Grad Found His Voice on Charlotte Stages

Christian Souza
Friday, May 3, 2024
Christian Souza heads to UNC School of the Arts for a Master of Music

“There are so many great opportunities as a result of being in Charlotte,” says Christian Souza. “Say yes to everything that you can.”

His openness to opportunity has placed Souza, who graduates this month with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance, on stages and in spaces across the city and in competitions along the eastern seaboard.

As the son of a pastor, Souza “grew up a church singer” and has sung continuously in choirs, from elementary school in Anchorage, Alaska, through high school in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and throughout his time at UNC Charlotte – including as a paid choir member at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church for the past three years. Choral singing is his musical bedrock, and Souza has a special appreciation for Assistant Professor Jason Dungee, director of choral activities in the Department of Music.

Christian singing in choir
Christian Souza performing with the University Chorale under the direction of Dr. Jason Dungee.

“Dr. Dungee has been so amazing to work with. The level of care that he puts into the music, the amount of nuance that he gets from a large group, is so impressive.”

But it was a role in Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah, presented at the Halton Theater at Central Piedmont Community College, that put opera at the forefront of his aspirations. Since then, Souza has sung the toreador Escamillo in Carmen and the hero Tamino in The Magic Flute through the UNC Charlotte Opera Workshop program, participated in the International Lyric Academy opera training program, and toured with Opera Carolina’s educational outreach program, Opera Xpress, which each year takes an opera production into local schools and community centers to perform for elementary students.

Ashley Lam, Opera Carolina’s Senior Director for Learning, has heard Souza perform several times during his years at UNC Charlotte.

“When Christian came to the International Lyric Academy last summer, his voice had just exploded in all the best ways,” she said. That led Lam to tap Souza for the Opera Xpress tour, a professional experience that offered him more than 30 paid performances this year.

Christian in Opera Xpress touring children's opera
Christian Souza performing for children in the OperaXpress production of  Los Coyotes y Las Conejas.

His powerful tenor has also earned him top prizes in the Mid-Atlantic NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) Student Auditions several years in a row. This spring, he received First Place in Male College Level Tenor, Baritone & Bass Voice category and a Judges Award at the state NATS competition and First Place in the Advanced Post-Baccalaureate Classical Tenor, Baritone, Bass division at the regional competition.

Souza will pursue a Master of Music in voice and was accepted into graduate school at Indiana University and the UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA). He has chosen to remain in North Carolina for the conservatory training at UNCSA, which accepts just eight students into its graduate vocal performance degree program.

“It’s very selective, so I’m glad I made it,” he said.

He has found the intimate size of the vocal program at UNC Charlotte to be one of its greatest assets.

“Because it’s so small, you really get to work with everybody, which has been really invaluable.”

Though he entered the university as a business major, Souza is now looking forward to a career in music and hopes to build upon the many opportunities he had here at Charlotte.

“At the end of the day, I’d like to perform full time. I love it.”