7 p.m. June 7
What do an award-winning songwriter, a world-renowned opera singer and a giant in the transportation business have in common? Rodney Clawson, Emily Pulley and James Welch have achieved exceptional success in each of their respective professions, and they each have a degree from West Texas A&M University.
She’s lived out of a suitcase, traveling from Japan to London to Hungary and all points in between, but the world might not have ever heard the beautiful and powerful repertoire of Emily Pulley if she hadn’t entered, on a whim, a Metropolitan Opera competition more than 20 years ago.
Pulley, a world-renowned artist for various opera and symphony companies around the world, graduated from West Texas State University in 1989 with a degree in music. Her dad, who was very supportive of her talent, wasn’t sure she could make a living with it, so Pulley planned to earn a master’s in English and teach. She was working in a coffee shop, singing with a folk band and living at home when an application for the Metropolitan Opera competition came in the mail. She figured she had nothing to lose and entered the contest. She was fighting a case of strep throat the day of the competition, but that big, strong voice of hers came through, and Pulley won the district, then the regionals to advance to nationals. It was 1993, and Pulley was one of 26 finalists singing for a coveted spot. Eight talented singers were chosen, and Pulley was one of two sopranos selected. She made her Met debut in 1994, and she hasn’t stopped singing since.
“I’m lucky to be able to continually work in my chosen profession,” she said. “I’ve had a great time. I’ve gotten to do extraordinary things.”
Extraordinary things is putting it mildly. She did earn that master’s degree—in music—from North Texas State, where she was selected Outstanding Graduate Student in voice. She has traveled the world performing in venues from Boston to Taiwan and earned numerous awards, including Christopher Keene Award for Outstanding Performance in a New or Contemporary Work. Oh, and there’s an impressive 13 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, too.
Even though she’s traveled far and wide, there’s no doubt that the Panhandle and the state of Texas are still near and dear to Pulley, who grew up in College Station. She’s in demand as a collegiate Artist in Residence and has been back to WT numerous times to teach master classes and work with students at her beloved alma mater. Lessons she learned under the watchful eye of her voice teacher Dr. Elsa Porter, WT professor emerita of music, are often shared with students around globe—especially her advice to not take things personally.
“You have to sing because you love to sing and not because it’s going to lead to something else,” Pulley said. “There’s no quicker way to lose your joy in what you are doing than by comparing yourself to other people. Don’t take things personally. It will steal your joy.”
And joy is what she has given audiences around the world, thanks to her entering a contest on a whim more than 20 years ago.