UA Student Pursues Opera as Career
Teachers with a firm stance against bonus points may want to reconsider their policy; extra credit could kick off a student’s future career.
“I got into singing because I got into acting because my language arts teacher gave me bonus points for auditioning for a play,” said Blaine Nims, fourth-year vocal performance major.
Prior to performing in musicals “Maybe Baby, It’s You” and “Guys and Dolls” at his high school in Lamar, Mo., Nims had never seriously delved into his voice.
“I didn’t know I had talent,” he said. “I just knew I could carry a tune.”
That is no longer the case. Nims sings for the UA choir, plays tuba for the Razorback Marching Band and serves as a province officer of Phi Mu Alpha, a music fraternity. He began playing tuba in the sixth grade and was mostly self-taught, with no formal training.
It was actually one of his fraternity brothers who introduced Nims to a genre of music he had never thought of pursuing — opera.
“It’s just like any movie we watch here, only it’s music,” he said. Nims said he would like to go to New York or Chicago, or a European country like Italy, France or Germany, to pursue opera.
He said the music department at the UA has helped him mature as an artist and as a person. He has worked with Coordinator of Vocal Studies Elaine Cencel over the past four years.
“Ms. Cencel has been wonderful,” he said. Nims said it will be hard after she retires at the end of this year.
“Lessons you learn in music can help in real life,” he said. Nims said that being a part of the choir and working in both vocal and instrumental music has taught him how to listen intently, not only to music, but to other people.
“You gotta listen,” he said, smiling. “Whenever you come together as a choir, you become part of the team.”
Phi Mu Alpha helps backstage with UA recitals, Nims said. There are three major recitals each year, including a fall showcase, a Christmas-themed show and a German show. For Valentine’s Day, Nims performed with the fraternity at a retirement home called Arkanshire in southern Springdale.
“There are some lonely people, and we’re going to bring them some music,” Nims said. “They enjoyed that stuff a lot.”
Nims said he chose vocal performance because, in his mind, there was never anything else he truly wanted to do other than be on stage.
“It was the one thing I felt I could excel at … I started out as a music business major, but I would rather sing,” he said. “I love (being on stage). It seems natural to me. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you; I get a little nervous, but it’s about changing that energy.”
Nims regularly sings solos as well as in group performances, but he remembers one solo in particular that he said reminded him of why he loves performing. It was a two- to three-minute song about Atlas from Greek mythology.
“I was able to do enough with it that I could see the looks on the audience’s faces, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is actually entertaining.’ I enjoy entertaining people,” he said. “You have hobbies, and you have passions. If I could do what I love for the rest of my life, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Nims’ next performance will be the Master Chorale Concert Nov. 12 at Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, where he will be singing a solo.