Westmont Magazine From Agriculture to Opera
Working out in the flat fields of his father’s farm, Zachary Sheely ’04 bends down to test the soil before planting cotton. Jets from the nearby naval base scream overhead as he uses GPS to precisely identify the area. He studied biology and chemistry at Westmont for good reason: Agriculture has become a high-tech business. When he enrolled, he planned to return to Lemoore and farm. But that was before he fell in love with opera.
Zachary helps out on the family farm while he studies voice, performs with California opera companies and pursues a career singing major operatic roles. He practically minored in music at Westmont, where he took voice lessons, sang in the choir and founded the Opera Club. To experience opera, a group of students carpooled to Los Angeles at least once a semester. “Opera can be intimidating,” Zachary says. “When most people hear the word ‘opera’ they think of overweight women yelling at the top of their lungs in some other language. The Opera Club gave students an opportunity to have some fun and see a real opera.”
The summer of his junior year, Zachary participated in an opera institute where he met his current teacher. He has worked with her since to build a solid technique and a respectable resume. “I’ve always enjoyed opera,” Zachary says. “The more I’m involved in it, the more I want to be a part of it, whether as a performer or a sponsor.”
Although he grew up in a small farm town, Zachary went to classical music events in Fresno and took piano lessons. “My parents have an appreciation for the arts, and they are my major supporters,” he says.
In May, Zachary appears as Rinuccio, the lead tenor in the Golden Gate Opera production of “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini. It will be his third major role with the company; previously he was Remendado in “Carmen” and Yamadori in “Madame Butterfly.” He will also perform Remendado for a production of “Carmen” in China in October.
When he is ready, Zachary will enter major opera competitions and seek roles that way or join a Young Artists program with a big company and start out as a understudy. Going to Europe where opera is more popular is another possibility. He has already won the Young Artist Division of the California Opera Association Competition.
“I’m amazed at the skill level needed to sing in a large opera house,” Zachary says. “Attending these productions has inspired me to become a part of this world. Opera is significant; it’s great art.”