Nurse Laura Melton studied classical music repertoire at UAB while earning her degree and performed in Italy this summer after missing the trip due to the pandemic.
Balancing a love of the arts with pursuing a career in healthcare is possible at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and recent graduate Laura Melton knows it firsthand.
Melton, 22, graduated from the School of Nursing in the spring of 2022 and works for UAB Medicine as a nurse in the neuro-intensive care unit. She always loved to sing and taught herself to play the guitar, but she knew nursing was her career path. What was not yet discovered was his talent for opera singing and the joy it would bring him.
The mentorship she received through the Department of Arts and Science’s music faculty led her to embrace this passion, as well as connecting her to music jobs in the city and even a trip to Italy she thought was lost during the pandemic. Her musical education while earning her undergraduate degree was purely recreational, she says, but ended up being a beloved hobby and an important outlet for her mental health.
“I got interested in the music program because I’ve always loved singing and thought joining the UAB Concert Choir would be a great way to meet people,” Melton said. “I did my audition with Dr. Brian Kittredge, the choir director, and Dr. Won Cho, my teacher, had an opening in the studio and asked me if I wanted to do some classes, just for the sake of it. pleasure.”
When she came to her singing studio, her work ethic, her keen ear for music, her love for singing, her maturity beyond her years, and her voice were so evident that Cho engaged her contacts to recommend her to local professional choirs. He doesn’t usually recommend freshmen to take on such a responsibility, but this young woman “was an exception,” he said.
Melton, from Helena, Alabama, had never sung opera or other classical vocal music and learned she had a natural talent for it.
“I think he heard something in my voice and he thought this style would suit me,” she said. She “reluctantly” learned of the pieces he recommended and, to her surprise, loved them. “It’s such a big noise, and I love it. It’s my favorite style of singing and I don’t really like doing anything else anymore.
As part of her musical training, Melton was supposed to be going to Italy as a sophomore in 2020. She had finished her auditions and her music was ready, and then COVID hit — and hit Italy the hardest. “It was so disappointing,” Melton said. “I felt so discouraged, because the next year I was going to start nursing school, and I felt like it was my last opportunity. Dr Cho tried to keep it encouraging, saying “maybe another time we can do it”.
Melton, who was in the UAB Honors College Custom Track, earned her undergraduate nursing degree on a presidential scholarship and sang the UAB national anthem and alma mater in early spring. end of April 2022. She was studying for the NCLEX, an exam to be licensed as a registered nurse and preparing to start her nursing job in June when she received a message. Cho was traveling to Italy, where he would join other singing students and teachers as a faculty member artist for a month of intensive master classes. Was she still interested?
Melton had planned her job as a nurse, but knew that once she started working, that opportunity wouldn’t come again.
“It’s so hard to get that time, and I was like, ‘I just gotta do it, I just gotta do it,'” she said. “I spoke to my recruiter, and they were very accommodating, so I went into action mode. I had a month to raise all my money, learn all my music. ‘was unbelievable.
She participated in the Assisi Performing Arts Music Festival 2022 with a full scholarship and was in Italy for a month with 21 other singers. The students performed in master classes that resembled public singing lessons, where they sang, and an expert offered them constructive suggestions and ideas for improving their performance skills, live in front of an audience. Hearing the master teacher’s comments helped her learn and master her own voice.
“It was intense. I’ve never had such a rigorous musical upbringing,” Melton said. “It was like rehearsing all day, really fast, and the people you’re with are all so good. It’s very intimidating, and you try to keep up. At the end of the day, it was tiring; But it was so worth it.”
In addition to receiving voice lessons and singing in master classes from four voice teachers from Italy, Korea and the United States, Melton performed solos in six concerts and sang at masses, including at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Melton has “a particularly beautiful and strong mezzo-soprano voice,” said Gregory Scime, artistic director of the festival and assistant professor of piano at Seton Hall University.
“The festival requires singers to learn and perform a lot of music in a short time,” Scime said. “Laura had a serious approach to learning music and showed great confidence in performance. I am familiar with the difficult courses required of nursing students — organic chemistry, anatomy and physics to name a few. It is therefore quite remarkable that Laura excelled in her musical studies, which also included difficult lessons.
Italy was wonderful, and when she returned she felt “so rejuvenated, because I had just spent five semesters in nursing school studying hard, and I felt refreshed and ready to come back.” , she said.
“I think that break helped me come back better than I would have if I had gone straight, almost,” she said. “I was stressed to take this leave initially; but honestly, I think it was for the best. I’m so glad I did it even though it was scary.
Melton is taking a year off before starting graduate school to work in the neuro-intensive care unit and hopes to get a better idea of the nursing path she would like to follow. As she is an employee, after six months UAB Medicine will prepay her tuition.
So many of the people she graduated from UAB with chose to stay and work at UAB, she says, “They know they love school; they know that, when it comes to staying local, this is the best hospital around. You are going to have the most resources and the best learning experiences. UAB Medicine also provides specialized support for new nursing graduates, such as the nurses’ residency program that eases the transition into practice, and continues to support nurses with additional programs beyond the 100 educational benefit. % for tuition assistance. Those interested in a nursing position at UAB Medicine can find out more on its website.
Melton has been a member of the Sanctuary Choir at Mountain Brook Baptist Church for five years and will join the Opera Birmingham Chorus next season. She is also a guest singer in the High Holy Days Choir at Temple Emanu-el, along with top professional singers in the region.
Melton is far from alone in studying music while pursuing a medical major. the University of Florida. Elaine Liaw ’16 was a flute and kinesiology double major who earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from UAB in 2019.
Her advice, if she had to start all over again, would be to keep doing what you love. She was able to take singing lessons because her teacher adapted to her schedule. But she quit the choir when she started nursing school because she thought she wouldn’t be able to make it work.
“Looking back, I wish I had asked for help managing my schedule, because looking back, I realize that your professors and deans want you to be able to do what you want to do,” he said. she declared. “Don’t assume it won’t work – always ask.”