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Today@Sam Article

Senior Voice Major To Board The 'Show Boat'

Jan. 16, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Alexis Andrei

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Preston Andrews

Ever since he was in high school, Preston Andrews has dedicated his free time to music, and now at Sam Houston State University, his days revolve around ensembles, theory practicum and practicing; he is focused on his goal of one day becoming a famous musician. 

While at SHSU, he has learned to play piano, various repertoires-songs that every vocalist musts be able to perform-and how to establish a stage presence. He augments his skills by participating in ensembles such as choir for sight-reading and opera for repertoire.

For Andrews, a senior at SHSU, these learned skills and his own talent are already paying off.  At 22, he has already jump-started his professional career by being selected for the famed Houston Grand Opera chorus in their rendition of the musical “Show Boat.”

When he first auditioned, he was initially rejected for a spot in the Houston Grand Opera chorus, but in a bittersweet turn of events, the HGO staff offered him another audition for the musical.

Andrews spent last summer preparing for this second-chance audition and decided to perform a piece close to his heart, “Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical “South Pacific,” which was the first piece he learned in his lessons in high school.

But when two people auditioning before him sang that same song, he knew the judges would instantly compare the bunch. While the competition was fierce, he said he had confidence in his audition because of the preparation that his many music professors at SHSU had given him. 

“We would do master classes on how to audition, how to walk in a room, how to present yourself, how to dress, how to act, and mostly how to defeat the competition,” Andrews said.

Catch Andrews On Stage with the Houston Grand Opera...

"Show Boat"

Jan. 18-Feb. 9 at the
Wortham Theater Center's Brown Theater in Houston

Tickets are available online through the Houston Grand Opera.

Andrews received a call back for a script reading and was informed a week and a half later that he had been selected for the part.

“I was elated and shocked. I wanted to get connections, gain experience, and establish a foundation for my future career,” he said.

Andrews has been studying music for more than seven years, but his interest in music started when he was much younger.

“When I was a baby, my dad had his own music studio.  He is an engineer but he loves music and plays guitar and piano. He introduced me to soul,” Andrews said. “I know music because of him, and all that soul music helped me develop my unique bass sound.”

Later on in high school, he made the top choir his freshman year. He was also involved in a youth musical theater program sponsored by Theatre Under the Stars, which targeted young musicians with talent and fostered their development.

“I took lessons at the University of Houston amidst all these projects.  I studied with Todd Trebour first, as a sophomore.  He helped me a lot with establishing a foundation and improving my breathing and support,” Andrews said.

In addition to music, he had another creative hobby: journalism. Andrews was involved in J. Frank Dobie High School's news program and was lead reporter by his senior year, even traveling to Switzerland with his peers to cover a story on the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

Despite the fact that all of his teachers encouraged him to pursue a musical career, he applied to SHSU’s mass communication program and was accepted.

“I wanted to come to Sam Houston because I knew about Dan Rather," Andrews said. "I was an anchor for Channel 7 News at SHSU for two years, starting my freshman year."

When Andrews decided to join choir his sophomore year, he realized that his heart was really in music, not journalism.  In the spring semester of his sophomore year, he decided to continue with voice, and after receiving encouragement from his private lessons teacher, he auditioned for the School of Music’s voice program.

“I just always sang, even when I was younger, so I thought why not study voice and make my voice better,” Andrews said, adding that this has led to discovering his bass vocal range.

After his acceptance, Nicole Franklin, an adjunct professor of voice at SHSU, promptly took over his lessons.  Franklin introduced him to opera and also to someone who would become one of his main inspirations, celebrated operatic bass Samuel Ramey.

“When I actually started listening to operatic bass music, it was completely different compared to the high voice-driven musical theater style I was used to. I really liked it,” Andrews said.

Ramey has continued to be one of his main inspirations, whom Andrews said he listens to most frequently.  But he also admires fellow operatic bass Erwin Schrott because of his youth and similar voice type.

Many vocalists strive to be a part of an eminent opera program. For Andrews that meant becoming involved in SHSU’s program run by assistant professor and director of the opera workshop Rebecca Grimes, and he began to saturate himself in different musical avenues offered by the school.

“As soon as I switched from mass communication to music, I was in opera, and I’ve been in it ever since,” Andrews said.

The schedule of a music student is arduous.  Participation in curricular activities consists of an assortment of ensembles and personal practice time for a student’s instrument. Andrews dedicates most of his time to augmenting his voice and practicing for future auditions and said that he has seen visible changes in the talent-level of his voice.

The demanding nature of the semi-professional opera program at SHSU—which performs historically prevalent scene programs such as Mozart's “The Magic Flute” and “Amahl and the Night Visitors”—inspired him to take a chance and audition for the Houston Grand Opera chorus. It also inadvertently helped him win it.

“I was really nervous and intimidated because everyone was 15 years my senior and they had all been there, but I knew what I had to do and I knew how to pull it together because of the opportunity that Rebecca Grimes gave me,” Andrews said.

It was an especially sentimental moment when he was offered the part, because of his fondness for the musical, which he said is also close to his heart, taps into his musical theater base. “Show Boat” follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dockworkers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat.

Andrews said he believes the experience of performing in the Houston Grand Opera will augment his resume, allow him to keep auditioning for roles, inspire his fellow classmates, and boost his career. 

“This experience will show my peers that if I can do it, they can do it.  It will also enhance the standards amongst my peers and for my future performances at Sam because I’ll be semi-professional,” Andrews said.

After graduation in December 2013, he hopes to continue his studies at a conservatory in the northeast.  He also hopes to perform internationally in various operatic companies, become an artist for the Houston Grand Opera and exemplify Sam Houston’s motto “The measure of a Life is its Service” by sharing his talents and experiences with other students.

“My mom always said nothing can stop you but you, and it proves to be more true everyday,” Andrews said.

“Show Boat” will run Jan. 18 through Feb. 9 at the Wortham Center in Houston. For information on tickets, visit houstongrandopera.org.





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