By Diana Nelson
A simple phone conversation with Carter Tholl provides enough proof that she is a talented vocalist.
When the Arizona native speaks, her voice lilts and is filled with the type of expression and inflection gained only from being a trained musician or an experienced performer.
Tholl is both and, when she shares her musical talents on the stage or with her students, she is at her happiest.
Recently, she performed at Tempe Center for the Arts with the Arizona Wind Symphony to celebrate
the music of the late Leonard Bernstein. Her father plays trumpet with the ensemble and sang her praises to the conductor.
“My dad convinced the symphony director that I could be perfect as the vocalist for the ‘Bernstein at 100’ concert,” said Tholl.
Growing up in Tempe, Tholl was a Kyrene kid, who attended Cielo Elementary then Aprende Middle School. She graduated in 2007 from Corona del Sol High School. Music always played an important role in her life.
“Like most little kids I sang all the time,” said Tholl. “I also started taking violin lessons when I was four years old, so I had a leg up on things like reading music and ear training. I started singing in choir in middle school, and started taking voice lessons when I was 13.
“In high school, I was very active in choir and orchestra, as well as youth orchestras, including the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, during grades 4-9, and Phoenix Symphony Guild Youth Orchestra, during grades 10-11. I had a great experience in my high school choir, and it is absolutely one of the biggest reasons I am a singer today! “
With dual abilities in both playing the violin and in singing, her choice wasn’t whether or not to study music, but if she should choose violin or voice.
In the end, voice won out and also separated her from any possible competition with her older brother, Andrew, who was already a professional violinist. He now lives in Los Angeles and performs in a variety of venues.
Tholl credits her instructor at ASU for encouraging her to expand her vocal range.
“I studied with Carole FitzPatrick, who was so sure that if I just kept working on them, my high notes would come in eventually. And, she was right,” said Tholl, who earned her undergraduate degree at ASU and decided to go to Europe to live for the next two years.
“After college graduation in 2012, I applied for an au-pair visa,” explained Tholl. “I went to Vienna, Austria, and worked for a family and also taught children a music class.”
Tholl also experienced the musical theater stage, as she made her European debut as Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, at Vienna’s English Theatre. A bit homesick for the U.S., she applied for graduate school in Kansas and earned a master’s degree in opera performance at Wichita State University. She also met her fiancé there and plans to be married next March.
In the meantime, she is living in Wichita and teaching at a local college,also working with a number of private students for voice lessons. She is the recipient of numerous vocal performance awards in competitions in both Europe and the U.S. and has established a healthy resume as an opera singer.
“I think at this point in my life, I’ve decided to sing whatever is interesting to me, be it opera, music theater, early music or modern classical music.
“But I don’t sing pop music—nor will I be auditioning for American Idol or the Voice any time soon. I think of myself as a classical singer much more than as an opera singer, because that’s the kind of work I am more routinely hired to do.
“The opera world is changing, and needs to, to maintain audiences. So, I think the more versatile I am, the better prepared I will be for the changes to the genre.”
Tholl knows for certain that she wants to keep creating music and connecting with audiences.
“Every performance is special because it is an opportunity to create something unique between the performer and the viewer. And, nothing other than live-performance can compare,” concluded Tholl.