Fruitvale man hits Carnegie Hall

Centre stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City is a long way from singing pop tunes at the Fruitvale Hall but that is what one young man has accomplished in a relatively short time.

Jeffrey Hill performed at the Charles Bailey Theatre in Trail when he was 14  just one of many steps that led him to his performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall last month.

Jeffrey Hill performed at the Charles Bailey Theatre in Trail when he was 14 just one of many steps that led him to his performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall last month.

Singer signs

contract for three shows in 2011

Centre stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City is a long way from singing pop tunes at the Fruitvale Hall but that is what one young man has accomplished in a relatively short time.

Jeffrey Hill was born in Trail and raised in Fruitvale, and throughout his youth, entertained hundreds in Greater Trail. But his classical training and operatic studies have led him to bigger stages with his most recent performance at Carnegie Hall.

“He’s done really well but he’s worked for it – I mean you have to,” said his mom, Carol.

The 25-year-old tenor performed an art song recital with soprano Simone Osborne to a packed house in the Weil Auditorium.

“We went down to New York to support him in his performance at Carnegie Hall – it was awesome,” said his father Larry. “Every time I hear him sing, I get goose bumps.”

Jeffrey began his university studies at Lethbridge before moving to Ohio where he graduated with a bachelor of music in voice and master’s in operatic theatre from Oberlin College Conservancy of Music.

He is currently completing another master’s degree in vocal arts at Bard Conservancy in upstate New York.

Hill has performed in a variety of operas, won numerous awards and sang for dignitaries in France, but it was winning the prestigious Marilyn Horne Foundation Award in California a year ago that afforded him the opportunity to sing at Carnegie Hall where he debuted last February.

“After that I was put on the roster of the foundation and through that I was offered this gig at Carnegie Hall,” said Hill from his home in upstate New York.

Hill signed a contract with Carnegie for three performances in 2011.

The accomplished vocalist began his singing career when he was five, studying in Trail under classically-trained voice coaches Chuck and Audrey Bisset.

“My sister and I both started around the same time singing and we were so lucky to have teachers like Chuck and Audrey Bisset,” said Hill. “If it wasn’t for Chuck and Audrey and just having them be in such a small area and having them be such fantastic teachers, who knows what my life would have been like without them.”

But Hill didn’t always dream of singing opera, his early inclinations were towards pop music.

“Growing up, I thought I would be a pop star and I was huge into Mariah Carey and Whitney (Houston) and all the great divas, but I realized when I turned 18 or 19 that that wasn’t what I was best suited for.”

At university, Hill began singing as a baritone but as his voice developed and his training progressed, he had to make some changes.

“The weird thing about singing and especially singing in opera, is that our voices don’t mature until we are in our thirties and especially for me because in my first six years of post-secondary studies, I was a baritone and I’ve only been a tenor for a year-and-a-half.”

Hill likens it to a weight lifter who starts out as a featherweight but wants to compete in the heavyweight category.

“But you can’t just wake up one day and go from lifting 50 pounds to lifting 550 pounds the next day.”

To sing the new, demanding repertoire of a tenor, Hill had to start from scratch and rebuild his voice. With recent awards and accolades, it is apparent the transition has been a success.

“I’m making my opera debut at Carnegie Hall in March . . . it will be my first time singing a tenor role professionally,” said Hill.

He will be performing in “Zaide,” an unfinished Mozart opera, as Sultan Soliman in the second of three performing contracts he has signed with the prestigious institution.

While the committed young tenor hopes to make his mark on the opera world, he realizes he will have to be patient and in the meantime, continue to study and perfect his craft.

“I do really want to do opera, I love acting and being on the stage and singing with an orchestra and I want that be a large part of what I do.”