FHSU grad returns to his musical roots

Calder Craig

By Randy Gonzales
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Professional singer and Fort Hays State University graduate Calder Craig is back in his hometown of Russell through the month of July. He is combining work with pleasure, catching up with old friends while at the same time performing as a guest artist at Russell's Ad Astra Music Festival.

"It's been really nice to be back among family, here in my old haunts, seeing old friends," said Craig, a 2007 graduate of Russell High School who turned 29 last week. "I don't have any responsibilities here other than music. That's been a real pleasure."

Craig, a 2014 Fort Hays State graduate in musical performance, went on to earn his master's degree in classical voice performance at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in 2016. After graduation, Craig remained in New York City, where he now works as a barista to help pay the bills while also performing with an opera company, LoftOpera.

Craig took voice lessons from Dr. Joseph Perniciaro, associate professor of voice at FHSU, for a couple of years while in high school. Perniciaro suggested Craig audition for scholarships and apply to Fort Hays State.

"Fort Hays State, I felt, supported and had opportunities I would not have had at other schools because of the size of the music program," Craig said. "I got a lot of special attention because the teachers weren't overwhelmed with too many students. We could perform operas that I might not have had a chance to perform.

"Fort Hays State was the right fit for me."

The Ad Astra Music Festival began its final week with free chamber music concerts, featuring the Ad Astra string quartet. There will be a concert at noon Wednesday at the Russell Senior Citizens Center. On Friday at 1 p.m., there will be another concert at Espresso Etc. in downtown Russell.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the festival will close with a semi-staged performance of Handel's "Samson" at Trinity United Methodist Church. Admission is $10. At 10 a.m. Sunday at the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria, the 2017 Young Artists will perform a "Jager" Mass during the regular Mass that morning.

Craig, who is interested in bringing classical music to those uninitiated audiences, and watching them learn to enjoy it, performed at his hometown musical festival in 2014 during its formative years. He returned this summer as a paid professional singer. Craig's goal is to perform professionally for his lone source of income. Music is his life.

"I've been performing for as long as I can remember," Craig said, "from kindergarten all the way up."

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