Young performers start right at the top

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By Kirsten Laskey

The expression, “you got to start somewhere,” usually implies starting with small, insignificant beginnings is advantageous to getting a foothold in reaching a greater, larger objective.

This expression is useful motivation. However, some people need no words of motivation to move them to the top, because they are already there. In one giant leap, they bypassed small beginnings and stepped right to the top.

Richard Schmidt, 11, Patrick Wadsack-Stewart, 14, and ninth-grader Peter Ahrens can tell what the view looks like from way up there, these three local Los Alamos youth are performing in the Santa Fe Opera’s production of “Billy Budd.”

Ahrens is performing as the cabin boy, or the captain’s servant, and Schmidt, and Wadsack-Stewart are powder monkeys, which are young boys who carry the gun powder to the cannons. Wadsack-Stewart is also midshipman, a student training to be an offier.

This is not the first time these three have been on the Santa Fe Opera’s stage. Ahrens and Wadsack-Stewart performed in “Carmen” and “La Boheme.” Schmidt appeared in “The Magic Flute” and “La Boheme.”

Schmidt said he is enjoying being a part of the “Billy Budd” cast because “I thought it would be rather fun to be in a ship.” He added the opera has a lot of action in it.

Ahrens said he is not picky when it comes to being a part of opera. “I really like the opera,” he said. “I’ll take whatever operas they can give me.”

“Everybody has a lot of expression,” Ahrens explained. “It’s really a lot of fun, you can always relate to the character (and) you always know what they are feeling and thinking ee I like the music, too.”

Wadsack-Stewart has more practical reasons for enjoying opera: money. His roles at the opera have allowed him not only to own a cell phone, but pay for his service. Additionally, he has been able to purchase his favorite video games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Schmidt has had numerous other experiences singing. He has been in “Tosca” at the Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, sang in the Albuquerque Boy’s Choir, which awarded him a super soloist award, and at the Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church, Los Alamos Choral Society and Santa Fe Desert Choral.

Schmidt isn’t the only one with a long-time interest in performing.

“I have always been interested in theater,” Ahrens said. He was introduced to the Santa Fe Opera through an advertisement three years ago; he auditioned and got in.

And he is still singing. “The opera is such a cool place; I never want to leave it,” Ahrens said.

Wadsack-Stewart was performing in his school’s production of “Peter Pan” when his principal encouraged him to try out for a Santa Fe Opera show.

“My principal at Pion, he said there were try-outs,” Wadsack-Stewart said.

He is not the only one in his family to enter the spotlight at the opera house. His mother, Jennifer, appears in “Radasmisto.”

Besides just being on stage, the Santa Fe Opera has provided these three young men with a real educational opportunity.

Ahrens said he has learned about everything that is needed to make a show, adding he never realized the extent of things required to put on a production.

Plus, it allows them to mingle with the stars.

“It’s very fun,” Schmidt said. “You get to know the main roles very well.”

He added the principal singers are not “picky” about whom they hang around with.

Wadsack-Stewart added he has enjoying working with Paul Curran, the director. “He’s cool and his funny,” he said.

Although they are enjoying the limelight, none are really sure if they will continue to pursue opera as a career.

“I hope to pursue it but it’s a bit hard to survive as a singer,” Schmidt said.

Wadsack-Stewart said should he pursue it in the future, the opera has given him a good career boost.

“The Santa Fe Opera is the second most prestigious opera in the nation (and) putting that on my resume if I try-out for something will make me look better,” he said.

Whatever the future holds, Schmidt is enjoying his moment at the top.

“(It’s) really rewarding to be a part of the production,” he said.

Schmidt added that lots of young people audition but only a few are selected “and getting in means a lot to me.”