Opera department director creates ‘performance-based’ program


Brian Hayes

Alan Held, associate professor of voice, conducts students during the a practice for the upcoming show “Scenes and Songs.”

Alan Held didn’t always plan to have a career in opera. He started his undergraduate degree as a tuba major with plans to become a music teacher. It wasn’t until his senior year when a recruiter for Wichita State heard Held perform in his master class that he was encouraged to go to WSU to work on his master’s degree.

Now, Held has performed opera professionally for more than 32 years and is known as one of the leading singing actors in the business today.

“I never planned on being an opera singer,” Held said. “I have a big, large voice, I can act well, I fit in and it put me through to the Metropolitan Opera and I’ve been singing around the world since then.”

Held is back at WSU as the opera department director, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stopped performing. When Held was called in 2013 to see if he would like to come back to WSU, it was under the condition that he could keep performing.

“When my wife and I left here in 1985, we were driving up the turnpike and I said, someday I think we will be back here,” Held said. “It took 30 years, but we did it. Wichita is a hidden jewel. This has traditionally been a very strong music program. I have an emotional tie to it, I love Shocker basketball. It’s nice being back in a place that I care about.”

Held is excited to be back in the program and opera students are excited to be in a program with a world-renowned performer.

“I really came to Wichita State because of Alan,” opera graduate student Phillip Lopez said. “I didn’t feel comfortable studying with anybody else because I think Alan is fostering and warm in terms of his ability to develop young singers and get them in the right tracks for what a lot of people are expecting in the professional world.”

Now that Held is the director of the opera department, he has major plans in store for the opera students.  Held said one of his major goals is to start offering more performances for the students so they can perform and gain experience in their field.

“The best way these students are going to learn is by performing — by actually being involved, so I’m trying to provide them the opportunity,” Held said. “I’m trying to make sure these students are all good singing actors. I want them to be the best possible singers they can be.”