Vocalist Carissa Scroggins has performed in opera and musical theater in several venues; however, she is teaching in the Cedaredge Vision Charter Academy this year.
"I teach in the Cedaredge Middle School, seventh and eighth grades, with a combination of 11 students. Seven of the students are in eighth grade and four are in seventh grade," Carissa said.
"I teach all the subjects in the curriculum for seventh and eighth grades," she said.
Carissa lives with her parents, Dennis and Chary Scroggins, in Cedaredge, having moved with them last August when Dennis accepted the pastor position at Grand Mesa Southern Baptist Church in Cedaredge.
Carissa joined the Valley Symphony Chorus at the beginning of its season in August 2016. She soloed with the Chorus in its 2016 Christmas concert, singing "O Holy Night".
She also soloed with the Chorus at its concert for Mother's Day, May 14, singing "Thank You for the Music", a medley from the Mama Mia musical.
Both these performances were at the Pavilion in Montrose.
In May 2016 Carissa performed with Opera Cultura in San Jose, Calif., as "Elisa" in Rio de Mujeres.
Carissa will perform at Chapel of the Cross on Thursday, June 8, singing a variety of opera arias, art songs, jazz standards, selections from musicals and one hymn. She will be accompanied by pianist Sharon Clark.
Carissa's love of music seems to have been inborn.
"I sang before I talked," she said.
"I was matching pitch before I walked. My parents would sing to me and I would match their pitch."
Carissa's parents were missionaries in Indonesia for 17 years, which left her without many of the opportunities to learn subjects outside the usual curriculum available to other children citizens of the United States. Carissa spent her high school years in a boarding school, provided by the Southern Baptist Convention.
In her senior year of high school, Carissa applied to Shorter College (now Shorter University) in Rome, Ga., seeking to major in music, vocal performance. She was drawn to opera and musical theatre. Living in Indonesia, Carissa was not readily available to appear before the admissions board at Shorter to audition personally.
"In high school I had a couple of teachers who were very helpful. One was a music teacher," Carissa said. "She helped me prepare an audition tape to submit to Shorter College.
"I sent the audition tape to Shorter and was accepted as a student.
"I left Indonesia in 2005 for the States. My dad came with me, assured that I was settled in in my dormitory at Shorter, then flew back to Indonesia," she recalled.
Carissa graduated Shorter College in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in Music, Vocal Performance.
She sang in many operas at Shorter College, including the role of "Mother" from Hansel und Gretel.
Between her undergraduate studies and her graduate studies Carissa sang with the Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute in its summer program in South Dakota.
Carissa enrolled at University of Kansas and earned a master's in music in 2013.
While at University of Kansas Carissa performed in various university musical events, including singing the role of "Queen of the Night" in Mozart's Magic Flute and performing in the musical Kiss Me Kate.
During one summer while at KU Carissa performed with the Brevard Music Center summer program in North Carolina. One of her roles was "Blanche" from Dialogues of the Carmelites by Poulenc.
She performed in other venues while in Kansas and worked at other jobs.
Carissa's parents retired from the missionary field after 17 years and moved to South Dakota. Carissa went to South Dakota for a year to be with her parents.
While there she worked in several jobs: at a grocery store, a clothing store, and for Habitat for Humanity, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Carissa took voice lessons while in South Dakota, sang in various churches, and thought about her next move.
She was a soloist for two seasons in South Dakota with the Orlando Chamber Orchestra, which comes to the Black Hills area every summer.
She sang "Queen of the Night." She was also asked to substitute for a singer who was unable to perform. She learned the role in three days and sang "Marie" from The Bartered Bride.
Next Carissa participated in the audition circuit in New York City. She sang the audition circuit for two seasons.
Performers apply several months in advance for auditions. Part of the application process requires paying a sometimes substantial -- and nonrefundable -- fee. Sometimes the performer won't hear back from the company confirming their audition until the week before. This makes planning travel difficult. And sometimes the company won't respond at all. This is taken as a big fat "NO." However, most companies are good about notifying singers one way or another.
Hundreds of performance arts studios are rented for the auditions. Representatives from each company or summer program attend and listen to singer after singer. Generally the directors and artistic directors are in attendance.
Carissa said, "There may be one to 12 auditors in the studio when you walk in. From the moment you walk in, they are judging you.
"You hand your music to the accompanist and give a list of the songs you are prepared to sing to the auditors. They choose which piece or pieces, or which part of a piece, they want to hear. They may choose the entire list.
"They may ask you to sing one to four songs. They may cut you off because time is limited."
Carissa continued, "It's an especially stressful situation. You have to plan your own transportation -- in New York City -- and locate your rehearsal studio in advance.
"The experience of doing the auditions is huge. It's lesson building, teaching you how to handle yourself in different situations.
"You have to project confidence, a tough exterior with a soft inside that can express emotion. You have to tap into your interior emotions, to be able to be moved.
"You have to separate the performer from the self. Your voice is your instrument and, if the body is stressed, it affects the voice."
Carissa considers her future.
"I have gone to school to prepare for opera and I have had professional performance experience.
"I stepped away this year to consider if I qualify for opera. Do I have the commitment, the perseverance, the tenacity for opera? I needed a rest. I needed to examine my heart," she said.
Carissa will enter University of Northern Colorado in Greeley this fall to pursue a Doctorate of Art in Vocal Performance, with a dual secondary emphasis in Music History and Operatic Direction.
"This will provide me with a very well rounded education," Carissa said. "My goal is to make myself marketable as a professor at a small school or college. I will wear many hats, everything in music, history courses, voice lessons, and the ability to head up opera productions."
Carissa will enter University of Northern Colorado with an assistantship which will enable her to teach some music classes, teach music history and help in the direction of all opera productions at UNC.