Singing opera has always been a passion for Tyler Nelson, a vocal professor at UVU, but the passion turned into chaos as his life complicated his career.
The struggle of family life combined with two active professions is a lifestyle that many claim as unsustainable. Nelson takes pride in finding success on all fronts.
Nelson and his wife Val, who is also an opera singer, embrace the dissonance created by combining careers with family, starting with the birth of their first son in 2007. Rotating their child through six babysitters a day, working opera gigs around when one parent could be home and rushing to switch places to watch their child had never been part of their plan, but it became part of their life.
Nelson knew straight from high school that he wanted a future in music. Taking private voice lessons at the University of Utah, Nelson ended up spending 10 years working with Robert Breault, head of the Opera Department.
“I became obsessed with it. I love working so hard in the practice room and then getting to perform it for other people,” Nelson said, smiling.
According to Nelson, singing opera music is not easy. It is difficult strengthening and working with the “vocal folds,” the proper term for vocal chords, which are no larger than a dime. Nelson explained the physical aspect of singing opera as being “like a marathon.”
“Every time you sing opera you need a day to recover. For me, it is every bit as challenging as being an Olympic athlete,” Nelson said.
Consistent opera performances also take a toll on family life. Nelson now has two boys and a wife whom he has to leave for months at a time to perform throughout world.
Nelson says competition brings 30-40 other singers to audition for each gig, making it necessary for producers to figure out what makes each singer unique. The fact that he has a family, is an active faculty member at a university and sings opera is rare and allows Nelson to stand out among his peers.
“I decided that I am the best version of this that I can be. I promised myself that I’d take this as far as I could,” Nelson said.
Nelson is currently rehearsing “Il Barbiere Di Siviglia,” a 450 page opera by Gioachino Rossini which he is performing in Beijing this October. He will be gone for over a month rehearsing with Lorin Maazel, a conductor and long-time friend of Nelson, before performing at the National Center for Performing Arts.
“I have never been to China so I am excited to see what it is like,” Nelson said.
Many people told Nelson that he could not raise a family, have another job and still be successful in opera. Nelson enjoys showing them that he can.
“You can’t listen to all of the naysayers. It’s hard, but possible.”
We asked – He answered
Q&A with Tyler Nelson
Where are you from?
I’m from here, well Rose Park. It’s a suburb in Salt Lake, sort-of a rough neighborhood to grow up in.
Where did you get your degree?
I graduated from the University of Utah and got my undergrad and Master’s there.
What was your favorite class while getting your undergrad?
Oh, I think it’s a tossup. I loved Opera Workshop and I loved to be on stage. I also really enjoyed Music History. I’m kind of a History dork.
What motivates you to do the things you do?
I love the feeling of accomplishing a difficult goal that you set out to accomplish.
What was the best movie you saw in the past year?
“True Grit” and “Rango” was good, but it’s “Harry Potter [and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2]”. I’m a total Harry Potter dork, too…
What is your guilty pleasure?
Where to start? I don’t even know. I’m religiousabout [watching] “The Office” and “30 Rock”. I watch it every Thursday night. I definitely watch TV to unwind.
Where would you go if you won a trip anywhere in the world?
Either Greece or Croatia. I’ve always wanted to go there.
Describe what you would consider a perfect day?
Well I would get to sleep in past 6 a.m., because that never happens anymore. I would do my P-90X, I couldn’t go a whole day without doing it. Going fishing with the boys would be sweet. I’d watch my Utes play and have pizza, but it’s got to be good pizza. I’d go see a good movie with Val, then I would top it all off with cheesecake. Oh, and on a perfect day, I wouldn’t get tired.
If you could share one piece of advice with all the students here on campus, what would you tell them?
Don’t settle. I know it’s kind of philosophical, but never be content with what you’ve accomplished up until now. There is always more you can do, more you can acquire.Lake, sort-of a rough neighborhood to grow up in.