Washburn welcomes new teacher

Jordan Loomis / Washburn Review

Few people ever get the opportunity to experience their deepest and most passionate desires in life, and if they do, most of the time, they take them for granted.

Life is far too short to just let passions slip away. So, instead of letting passions simmer, why not try to balance them together? Washburn’s director of opera, Sylvia Stoner, has.

Stoner grew up in a small, polish American neighborhood in Kansas City, Kans.

“We had a lot of cultural activities,” said Stoner.

Church was very important to Stoner because she belonged to the choir and folk dancers.

“There’s a certain level of musical awakening that happens to people while experiencing it for the first time,” said Stoner. “This is where I was first swept up into music.”

Stoner’s grandmother taught her how to play the piano and sing because according to Stoner, it was very appreciated in her family. Stoner’s mother also took her to see musicals, the orchestra and the ballet.

“I always felt like I was given the opportunity to find my voice,” said Stoner. “So, naturally, I hope that I can help give that same opportunity to my students.”

Later on, Stoner received her undergraduate degree at a small rural art school in New York called Skidmore College.

“I was a double major in music and theater,” said Stoner. “I participated in lots of plays at that school. It was absolutely wonderful.”

Then, shortly after, Stoner decided to receive her masters degree, followed by her doctorate from the University of Kansas.

As a woman of many professions, Stoner is a professional opera singer, as well as a stage director.

“I’ve predominantly done opera,” said Stoner. “But I’m also a part of Actor’s Equity, so I’m a professional actress as well.” Stoner has worked with several theater companies, including the Kansas City Repertory Theater, the Metropolitan Ensemble and the New Theatre.

In terms of opera, Stoner has worked with the Lyric Opera in Kansas City. Along with working with companies in New York, Stoner has also done national tours.

Beyond life on the stage, Stoner discovered that she has a passion for teaching.

“I feel very lucky to have been hired here at Washburn University as the new director of opera,” said Stoner. “Already I can see a lot of good, raw talent in my students.”

Stoner’s passion for her music is an outlet she wishes to share with her students.

“If I’m going to ask my students to get up and perform in front of people, I feel like I should keep doing it also,” said Stoner.

Music is such an exciting outlet to Stoner; any creativity that she can help her students learn to control would be enough for her.

“That is my challenge to my students,” said Stoner. “To make their music mean something to other people means a lot to me.

Even though Stoner spends a large amount of her time right now teaching and performing, she’s also balancing an entirely new passion—parenting.

“I have an 11 month old newborn,” said Stoner. “My husband and I are both musicians and teachers, so we’re trying to alternate between schedules to be with her.”

Stoner is also expecting some upcoming productions later this year. Even though it may be hard to believe, Stoner is still performing.

“I have an opera that I’m doing in December and I’ve also got a play coming up in February,” said Stoner.

According to Stoner, a person cannot be happy when they forget what they truly love.

“I will probably always be performing,” said Stoner.