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Conservatory alumna’s pursuit of passion is ‘Almost Charming’

Mar 24, 2020

When Taylor Carnes '19 transferred to University of the Pacific, she could not have predicted that her dream to become a music performance major would morph into a passion for stage directing.

Carnes expressed that passion during her senior year at Pacific in part by writing, directing and producing “Almost Charming,” a modern-day fairy tale told through pantomime and music.

“A year and a half ago I stepped way out of my comfort zone to write, direct and produce an eight-minute short film with a few hundred dollars from my personal savings and some very talented friends,” Carnes wrote on Facebook of her journey. ‘“Almost Charming’ has won four film awards, has been selected for 12 film festivals thus far, and is now officially a film available to stream on Amazon Prime. A wonderful way to start the new year!”

Almost Charming poster

She collaborated on “Almost Charming” with other Pacific alumni and a student. The film features original music by Thomas Ravago ’17, who graduated from the conservatory’s music composition program. Music therapy student Maddie Horton ’21 was the lead actress and Media X graduate Joshua King ’19 was assistant director. The project was funded in part by the conservatory’s Michael J. Hall Student Opportunity Grant.

Carnes had already received several accolades for her musical talents when she transferred to Pacific from the California State University System and she was focused on pursuing her passion for music performance.

“I chose to transfer to Pacific because I knew that I wanted to study with the professors in the voice department, specifically Dr. Lynelle Wiens and Professor Jim Haffner,” Carnes said. “I took voice lessons from Dr. Wiens in high school and she recommended me for the program.”

That changed after working as the titles manager at the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2017 and later assisting Haffner on the Pacific Opera Theatre productions. Carnes realized that more than anything she wanted to pursue career as a stage director. Her directorial debut was “All Kinds of People,” a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, featuring 13 conservatory students, which she co-created with fellow conservatory student Ethan Albala as a project for a seminar in opera stage directing.

“Professor Haffner recognized that Ethan and I wanted to pursue directing,” Carnes said. “The three of us sat down and found a piece that would work musically and dramatically. Ethan and I are both from musical theater backgrounds so Rodgers and Hammerstein were a natural fit.”

Shortly after graduating from Pacific in 2019, Carnes worked for the Aspen Opera Center at the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado, one of the leading classical music festivals in the country. She was hired as assistant to director Edward Berkeley, long-term Julliard faculty member and Tony Award nominee, and she hopes to return this summer. 

Carnes’ success continued into the new year. Early in 2020, she was hired as an assistant stage manager and projection caller for Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Eurydice” composed by Matthew Aucoin and directed by Mary Zimmerman, both MacArthur Fellows. “Eurydice” is co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera and stars Danielle de Niese, dubbed by The New York Times as “opera’s coolest soprano.”

The past year has been filled with many accomplishments and new opportunities for Carnes. Although some of them feel like a dream come true, she does not underestimate the importance of her education and experience earned at Pacific.

“Your career begins during your undergraduate studies,” Carnes advised incoming Pacific students. “Do not take for granted the relationships you will build and opportunities you will be given. Always be the person working hardest in the room.”

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