BUCKFIELD — Inside Kelly Davis’ head, her voice enters a surreal echo chamber.

Her magnificent mezzo-soprano voice — which has won a prestigious place in a summer program based in Graz, Austria — sounds intermittently pingy and annoying to her own ears.

“You can’t spend any time listening to yourself,” said Davis, a pretty 21-year-old woman from Buckfield. “When you sing opera, to you, it sounds horrendous. But you don’t sing for you. You sing for the audience.”

To her audience, her singing is a joy.

Her voice has a richness that seems incongruous with her youth and undiva-like petiteness.

“I feel like she works incredibly hard and all her work is paying off,” said her mom, Holly Davis.

Kelly has finished her third year as a vocal performance major at the University of Connecticut, earning straight As and winning a variety of competitions and roles. Last year, she performed at Lincoln Center with her school’s production of “Riders to the Sea.”

This summer figures to be her biggest challenge, yet.

In Austria, as part the American Institute of Musical Studies’ program, she plans to sing in some of opera’s hallowed halls.

For six weeks, she will be immersed in the setting of Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart. She’ll take daily German lessons, meet with vocal and diction coaches and perform up to 30 times, sometimes with a full orchestra.

The opportunity to travel to Europe followed an audition this winter at Columbia University in New York City.

She’d already made other summer singing plans when she sang five pieces for a panel of judges.

“I did it for the experience,” she said. “I was really relaxed.” Minutes later, her summer changed.

One of the judges told her, “I think you’re in.”

In Austria, Davis hopes to further polish her voice and her performance with the experience.

She’s been singing since she was a little girl.

At 5, she began playing the piano and began writing songs soon after. By the time she reached high school, she decided to leave Buckfield and attend Edward Little in Auburn because it offered more music instruction.

She attended UConn because the school agreed to let her study two majors: vocal performance and pre-med.

The first was her heart’s choice. The second was her head’s, recognizing how tough a singing career might be. She was still a freshman when an adviser suggested that she focus on her music.

A year later, she gave her first opera recital.

“I got off stage and I was just like, ‘I might get paid for this one day?’” she said. “This is ridiculous. That was like the most fun thing ever. How is that work?”

Opera remains her passion.

“It’s perfect,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

Her challenge now is to build her resume, something that will grow with her time in Austria. And she hopes to make professional connections.

She knows opera has few lovers in America and precious few jobs for opera singers.

“It’s disappointing a lot of time,” she said. “You just have to say, ‘It will come.’”

Her mom, who attends virtually every recital and audition, believes that the cost to Kelly would be far greater if she fails to try.

“I feel like if she did not go down this path, she would regret it always,” Holly Davis said.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.