Nick Huff never wanted a typical job working 9 to 5 in a cubicle. So he majored in music, with an emphasis in vocal performance. He earned is degree in 2015, graduating magna cum laude. He is now an opera singer living in Rochester, New York, and pursuing his master’s degree in voice performance and literature at The Eastman School of Music.
“I still go to school because, in opera, you cannot merely remain a bachelor to find success. I guess you have to be a master! Or so they tell me,” Mr. Huff jokes.
What have you enjoyed most about your career?
“Singing for your student or professional career is a privilege that other people can’t really appreciate, and ignorant as they are, often casually joke about. But what they don’t realize while they do data entry or work singularly to make money — probably for someone else who doesn’t actually work but rather ‘owns’ — is that they are not doing what humans are supposed to do.
“Studying philosophy, particularly Aristotle, at Carthage showed me that singing doesn’t build an empire or make more money necessarily, but it does let us express, which is one thing humans are naturally supposed to do, and in singing we express especially well and deeply. Instead of repressing my desires and suffering ‘the daily grind’ in a cubicle, I fulfill myself every day when I go to work or school to sing, and if I’m skilled enough, I’ll help to fill someone else up as well.”
How did Carthage prepare you?
“Our voice teachers prepared my vocal technique and style for the next level of work and put me into one of the best graduate programs in the world. The small classes and lack of overwhelming competition I would have faced at conservatories swelled my resume with roles I wouldn’t get anywhere else. Carthage also prepares the mind with classical philosophy and literature, which made me a better person. Carthage didn’t simply hand me a piece of paper, sagging as it was handed over. They made me a full person capable of seizing what I need and want out of life, not merely pointing to dues paid in the form of a degree.”
How has your liberal arts education helped you?
“When I was a sophomore, I nearly died of blood loss due to a freak complication of my Crohn’s disease. As a non-believer I expected to be terribly afraid of dying, but actually I felt really at peace in the moments when the hospital staff weren’t sure if they had enough replacement blood to keep me alive. I thought, ‘You know, I have lived a good life. I’ve always been comfortable, I learned to be comfortable with who I am, and I have embraced philosophy and led an examined, worthwhile life, even if it should go on longer.’
“Other schools do not emphasize this kind of deep thinking or self-aware, sober thinking, and at another school, I might not have had the comfort they gave me. Western Heritage is often griped over and bemoaned, but it is the catalyst for an intellectual awakening that can literally bring you comfort and confidence in the most dire situation.”
Tips for current Carthage students:
“Work hard. It’s easy to be distracted by any number of things, from social diversions to personal ego, but remember why you’re there.”
Favorite Carthage memories:
“My favorite Carthage memories center around all kinds of experiences: Driving through blizzards for taco ingredients. Riding my friend around like a TonTon from ‘Star Wars.’ Singing for WWII veterans on their way to pay their respects at the national monument. Having the final musical word at Commencement by singing a wonderful Irish tune, ‘The Parting Glass’. Doing a pro bono gig for a man on his death bed whose dying wish was to hear a barbershop quartet.
“It’s hard to pick a favorite, but whether I have a representative anecdotal favorite or not, they all shaped me to be who I am and I’m proud to be that individual.”