Singing comes natural to a select few. But it's not without a lifelong dedication to the craft that someone is able to sing so well that he or she attracts audiences to come hear and watch the performances. But about a hundred people went to see Christopher Parker sing on April 6, and even more are expected to come this Sunday, April 27.
Yet he's not just another singer at another church on a Sunday afternoon. Parker is a 23-year-old opera singer from Gary, Ind., and he's really good at what he does.
At a young age he was singing everything from gospel music to covers of The Jackson 5, who also hailed from his hometown and the area of northwest Indiana known as "The Region."
"I'd sing with my mother and sister, I'd sing alone, I'd sing whenever I got the chance," Parker says. "I didn't come from much money, so singing was my escape from my struggles."
One of those struggles -- or at least challenging times in his younger years -- came when he started working a steady job at age 14. But instead of spending his paychecks on video games or movies tickets like his carefree peers, Parker had loftier goals for his earnings. He paid for his own voice lessons to learn what he couldn't get from his high school.
"We sat around in choir class and didn't learn anything. The teacher and students treated it like a free period. I felt like I was the only one that actually wanted to sing," he says.
So he took lessons, which only fanned the fires of his passion for singing, and then when he began scouting out colleges at which to apply. And he made sure the ones he applied to would have other people in attendance who shared his love of song. Which explains how Parker's search ended when he was accepted at Butler University.
- Anna Peters Photography 2013
- Christopher Parker enjoys his work at the IMA, but he's excited that he'll soon study a five-week course of opera in Italy.
He found just what he was looking for with an Arts Administration major and the countless opportunities to perform at Butler. And he discovered an affinity for singing opera.
Parker says he doesn't remember the exact moment when he started to love opera, but he knows why it still holds a place in his heart today.
"Opera isn't natural. It's the fullest extent of what a voice can be. Similar to how a ballerina stretches his or her body to the limits, an opera singer stretches their voice as far as it can go," Parker explains. "When it's executed right, opera is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world, and that is why I love it."
While the music genre's popularity has never held the same broad appeal in America as say, country music or hip-hop, opera is much appreciated all over the world -- especially in Italy, its country of origin.
However, the program isn't free, which is why Parker decided to organize and perform at two recitals this month. He hopes to raise enough money through donations to cover the trip's costs, but the funds weren't his only motivation for the recitals.
"Yes, I do need the money, but I also needed to perform," Parker says. "It's nice having a crowd listening to me sing. Moments like that remind me how powerful song can be."
He still works to raise money to support his dreams just as he did back in high school, but these days he does it as the current public affairs coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
"I'm not fulfilled sitting at a desk like I am on stage," Parker says. "I'll keep working, though, until my voice is my full-time job; then it wouldn't even be a job."
Parker will be on a stage (of sorts) at Allisonville Christian Church on April 27 at 3 p.m., performing a mixture of African-American spirituals, musical theater ballads and arias, the latter essentially meaning poetry put to music.
- Zach Rosing Productions 2014
- Christopher Parker entertains his audience between songs at a previous singing engagement this spring.
"I hope everyone feels like they got something out of my performance," Parker says. "I want to get to know the audience in that intimate environment while I sing, and hopefully they'll leave knowing me, and have a renewed love for music and life."
And if he's lucky, Parker will have enough "appreciation" shown to help fund his musical getaway across the pond.