The Catholic University of America

Molly Allen

Surprising Path Leads to Starring Role

Music has always been a part of Molly Allen’s life, but if you had told her not too long ago that she would have a leading role in Catholic University’s spring opera, which opened March 19, she would have been surprised.

Allen, a senior vocal performance major from Mountain Top, Pa., was diagnosed with thyroid cancer just a few weeks before her CUA orientation in August 2011. The thyroid is so close to the vocal chords that Allen feared the cancer would affect her singing.

“I was just about to go into my freshman year of college as a vocal performance major. If I couldn’t sing anymore, I would have to rethink everything,” Allen recalls.

On Aug. 3 that summer, just two weeks before she was set to arrive at Catholic University, Allen had surgery to remove the cancer.

“I was lucky,” she says. The surgery was successful, and Allen was able to begin school on time. That winter break she underwent one more treatment, and went into remission just in time for her second semester. Her voice remains unaffected by the cancer.

At CUA, Allen’s leading role in the spring opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, which runs through March 22, would have surprised her younger self, she says. Her older brother is a jazz musician with the Philly Pops, and as children they both studied jazz music. When she was eight, Allen learned to play the saxophone. Around the same age, she began voice lessons. At home, she belted jazzy Ella Fitzgerald songs, and at her lessons, she sang musical theater numbers.

A self-described shy child, Allen says she saved the belting for her bedroom and cried at her first recital. It wasn’t until her vocal coach introduced Allen to classical music that she began to grow, she recalls.

“I tried classical music and I just totally fell in love. I wasn’t as shy because I was more comfortable with what I was singing. It just fit. It was definitely a transforming moment,” says Allen.

Allen’s singing coach at Catholic University, Sharon Christman, head of the Vocal Division and opera advisor for the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, says of the once shy Allen, “She is passionate and secure on the stage. I see her under the diva lights in the future.”

Allen is one of the only undergraduate performers in Rigoletto with a leading role — she is playing Gilda. “It’s a difficult part,” explains Allen. “You’re on stage and you have to be acting, singing, looking at the conductor for cues, and totally immersed in your character.” To prepare, Allen spent at least four days a week rehearsing with the entire cast, and twice a week meeting with the conductor for private coaching.

Despite this rigorous schedule, Allen couldn’t be happier. “I get to do what I love all day long,” she says.

Rigoletto marks the first time that Allen is performing such a large role with a full orchestra. That’s what she is most excited for, Allen says.

When she’s not rehearsing, Allen can be found at the Eugene I. Kane Fitness Center teaching cycling classes. She’s a certified spin instructor, and she has been teaching at CUA for four years.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet people outside my major,” she says. “It also helps with your voice because you have to be able to breathe and sing well even when you’re running across stage.”

Allen says she enjoys meeting other students outside of her major at cycling classes, in her many language courses, and during her poetry course. As a vocal performance major, she took two semesters each of German, Italian, and French to help her pronunciation, and a semester of poetry to help her understand language formation.

During her senior year of high school, when Allen was auditioning for music schools, she did not know where she would end up. A welcoming panel of judges at CUA persuaded her that Catholic University might be her top choice.

“My audition here was one of my last, and it was a cold, sleeting day. I was running late and I was so stressed. When I got into the audition, the panel was so friendly. It was such a change from all of the other schools I had auditioned for. I was immediately comfortable and relieved,” Allen recalls.

Following Commencement in May, Allen hopes to attend graduate school for vocal performance, and one of the places she’s considering is Catholic University.

“Catholic has given me an awesome education and I have improved so much, but I’m not done learning yet,” Allen says.

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Molly Allen

Hometown: Mountain Top, Pa.

Major: Vocal Performance

Productions at CUA: 5

First opera she saw: The Magic Flute

Favorite CUA event: Relay for Life

Favorite non-music class: Creative Writing: Poetry