Student opera singer has low voice, high hopes

Thursday, December 12, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:17 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 12, 2013
Ben Worley leads the Add9 a cappella group. He hopes to someday perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera.

COLUMBIA — The tiny room in Hatch Hall is filled with 1o men laughing and joking before singing practice begins for the Add9 a cappella group.

A piano is jammed in the corner, and the group stands in a circle in the middle of the room.

Ben Worley, a music major at MU and president of Add9, is music director of the group, which practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Add9 was founded in 2003 by men in the University Singers. It has performed at the Rotary Club and events such as Relay for Life and Mizzou Idol.

Members come from an array of majors — music, engineering, computer science, journalism and others.

Worley started off thinking he wanted to be an archaeologist. After receiving a music scholarship to attend MU, he changed his mind. He is now studying opera and hopes to be a professional singer.

Singing opera professionally takes ambition, perseverance, talent and practice.

"It's as difficult to be an opera singer as it is to be a professional athlete," said Christine Seitz, an associate teaching professor of music at MU.

"He has the talent, he has the voice for it," she said. "There's no reason he can't make it."

Worley became fascinated with singing at age 4. Both of his parents were involved in their local church choir on Sundays, exposing him to music at that early age.

During performances, Worley would stand under his father’s church robe and hum the tunes with the choir because he was too nervous to be seen by the parishioners.

Two years later, he began participating in church, middle school and youth choirs to stay involved and continue growing.

In high school, he sang in musical performances around Missouri. He attended an Add9 a cappella group performance during a stop in Columbia and fell in love with the style of music.

He said he felt in sync with the group as he observed the performance from cushioned theater seats in Jesse Auditorium. During the fall of his freshman year, Worley joined the group. 

“My favorite aspect is being able to make music with a bunch of different people," he said. "It’s extremely fun to get together with a group of people and just start making things with incredible sounds.” 

Worley's 10-year plan includes standing in front of a large crowd at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, though he knows this is a stretch. 

"That dream is rather lofty, but I will be happy being able to sing beautiful music anywhere," Worley said. 

Taking note of his steep goal, he hopes to graduate and pursue a career at the Chicago Lyric Opera by the time he reaches 30. 

Worley has set high external goals to achieve in the future, but he also has one important internal goal.

“I just want to make myself feel better and other people feel better," he said. "That’s the purpose of music.”

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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