A Brookfield Central High School graduate of the Class of 2006 is spending her summer as a member of one of the most prestigious apprentice opera programs in the country.
Amy Owens — Amy Elbert during her time at Brookfield Central — was one of only 43 singers, out of 933 applicants, to earn a spot in The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer Program.
The program features singers from 26 states, Canada, Mexico, and South Korea.
Looking back, Owens, a soprano, has come to appreciate her community and educational background, and credits them for her success.
"I still love Brookfield because the school systems there gave me a lot of support. I recognize that I had quite an advantage with having such great teachers, and also the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts," Owens said. "I remember when it was completed, it opened an entirely new set of possibilities for our productions."
Owens and her parents, Mary and Ken Elbert, moved to Brookfield in 1999. While Amy has hopped around the country since high school, the Elbert family has remained in the city. Owens said her youngest sister attends Brookfield Central.
As she neared graduation, Owens was not entirely certain that she wanted to pursue music as a career.
"My voice teacher said that I should apply to the voice program at Brigham Young University. I was planning to go there for nursing," Owens said. "I realized that you can't double-major in music and nursing and expect to come out alive, so I had to make a choice."
Brookfield Central High School Choir Director Phil Olson recognized Owens as certainly having the talent, and more importantly the drive, to go far.
"There's a lot of kids with talent, but what separates the students who have a likely career possibility are students that take it seriously and take the discipline of the art form seriously," Olson said. "There's a lot of hard work and hurdles along the way, and Amy had the drive to overcome."
After obtaining her degree in vocal performance, Owens attended Wright University in Houston for her master's degree. In the years since, she has bounced between opera programs similar to Santa Fe and various shows.
"A lot of the singers here (At the program), have done a lot of programs and are just freelancing. In the opera world, there aren't really enough jobs for everyone. Every year, more and more are weeded out as they decide to do other things," Owens said. "People just go one month at a time."
The stress of such an improvisational lifestyle can take its toll, Owens admits, but it leads to being especially proud of achievements such as a place in the Santa Fe program.
"It is such a relief because to get hired, it's like 'Oh, I have work for the next few months,'" Owens said. "It lets you know where you're going to be for at least a little while, and it gives you confidence moving forward."
Owens had previously applied for the program — one time — without being accepted. She noted that many others will be rejected five or six times before gaining the honor.
The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singer Program is in its 58th year. It was the first program of its kind to be started in the United States.
"A lot of people had no place to go in between finishing school and starting their professional careers (as opera singers), so they would go to Europe and they wouldn't come back," Owens said. "People decided that we need to keep our talent here."
Owens' will remain in Santa Fe through the conclusion of the program in August and then she plans to continue to work.
"I'll be in New York. I'll just be auditioning and picking up roles as they come," Owens said.
Owens would like to take her talent beyond New York.
"We all have our dream gigs. There are some beautiful opera houses around the world that would be amazing to perform at," Owens said. "One of the benefits of this career is the opportunity to be able to travel."
But Owens hasn't forgotten about home.
"I'd love to be able to go back home and give something back to the community that nurtured me," Owens said. "I definitely want to thank the teachers and the community for making it possible for me to be where I am."
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