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Meet Catherine Giel of Capitol City Opera in Metro-Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherine Giel.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My parents always had a piano in the house and I would bang on it from the time I was old enough to sit up. At around five years old, my parents decided to put me into piano lessons. I took lessons with the same teacher, Ms. Nancy East, all the way through high school. I went to Florida State University for music, which is where I discovered my love for collaborative piano – accompanying instrumentalists and singers. I began working for several instrumental studios as well as the opera program and I paid my way through college by accompanying students for their lessons and recitals. When I finished graduate school, I relocated to Atlanta to work for Spivey Hall and immediately began looking for ways to get into the Atlanta music scene as a performer. I came across Capitol City Opera, which was scheduled to perform a children’s show as part of the Spivey Hall Young People’s Concerts, and let them know I was available as a pianist, should they ever need one. A few months later, I got a call saying they needed an accompanist for their spring main stage show. I accepted and ten years later, I am still with the company as both a pianist and Music Director.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I believe I am lucky in having an unusually smooth road. Opportunities seemed to always appear when they were needed and I happened to be in the right place at the right time in many cases. This isn’t to say I don’t work incredibly hard at my craft, just that in pursuing a career in music, often times, luck plays a huge role. I was in Atlanta for probably two years before I began getting consistent work as an accompanist. All the while, I was building my brand, becoming a member of Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta, supporting other musicians by attending as many concerts and recitals as possible, emailing the leaders of several local arts organizations, making myself generally available for any opportunity, and of course, practicing – a lot.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Capitol City Opera story. Tell us more about it.
Capitol City Opera has been around for about 35 years. We produce main stage operas, operas for children, a monthly dinner series, recitals, madrigal singers, and more. We are a small company which gives us great flexibility to accommodate a variety of performance opportunities. Our focus is on developing young professional singers, those in college studying music or recently graduated, those pursuing young artist programs, and those in the depths of the audition circuit. We provide opportunities for these young singers to learn roles and hone their craft in fully-staged productions. The Dinner and a Diva series is also a great vehicle for singers to try out a new role in a supportive, intimate environment. The majority of our singers are local and living in metro-Atlanta. We believe it is important to build the confidence, resumes, and experience for these young artists, which will create more opportunities for success on their journeys. We are a hands-on company and our singers and production and support personnel are like family to us.

My role in this process is broad. My official title is Music Director, which means I prepare the singers for whatever upcoming performances we have. I program and cast the Dinner and a Diva series, and advise in casting our main stage productions with Artistic Director Michael Nutter. Because we are a small company, many of us wear multiple hats. My other hats include graphic design (programs, website, social media, promotional materials), business development, and marketing.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
There are plenty of immensely talented artists in the world but luck and timing is also a huge factor in success. Being seen by the right person (or not seen by the wrong person), being the next person on the list when someone drops out, and being available when the call comes in can hugely impact a career. There is something that has to go hand in hand with luck, however, and that is preparation. In all of those situations where luck is a factor, if you aren’t prepared to step in, the lucky opportunity is lost. Being prepared is the key to actuating luck.

Part of my luck had to do with marrying a string player/conductor, which opened a whole world of opportunity with which I wouldn’t have otherwise been connected. Of course, it was my good luck to marry him, in general, regardless of his profession.

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