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ASU opera singer heads abroad for prestigious music program

(AIMS Graz Photo)

PHOENIX – A Valley native and recent Arizona State University graduate is headed to Graz, Austria for an exclusive, international music program.

Ashton Bates said she had been trained in classical singing since she was 14, but didn’t really find opera until college.

“I actually entered ASU as a psychology student, wasn’t that happy with the degree so I switched over to opera,” she said. “I took a stab in the dark and my professors just got me straight on to opera.”

The stab in the dark has turned into a passion for Bates.

“I love it,” she said. “I feel like I’m able to open up and be vulnerable to an audience and at least hope that they’re going to receive it well. It’s very freeing.”

Bates is among about 100 opera singers and 350 musicians chosen from around the world to participate in the American Institute of Musical Studies, or AIMS.

The intensive, six-week training program is considered the leading summer music program in Europe.

One other ASU student will also join the program at the end of June after AIMS held an open call for musicians to apply for the program in person.

Despite the exclusivity of this program, Bates said, opera is for everyone.

“Opera is a very unique experience. It’s a very beautiful experience,” she said. “I would say that you go in and you don’t know what to expect but as soon as you hear the voices, it’s very transformative.”

She said for her, it’s been empowering.

“I feel unstoppable when I sing,” Bates said. “For me, it’s almost like an out of body experience. It’s just so powerful. I feel like music is something that goes beyond words.”

She also boasted about the extensive opera community in Valley.

“There is a big opera community here in Arizona,” Bates said. “There’s Arizona Opera. Arizona Opera is amazing. They perform down in symphony hall. They have a very extensive season that they do every year. There’s the Phoenix Opera, there’s the ASU lyric opera theatre.”

And she said anyone who hasn’t been to a show should give it a try.

“If it’s your first time at the opera, just go see something,” Bates said.

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