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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE student on his way to career in opera singing

By Victor Henderson/multimedia editor

Brenda Medici/The Collegian  Home-schooled high school and NE Campus student Michael Pandolfo aspires to be a successful opera singer but has already performed in various productions with the Fort Worth Opera.
Brenda Medici/The Collegian Home-schooled high school and NE Campus student Michael Pandolfo aspires to be a successful opera singer but has already performed in various productions with the Fort Worth Opera.

“Let’s go to the opera,” said just about no 18-year-old ever — that is, unless they’re like Michael Pandolfo.

Pandolfo is currently a home-schooled high school and NE Campus student who aspires to be a successful opera singer. His days consist of a lot of practice, not only on the techniques needed to sing properly but also in the pronunciation of the words of songs that aren’t in English.

“My long-term goal is essentially just to sing,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’m really proficient at. It’s the only thing that I know I can exceed at.”

Pandolfo began singing at the age of 7 but didn’t mature into his operatic voice until 16. The first shows he did up until his teenage years were all musical theater. That didn’t change until 2011 when he auditioned for the Fort Worth Opera.

“I had never auditioned for an opera company before,” he said. “When they called me back to do some dancing, then I was in my element.”

He landed his first role in an opera production, and since then, his vocal skills and love for opera have grown.

Last summer, he placed in the top eight out of 2,000 high school students in the Classical Singer Competition. He also won the Schmidt Competition, a singing competition for high school students, in the same summer and is a graduate of the YoungArts program, which provides support and scholarships to young artists.

Jolene Mattison was Pandolfo’s private lesson teacher. She taught him the fundamentals of singing and noticed early on how talented he was.

“He always had a good ear,” she said. “I didn’t do any ear training things with him. He was very gifted with his natural tone, which was beautiful as a boy soprano, and then after the voice change, it was a very rich baritone sound.”

Mattison would find arias for Pandolfo to sing because she knew he could learn them. As his voice matured and his vocal gymnastics became more complex, Mattison said she no longer felt comfortable teaching him.

“I just felt like, ‘OK, I’m starting to get out of my league here because my specialty is not opera,’” she said.

Mattison found a vocal coach she felt could take over training for Pandolfo.

“I do believe he has what it takes,” she said. “He’s hungry for it.”

Wendy Pandolfo, Michael’s mother and a percussion major in college, raised him and his brother, who is a member of a NE Campus band, in a household appreciative of music.

“When he was little, he sang a lot,” she said. “He started singing when he was about 2.”

At the age of 6, Michael Pandolfo was put in an acting class and at age 7, he landed his first role.

His mother would often take her children to see operas and plays in the Fort Worth area because many tickets to shows were discounted or free.

Pandolfo’s first exposure to opera was at the age of 5, and his mother credits all the trips to the theater as the reason why he focuses heavily on opera.

Pandolfo’s preferred career is as an opera singer, but his taste in music also includes musical theater, Frank Sinatra and pop.

Some might say his dream of being an opera singer doesn’t fit with the fact that he hasn’t even graduated high school yet.

And they are right. Kind of.

“Most of the people involved in Fort Worth opera and musical theater are juniors and seniors in college,” he said.

While he is usually the youngest on stage, the shows he has performed in and has seen are designed to attract younger audiences. He has performances at Bass Performance Hall in April including a part in Silent Night and The Pearl Fishers.

He said he would like more young people to go to the opera.

“People think that opera is just this old, dusty, rusty art form, and that’s not true,” he said. “Nowadays, opera companies are casting younger singers, so it’s more relatable. They’re updating some productions, they’re branching out to social media, and they have student tickets, which is awesome.”

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