For many people, one career is enough and they can’t wait until they retire. Mary Beth Adair of Rehoboth Beach has two demanding but much-loved careers. For 27 years, she has taught at the kindergarten level, at Rehoboth Elementary School, H.O. Brittingham Elementary School in Milton, then back to the Rehoboth school.
Also, at 53, Adair has had many years of musical training and an ambitious classical music career. And, now, an operatic phase of that career is about to take off.
Alex Helsabeck, music director for the Episcopal Parish of All Saints’ Church in Rehoboth Beach and St. George’s Chapel in Harbeson, has many musical, performing, and now directing and producing “irons in the fire.” He is a valued resource and friend of Adair.
It was Helsabeck who encouraged Adair to take a next step in her musical career. As one of his many musical interests, he is an artist in residence at the Redwoods Opera yearly workshop at the Mendocino, Calif. home and studio of internationally recognized operatic music coach Elizabeth Vrenios. Helsabeck submitted Adair’s name and she was accepted. The event starts Friday, June 14.
“We were told to submit two arias to perform,” Adair said. “The instructor sent me a scene from an opera and I have to memorize that scene and be ready to perform it. This is a challenge, as it involves stage presence and movement.”
Adair’s mother was her first voice teacher when she was in high school in Kimberton, near Valley Forge, Pa. “My mother was a highly skilled pianist and it was she who first thought I had talent,” Adair said.
Adair said she went on through her early years of school including, eventually, her studies in Philadelphia at Villanova University for a graduate degree in education. At that point, still singing, she studied and sang with some professional, classical music groups, and with them, went overseas to sing a number of times, while she was teaching.
“The highlight of that period was when I sang the Brahams Requiem with the famous director Claudio Abbado, in Italy,” she said. “Then, I had opportunities to sing operatic arias and other music.”
During her years as a kindergarten teacher, Adair has continued to study singing and appear in classical music and Broadway-style productions as soloist and chorus member. “I’ve done everything from singing at weddings and funerals, to singing in church choirs and I still do that as time permits, but now, I’m focusing on operatic music,” she said. She also trains beginning young vocalists in the beach area.
Early on, Adair became a student of voice coaches and trainers Dan and Nancy Pressley, of Rehoboth Beach. “A musical contact steered me in their direction,” she said. “It was a lucky break.”
Currently, as she studies for the next step in her musical career, singing opera, she is the student of Dr. Monte Long of Milton. “He is now my voice teacher and coach,” she said. Helsabeck referred her to him. Doug Yetter of Clear Space Theatre Company in Rehoboth Beach has also been a valued friend and music training source for Adair.
“My husband, Bob, has made my dual careers possible, “ Adair said. “I know that classical music is not his thing, but he’s been so supportive of me. I couldn’t do it without him.” Bob will fly to California for Adair’s performances along with Shellie Wood, a Washington, D.C. musical friend of Helsabeck and the Adairs.
Adair has made music a key part of her teaching and performing, as well as her life.