in a city you don’t otherwise know well. He’s quick to point out that CCM will always be a small corner of home … And we’re sure glad he’s not a stranger.