She was living in a hostel on a beach in Sydney, Australia with only $12 to her name. This wasn’t exactly the plan Kelsey Vicary had in mind following her Bachelor of Music degree from Western.
But the 23-year-old said that experience, among other adventures in her travels, has made her stronger and brought a different feel to her work, as she pursues her master’s degree in vocal performance.
“I was totally separated from my support network asking myself, ‘How will you support yourself and face new challenges?’” said the Niagara Falls native. “I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, even though I had zero money at one point. When you are travelling, you are meeting people all the time. It’s a constant stream of new; everything is new.
“To be able to keep up with the pace of that, it changes the way you come back and deal with the old.”
Growing up, she had always been motivated to pursue singing. There was never a doubt in Vicary’s mind she was going to sing for a living. However, one new thing Vicary had to face upon graduating in 2010 was hearing the word ‘no’ from admissions people when it came to applying to graduate school.
“I had no idea how competitive it was going to be and I was really heartbroken over this,” she said. “In hindsight, I was feeling pretty arrogant about it and this was a huge reality check. I really needed to look at myself and I ask if I could handle this.
“And, at the time, the answer was no.”
Working as a server at Palasad in London at the time, a co-worker was also having doubts regarding her program at Fanshawe College and tossed around the idea of taking a trip. One night, on the way to the movies, the two brought up the idea of Australia as a destination.
Without hesitation, they were off.
“It was totally an impulsive decision and it turned out to be the best decision I’ve made,” Vicary said.
After initially choosing Melbourne, Vicary admitted the two “didn’t budget that well” and she worked as a server for five months to earn enough money to head out across the continent, settling in Sydney, where through a network of new friends, she got another job as a server.
There were some definite moments where it was really tough to be away from her family, and friends knew she needed music back in her life, encouraging her to apply to grad school back at Western.
“Being away for a year, Western had exactly what I was looking for,” she said, adding while nervous to begin her master’s degree in Vocal Performance, there was also disappointment.
“You go away and see the world and you come back and nothing here has changed. But I had changed,” she said. “You can’t possibly be the same person when you’ve had so many experiences.”
Not only the beaches of Australia, but Vicary was able to experience southeast Asia on her way home. Some questionable night trains, harrowing bus rides up winding mountain roads and speedboat adventures along the Mekong River were just a few of the quests she conquered along the way.
Vicary is hopeful these life experiences will translate to her singing, as she is in the midst of auditions for the Young Artists Program at numerous opera companies across Canada and the States. Admittedly, the nerves are there.
“If you stop and think about it, then yes, you do get nervous, because it’s hard to be in front of people that are judging you. But it’s what I love to do and that helps me in these situations,” Vicary said. “The best part is when you are dealing with artists, especially other artists that are choosing people, they want to see someone who loves to sing and are ready to work and bring that joy into the room.
“People want to work with someone who has that perspective, I think … I hope.”
Vicary is also preparing for her role in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte at the Paul Davenport Theatre this February and is thrilled her music career has returned to where it initially began.
“Life is great,” she said. “I realized when I went away that if I find a way to work singing into my life somehow, I’m going to be just fine. That’s what travelling taught me, you have to be open to and ready for any experience that comes along.”