A passion for opera leads to London

File Under: Outcomes

Today’s college graduates are often cautioned that a career path is rarely a linear journey.

God has a way of allowing unexpected plot twists to be folded into personal stories that demonstrate His plan in one’s life and those twists make the stories so much richer.

For Paolo Parodi ’17, a music major, this was certainly the case.

Parodi, who grew up in Siena, Italy, moved to the United States in 2009. After completing his high school education in the Cleveland-area, he decided to pursue some music classes at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). Though a son to two musicians, he had never considered formal music education an option, but he quickly became inspired by the recording arts and began to ask questions about what instrument he should pursue. His mother suggested learning to sing, so he began to take voice lessons in 2012, joining the Lakewood-based Good Company vocal ensemble a year later.

“It was at Good Company where I met my future piano collaborator, Patrick Wickliffe, who later accompanied my vocal senior recital at Malone,” Parodi said. “Wickliffe was also collaborating with Malone Opera Theatre at the time, but my brain hadn’t yet connected the dots back to the possibility of a Malone education.”

When he wasn’t singing with Good Company or the West Shore Chorale, he worked an internship with WCLV Cleveland classical radio, connecting him with Cleveland Orchestra broadcasts at Severance Hall.

“It was a dream, really,” he said. “I was fully invested in the Cleveland music scene by then, but what I was really dreaming about was singing opera.”

While working his part time job, Parodi attended a Cleveland Opera performance of “Rigoletto” and noticed a coworker of his dancing on stage. She connected him with the director and months later, he was contacted to perform in Puccini’s “Le Villi;” it was an experience that showed him that, without a doubt, opera was his passion.

Parodi began to apply to music schools.

“I began to audition for notable opera programs around the U.S.,” he said, “but I recall standing in line to board one of my flights when I received a text from a mentor of mine that her friend needed someone to perform the lead role in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” at a local university.”

That friend was Cynthia Skelley-Wohlschlager, D.M.A, founding artistic director of Malone Opera Theatre. Parodi was intimidated by the opportunity, but open-minded, and he decided to pursue it.

“I jumped in and loved every bit of the experience,” he said. “I felt at home at Malone. I clicked with the people here. I loved working with Cynthia. And what a small world it is: as it turns out, I found out that she was teaching at the same music program in Italy where my parents met, Sessione Senese per la Musica e L'Arte! I knew this clearly was God's plan and it was meant to be. I had to choose Malone.”

Parodi’s emphasis as a music major was vocal performance, which prepared him to pursue graduate training in London after graduation.

“My career as a musician wouldn’t have been possible without mentorship from the Malone faculty,” he said. “Cynthia showed me what it meant to be dedicated to my craft, taught me everything I know about singing, and inspired me to be a better version of myself on a daily basis. And Jesse Ayers, professor of music emeritus, helped me pursue and discover music composition. I had tinkered with songwriting for a while, but he really helped me dive into composing, bringing with him enthusiasm to every class so my classmates and I could be excited about music theory and understanding music in a deeper sense.”

Now a graduate of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, Parodi carries his Master of Arts in Music Theatre into the professional world during a difficult season for every musician.

“When weighing my options for graduate schools, I decided that I needed to hone my acting skills, and Central’s program emphasized music theatre as ‘all theatre that contained music,’ not just musicals,” he said. “I wasn’t necessarily set on London, but Central’s program felt right and I’m happy I moved here.”

As with most industries, COVID-19 affected Parodi’s program and life as a musician.

“The pandemic has been really hard on the arts, particularly in London where most everything has been shut down for the majority of the year,” he said. “We at Central were very fortunate to benefit from maintaining a steady course online almost immediately after the first UK lockdown began. We were even given the opportunity to return to in-person work in late August to perform a main show! I successfully graduated in November after completing the program with an audition and showcase unit in October.”

Now excited for a light at the end of the tunnel, Parodi is ready to return to doing what he loves. Newly signed with an agent, he is navigating the nuances of the arts scene in a post-COVID world.

“Stage work these days is still tricky, but I think we’re definitely leaning towards normalcy once again,” he said. “With my agent, it’s nice to have an advocate who works with you towards common goals. I want to explore options in both stage and screen while continuing to work on my craft and vocal development. Both opera and musical theatre hold a special place in my heart, so I doubt I will ever steer too far from them, but I’m open to new opportunities and am excited for the future.”