Taking notes: Alum hosts students in an opera master class

February 27, 2023


Opera singer and 2000 graduate Matt Worth originally auditioned for the music performance program at the University of Richmond with his trombone. But, on a whim after his horn performance, he also mentioned that he could sing.

“Dr. Cable, my voice teacher, looked over at the instrumental professors who were also listening,” Worth recalled, and said: “He is ours.”

From then on, he focused his studies on singing. He first learned to carry a tune in church, and in the classroom. His mother was an elementary school music teacher for 35 years.

“I never took a voice lesson until I got here to University of Richmond,” Worth said, “but music was always at the fore of my life. It was always part of my identity.”

After graduating, he attended the Manhattan School of Music and the Julliard Opera Center. He now teaches voice and opera studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Last month, he returned to the Richmond campus to teach a master class to some vocal performance students.

“What I'm trying to do in master class situations is disarm the participants and get them to release themselves from the technical work that they've been putting in and focus on that true emotion and expressing something real,” Worth said. “Because when we're able to do something as performers up on the stage and it's something visceral, that's when all of the people in the audience get to experience something that changes them.”

He says he learned about committing to emotion and authenticity in music performance from his time at Richmond. 

“There was no better place in the world for me than UR,” Worth said. “My professors led me step by step through the process of developing a song, developing my own voice, and seeing what is important and how to do that. It's amazing when we personally invest ourselves in the music, and how compelling that can be.”

Worth continues to sing on stage in addition to his teaching. This year, he will perform the title role in Harvey Milk with Opera Paralléle in San Francisco. Career highlights include appearing in the title role in The Barber of Seville with the Boston Lyric Opera, performing Moby Dick at Washington National Opera, and making his Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist in Brahms Requiem when he was still a student at Julliard.

Worth says he still relies on his college voice lessons to bring vulnerability and humanity to his performances.

“Had I gone anywhere else, I really could not be where I am today, I feel this in my heart of hearts,” Worth said. “It was just an exceptional experience.”