Mercer Artist: Clay Young, musician
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Clay Young graduated from Mercer in 2016 after studying music education. Now he’s back for a master’s degree in choral conducting with aspirations in singing and opera.
Young is originally from Dublin, Georgia and has been interested in music since childhood. He got his start when he was around five years old by singing in preschool choirs in his church. Additionally, both of his parents were music pastors.
“Even from a young age, I’ve always loved music and always wanted to be involved in music,” Young said. “It’s just something I’ve loved waking up to every day to be able to perform . . . and also to be able to teach at the same time.”
Young said that after he graduates with his master’s next year, he is considering pursuing a career as an opera singer. He said that this would be “another avenue of music” that he would greatly enjoy testing out.
“I thank the Lord every day for the gift that he’s blessed me with,” Young said, “and thankful also for teachers at Mercer that have . . . helped me cultivate that into what I am today.”
Young first found an interest in opera when he was cast as Tamino in a Mercer University Opera performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in 2014. He said that this sparked a fire in him to perform.
“My voice teacher, Mrs. Marie Roberts, has really helped me grow . . . as far as what I would like to do in the future,” Young said. “She’s been a great teacher and really knows how to cultivate talent.”
He said that she has also helped him expand his abilities and encouraged him to get out of his comfort zone.
“At first, I felt like I had a shell when I was a freshman coming into Mercer and didn’t really know about performance. I know I enjoyed doing it, but I didn’t exactly know the way to go about it,” Young said. “But she took me in, took me under her wing basically and just said, ‘Look, I’m gonna teach you how to do this, and you’re gonna shine.’ And she’s done that . . . and it’s been a great experience.”
While in his undergraduate years at Mercer, Young also participated in multiple singing competitions, such as the Georgia National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition, where collegiate voice professors across Georgia bring in their students to compete. Young placed first in his category at NATS in both 2014 and 2016.
Young said that his experience has helped him to be better prepared for singing in a smaller setting with only a few people, such as in an audition.
“Those competitions give you good constructive criticism every time, and they tell you what you need to work on,” Young said. “What was great, what could be better, and how to take that and use that moving forward.”
Looking forward, Young said that he would love to end up at a young artist program with an opera company. He said that some of his friends have worked with young artist programs in Atlanta and at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He also said that he would love to grow into his voice and receive a role on the “big stage.”
“When I was in New York for [the Mercer Singers performance at] Carnegie Hall, I went to go see an opera at the Metropolitan Opera, and it really sparked my fire,” Young said. “It really gave new life to what I wanted to do, and that’s something that I would really like to continue to pursue in moving forward after this degree.”
Though he is focused on a future career, Young emphasized the heart of what it means to be a musician.
“Music is a choice. And not only is it a choice, but it’s an opportunity to not only inspire others but also to inspire yourself,” Young said. “You never know who you’re going to perform for in some cases. You may inspire someone someday that has been down, that has been through a rough patch, and you may sing one note that really inspires them and that really lifts their spirit. And that’s what we’re all here to do. No matter what, music lifts the soul, music lifts someone’s spirit, and that’s the ultimate goal. And that’s what I love doing every day.”