South Charlotte

Adding her voice to education

Opera singer Sonya Gable-Wilson, 45, recently opened OnStage School of Performing Arts at The Fountains at Ardrey Kell in south Charlotte.

The after-school program has approximately 200 students, the majority children age 8 to 12, although lessons and classes are offered for all age groups from toddlers to adults.

For the past three years, Gable-Wilson has provided in-home lessons and rented space for rehearsals. With the new facility as a permanent home, said Gable-Wilson, the school can expand to accommodate 750 students.

To be a school of performing arts, the school must include instruction in various disciplines and bring the training together in multidisciplinary performances, she said. For a fee, OnStage offers lessons and classes in voice, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums, musical theater, theater, songwriting and music theory, taught by 11 instructors.

The school has two facilities at The Fountains, a development that includes shops, restaurants and offices. The larger space is a rehearsal studio, while the other facility is divided into individual classrooms.

One of Gable-Wilson's goals for students is to perform two large musicals at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center each year, in addition to creative performances such as a rock opera or Disney production. Forty children and adults from the school performed "The Music Man" uptown at the Blumenthal McGlohon Theater on March 26.

"Everything we do, whether it is private lessons or a class, ends with an option to utilize the training in a performance," said Gable-Wilson.

Gable-Wilson began her own performance education at the University of West Georgia, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in vocal performance with a minor in piano, studying under former Metropolitan Opera singer Inge Manski. She went on to earn a Master of Music in voice performance and a Doctorate of Music in voice performance and musicology from the University of Florida.

Manski taught her about stage presence, said Gable-Wilson, and now Gable-Wilson teaches the same lesson to her students.

"When you walk on the stage, that is the time to show confidence and command a presence from your audience. When you walk off that stage, you put that away. That is when you become a real person.

"You better leave that diva presence on the stage," said Gable-Wilson. "At OnStage, we strive to teach the students teamwork, self-confidence and a healthy, artistic lifestyle and attitude."

Gable-Wilson is a coloratura soprano opera singer - the highest and lightest type of voice. With long, thin vocal cords, she can sing the highest notes and trill like a bird. Voices are categorized by texture; the coloratura soprano's sound is said to feel like silk.

Gable-Wilson has been an opera, operetta and musical theater singer with companies throughout the Southeast for 25 years. Her memorable roles have been as Queen of the Night in Mozart's "The Magic Flute," Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera," singing the dramatic aria "Glitter and be Gay" in Leonard Bernstein's "Candide," and playing of Maria in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music."

She has 20 years experience teaching voice and piano at the University of Florida, Mississippi State University and UNC Charlotte, where she taught from 2007 to 2010. She has also directed operas and musicals.

Gable-Wilson, who lives in Ballantyne, is married and has two Cocker spaniels.