Sometimes the road to success depends upon who is listening. A pat on the back, a few words of encouragement, a suggestion for how to get on track - these signals often come from teachers.
This story began with a teacher's words of encouragement to a former student who is now an accomplished voice teacher.
Jane Dillard, 72, is professor emeritus of voice (music) at UNC Charlotte, where she taught applied voice and vocal pedagogy and directed the opera workshop. While at UNCC, she also established and directed the Women's Ensemble and won Outstanding Woman Teacher of the Year.
Some of her students have performed in Broadway musicals, and others with national and international opera companies. Many have been district and regional winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Roxboro-native Dillard began her musical career with piano lessons in fifth grade. It was her piano teacher who encouraged her to study voice.
But there was no voice teacher when she reached high school.
Determined to polish her vocal skills, Dillard and two other students formed a trio. They sang popular show tunes and Broadway hits, performing at school functions, concerts in the community and competitions.
"With anything, it's difficult to get your foot in the door," said Dillard. "With music, competition helps."
At East Carolina University, Dillard studied under Gladys White. She performed in musicals - "Annie Get Your Gun" was one of her favorites. She was granted an American Association of University Women Scholarship for post-graduate study at the Music Hochschule in Munich, Germany, and later returned to East Carolina, where she received a master's degree in music.
Dillard received three Rockefeller grants, providing an opportunity to complete an audition circuit in Europe.
During this tour, she was contracted as the leading mezzo-soprano with the Nuremberg Opera. She has since appeared as mezzo soloist with symphonies, in oratorio and in operatic performances throughout the southeastern United States. She has performed major roles in "Aida," "Il Travotore," "Carmen," "Madame Butterfly" and many more operas.
She has been active with the Charlotte Opera Guild and has held many offices, including past president, in district and regional National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Dillard holds National Certification for Teaching Achievement from the Music Teachers National Association and has received the Outstanding Teacher of Voice Award from the Association.
Both retired, Dillard and her husband, Noble, live in Marvin. They have two grown children and five grandsons. She continues to teach voice to high school through adult students in her private studio at home.
"Follow your passion in life," said Dillard. "Once I got into it and discovered what I totally wanted to do, I just followed my passion."