I am a classically trained soprano with over 10 years experience singing professionally. I got my start singing in funerals, weddings, and private parties before joining and touring with a heavy metal band. I spent the last two years as a resident artist with Central Florida Lyric Opera, while singing jazz and Broadway standards in burlesque and cabaret shows on the side. I am available for public and private events, either singing with backup tracks or with piano or guitar accompaniment (with enough notice).
Price Range: $150-$500 (depending on distance traveled)
Private lessons since age 13, started getting paid to sing at 15, spent ages 18-24 singing in bands and going to school, joined an opera company and sang my heart out, still singing my heart out in the local cabaret scene. Interested in singing at small events like funerals, weddings, wine tastings and art gallery openings. Looking to assemble or join a jazz group as well for expansion larger events.
Long version (it's interesting, I promise):
As a kid I enjoyed imitating interesting sounds, and would often do it unconsciously, matching the tones of bells or birds. It was my (semi-mocking) imitation of Carlotta on my grandmother's Phantom of the Opera CD that landed me in proper voice lessons at age 13. I took to it very quickly, and began voraciously devouring operas and Broadway plays, learning anything as long as it was difficult or interesting. I would hear a song and say "I can do that!"
When I was 15, my voice teacher asked if I would be willing to sing a particular aria that we'd been studying at a funeral for a friend of hers. I was excited to be able to practice it for an audience before taking it to competition, so I accepted. After it was over, a man approached me and handed me a check. I hadn't known that I would be paid to sing. Or that I could. The church took my information and the phone calls started to come in. I was singing at funerals and weddings at least twice a month, and they were mostly requesting songs that were already in my repertoire (though I was willing to learn new ones).
Early into my freshman year of college, a trio of my classmates invited me onstage during one of their gigs, a private event at a winery. Soon they were inviting me more and more often to sing smooth jazz as background at parties, and I adored it. At the same time, I was flying to New York and Philadelphia every weekend to attend master classes with opera and Broadway singers.
When I was 21, I got word of a metal band that was seeking an operatic vocalist. I joined the group specifically because they had all been classically trained. When your love of Mozart and Handel is on par with your love of Slayer and Cradle of Filth, only good things can follow. We were called Carnevil, and we traveled all over Florida delivering strange, heavy, beautiful music to the masses for three years. (Of course we still played classical events whenever schedules allowed.)
While singing in the band on weekends, I had an opportunity to join the funeral business. It had always been an interest of mine, and I could sing as loud as I wanted. I worked in cremations, hair and make up, embalming, and removals. It was a nice break from the craziness of the rock musician life, and it brought me back down to earth. I decided to start auditioning for opera companies.
I joined Central Florida Lyric Opera in the early months of 2013 and quickly found myself performing regularly with the resident artists at galas and fundraisers. My first non-chorus role in a show didn't come until several months later, when I debuted as Berta in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
The company relocated to the Villages, as more and more of the demand for our performances ended up there. After another year and a half, the distance was too much. I stopped accepting roles, but stayed on as a stage manager and costumer. I still perform in concerts, but at least I don't have to drive so far every day.
My adventure with burlesque and cabaret began in 2014, when I assistant stage-managed an Orlando Fringe production for a troupe called Skill Focus Burlesque. After the run of the show, I volunteered to sing with them, which later turned into me assuming the role of the emcee for a few months. Hosting and singing in those shows got me noticed in the cabaret community, and soon I was singing for 18th Vibe Productions and Emerald City Cabaret. I'm still wearing evening gowns and crowing to the heavens, but I get to tell dirty jokes in between songs.
Here it is, 2016, and I have decided that I want to make myself available to sing as much as possible. I want to sing at funerals and weddings again. I want to be the chamber music at the wine tasting, the gallery opening. I want to put together another jazz group, for performing at larger events like festivals and conventions. Let me entertain you.
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AJ Raggs has a BFA in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon University. As a Vocalist, pianist, guitarist and…