From Pigs to Horned Helmets: Amy Cope’s Musical Journey

“I grew up on a farm. Whenever I could, I’d sneak off and sing to the pigs. They were a great audience – never criticized or complained – they just stood there, eating and grunting. Singing to them gave me the freedom to sing out and express myself, and to practice being brave.”

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From serenading her family’s barnyard animals to singing the role of Senta in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Amy Cope has had nothing like a typical operatic career.

Throughout high school, Amy loved music, learning a number of different instruments, and earning a reputation for being the BIG voice in her choir. When she moved away to attend Simpson College, however, her focus shifted to pre-law, and music no longer played a role in her life. A chance encounter soon changed all that, however.

“A friend talked me into attending a choir concert. As they sang, my heart ached and I started crying. It was just so beautiful, and I realized how much I missed singing and having music in my life.”

Though her parents weren’t impressed with her decision to change majors from pre-law to Music Ed, Amy stuck with it, and soon enrolled in IU’s voice program. Not only was the size of IU a shock (there were more voice majors in her year than in her entire Simpson undergraduate class), but her voice was undergoing a transformation, too.

“My voice was something I had to grow into, which is pretty common for larger voiced singers. You have to find your place, and figure out what it is you can sing well. Mozart is light and delicate so doesn’t come naturally for me, but Verdi and Wagner have always just been easy. Yes, I’m one of the ladies in the magical horned helmets – that’s me!”

After IU, Amy moved to New York City, enrolled in Julliard, and started taking auditions. That was before September 11, 2001. Afterward, everything changed. Performances were cancelled, travel became difficult, audience attendance dropped, and opportunities started evaporating.

Amy spent seven more years in New York, winning occasional roles, serving as understudy when the opportunity came up, and always looking for that first big break. Time passed, that big role never materialized, and Amy realized that she’d given New York all she had to give. She came back to Bloomington, where she now works at IU’s Main Library.

Recently, a friend asked Amy to sing at her wedding.

“It had been a couple of years since I’d really sung, but it all came back. All the joy that I’d forgotten about, it was all just there, waiting for me.

During the service, I was crying, the audience was crying…we were all just weeping because of this beautiful gift of song. When I was younger, I always thought ‘eye on the prize,’ and focused only on making a career for myself. But now the prize is different, and it’s just as precious as ever.”