An Opera Student’s Immersive Musical Experience in Paradise

Mariah Maglalang ’18 is a Music major and Journalism minor. As an opera student, she traveled to the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival this summer, and we asked her to share her immersive and transformative musical experience.


What is the ‘real world’ and how do we get to it? There is a perceived path that some opera singers follow in order to reach success. This ambiguous path roughly consists of an abundance of lessons, obtaining a music degree, getting into apprenticeships and young artist programs, auditioning for professional companies, and performing principal roles. Being an aspiring opera singer is daunting, but I found inspiration after participating in the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival of Summer 2017. This festival consist of five weeks, during which more than 20 concerts and stage performances are presented, giving students invaluable experience and the privilege of appearing on stage with some of the top musical artists in their field. The professionals I met at the festival enlightened me to some realities of the field and the countless factors that can make or break a potential opportunity. It was encouraging to discover that an artist’s path is not linear. More often than not, it fails to follow a step-by-step path to success. It is creative and ever changing, just like us. Previously, I thought of success to be relative to specific steps I had to reach before becoming a professional in the ‘real world.’ I’m so glad I had this opportunity to meet innovative people and gain new perspectives in Hawaii that challenged this way of thinking.

My time on the Big Island was busy with fully staging an opera in three weeks, taking lessons and coachings, concerts, masterclasses, acting classes, and dance classes. I met incredible professionals who regularly work at places like Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, companies where I dream of being someday. Most of my cast mates had completed a music degree or already worked professionally. I was among the youngest. This was my first fully-staged opera outside of LMU, and I was nervous. It was difficult trying to adjust to ideas of a new director, follow a conductor, and try not to mess up all at once. I initially struggled with insecurities about my voice and myself. Fortunately, these feelings quickly vanished when I started to recognize the successes in my own growth and make room for self-compassion. As I got more familiar with the music, staging, and the cast, the more I felt free to explore and have fun in rehearsal. By the time of our performances, it felt organic. I felt inspired to do whatever was right in the moment and hopefully left the audience inspired too. If something didn’t go the way I wanted, I didn’t let it affect the rest of the performance. I discovered that my obstacles were similar to the real world, and that professionals are also never finished learning and self-improving. I felt like I had accomplished something by finally proving to myself that I can handle the obstacles and enjoy myself at the same time! This was a huge personal break-through.

As we finished our last show, I felt overjoyed with the music, the beautiful island, our cast, and our story. If it wasn’t for the change of scenery in Hawaii and the safe space amongst my cast, I may not have grown as much as I did this summer. In three short weeks, I learned that hard work and reaching goals are important, but patience and self-compassion are too. I also learned that success is completely relative. Success is not defined by finishing the last step of a prescribed path, but will be discovered through my own individual journey, whatever that may look like. Throughout my journey, I will stay professional and compassionate as I absorb everything that will make me a better musician – and person. I now recognize that I already am in the real world, with many things to learn, and more successes to discover, but I also have a story to tell and people to inspire along the way. I am so thankful for my summer in Hawaii and to LMU for giving me this wonderful learning experience.

Photos courtesy of Mariah Maglalang.