When it comes to prestige, consider that Berklee College of Music alumni in Boston have won a total of 320 Grammy Awards.
When Caroline Collins was a senior at Hampton High School, she learned that Berklee had accepted her. But due to tuition considerations, she opted to attend Penn State, graduating this spring.
She soon headed to Boston for a new job with the former stomping grounds of music legends from Quincy Jones and Branford Marsalis to Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford.
Collins, 22, is on staff in Berklee’s voice department as an arts administrative assistant, which she describes as a catch-all position to support students and faculty members.
“I work with everyone in a little different way. Some days I will schedule interviews to bring in new teachers. Other days I will work with voice coaches to come and do master classes,” she said. “I sort of do everything, so I have a really good perspective of the whole department.”
The “do it all genre” aspect fits perfectly with her background in performance and related pursuits, dating back to her days at Hampton High, where she went beyond comedy to co-direct a play called “The Giver with another Class of 2018 member Tyler Anderson.
“We were people who wanted to do theater and just try to elevate it,” Collins said. “When we were approached with the opportunity to do so, we took it by the horns and followed it completely.”
It apparently went well, as the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the University of Pittsburgh presented him with the 2018 Gene Kelley Award for Best Vocal Conducting. And the experience paid off in college, when she approached Penn State Opera Theater director Ted Christopher to offer him another chance to take matters into his own hands:
“It’s a big part of what I love to do, so I reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, I want to do this. I have experience in this area. And he was kind enough to entrust me with part of the show.
She therefore took part in the staging of a production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, with the blessing of Christopher.
“He had great faith in me. He let me choreograph and direct the whole first scene, unsupervised. He was like, ‘You’ve got it. It’s gonna be okay,'” she said. He really showed me the inner workings of how to make an opera.”
She minored in business and earned her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance, demonstrating an assortment of talents.
“Something they always tell you in the arts is that if you just do one thing, you’ll never get there. You have to be really versatile,” Collins said. “That’s why I wanted to deal not only with music, but also with the music business.”
Its ability to pivot proved particularly useful with the onset of the covid-19 pandemic and its effect on teaching.
“We had to move to fully virtual singing lessons, via Zoom,” she said. “You would be on Zoom and you would try to work on these songs, and you would try to solve all these problems with your songs. And then Zoom would shut down, and you’re just stuck in limbo and you don’t know what to do. So it was a very great learning experience, not only for us but also for the teachers.
In the meantime, Collins was gaining professional experience outside of show business working as a community manager for Excellence in Analytics, a services company that works with law enforcement and other professionals to implement data-driven strategies.
His work in Boston actually represents a comeback. In high school, she was selected to attend Berklee’s Vocal Summit and Musical Theater Intensive programs.
“So it’s always been in my head that I like this school. I had a relationship with them. I had experience in certain buildings. I knew the campus pretty well,” she said , and regarding the vocal department’s interview process, “it really helped me stand out.
His overall resume at this point couldn’t have hurt him either.
For a video of Caroline Collins’ first grade Penn State vocal recital, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9ApqCu_X4U.
Harry Funk is a news editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Harry at [email protected]