Singer Margaret Chalker performs at the PAC
By Caroline Pain
“I have this fire inside that makes me want to perform.”
After a four-decade-long soprano career, Margaret Chalker retired last year. However, when her longtime friend and professor at University at Albany, Victoria von Arx invited her to perform on Friday, Oct.17, she did not hesitate for a second.
Margaret Chalker comes from a musical family. When she entered Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, she decided to commit herself to become a music professor. In her junior year she sang her first role as the Countess in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” and realized she really loved to perform too.
“I was bitten really. It was the music that I loved first but then, singing was so amazing,” said Chalker.
After getting her BME, she started teaching music. Thanks to a graduate assistantship she received at the Syracuse University, she managed to discover and work at the Syracuse Opera Company while teaching.
“I figured teaching was the best way to learn,” explains Margaret Chalker, “Once you manage to understand things so well so that you can teach them to other people it means that you have really internalized this knowledge.”
She managed to keep both things going for a while, making her passion grow stronger. She gained some recognition for her work in 1980 when she won first place at the Baltimore Opera Competition. After that, she decided to take a position on the voice faculty in SUNY Fredonia. However, she still hoped to become a full-time professional.
“I worked at Fredonia for two years, and then I decided to take a leave of absence to think about it,” said Chalker. “And in the end, I gave it a try.”
When asked about fear, she replied unblinkingly, “I did not consider fear, I could not. It was not part of me, I have to move forward.” She was aware of the fierce competition in her profession, and yet she succeeded in remaining positive.
“There are a lot of us on earth, that’s for sure. But I truly believe that there is room for everybody. You just have to find your way to express what you want to express. When I started out, singing my very first role in this college opera, I had no idea how successful I would become.”
And successful she was. After performing in various places in the U.S., she moved on to Europe where she quickly earned a position in Düsseldorf. For this great opportunity, Chalker had to leave her daughter to be taken care of by relatives for a couple of years.
“That was the price to pay, I would say,” recalled Margaret Chalker. “I always believed that we can handle anything and that it will all work out eventually.” Even though she admitted that it was really hard at first, she Chalker said she had no choice.
“I needed the money. I had a family to support, I could not afford to let this opportunity go.”
Chalker has an air of youth, and is extremely active after so many years due to exercising. “You have to keep things going, you know! Being a singer is not only about your voice. I have been doing pilates and yoga for years and years. A part of me still has, and probably always will, this fire inside that makes me want to perform.”
But her real secret is probably much simpler than that: work. “Luck is a lot of preparation. Work, that’s all that it takes to make the way for luck.”