Musical mentorship leads to national prominence for Mason student

Opera singer and George Mason University student Crystal Golden is set to take the stage at Hylton Performing Arts Center this month.
Opera singer and George Mason University student Crystal Golden is set to take the stage at Hylton Performing Arts Center this month.
Photo and video by Lathan Goumas.

Every once in a while, hard work and dedication get someone the recognition deserved. ​

Thousands of hours of practice paid off when College of Visual and Performing Arts student Crystal Golden placed first in the graduate/advanced college women category of the 2018 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) vocal competitions.​

If you ask Golden, she’ll say she didn’t do it alone. ​

"I would say that my story is very much about people investing in me a long time before I knew that was important,” said Golden. ​

Her journey at Mason started before she left high school. Golden, who was part of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts program at Woodbridge Senior High School in Virginia, first sang for Patricia Miller, director of vocal studies and a Distinguished University Professor of Music, when she was 14 years old. ​

"She had a very special gift—even then I could see it,” said Miller. ​

When it was time for Golden to apply to college, she decided to follow the professor who had already taught her so much. Golden, a soprano, applied to Mason and earned her bachelor of music with a concentration in vocal performance in 2016, graduating summa cum laude.​

After searching for graduate schools, Golden decided to return to Mason to continue studying with Miller for her master of music degree. She received the Peterson Endowed Vocal Studies Scholarship to help her continue her studies. ​

Anyone around them can see the close relationship between the student and professor. Golden said that Miller teaches with tough love because Miller, a world-renowned mezzo-soprano, knows what Golden is capable of and pushes her to achieve the best. ​

"She has only made me be the singer, the musician and the person she saw that I could be when I was 18,” said Golden.​

Golden has talent but also the dedication to put in the hard work. She practices four hours a day, and practices with Miller and her collaborative pianist, Eunae Ko Han, multiple times a week. Miller said that Golden always comes to her classes ready with pieces for critique and fine-tuning. ​​

Golden is already making a name for herself on the world stage. She has performed in multiple Mason productions, studied abroad at the University of Oxford and joined Miller for the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival. During her junior year as an undergraduate, she was invited to join the honor societyPhi Beta Kappa at Mason for her academic achievements.  

The NATS competition was broken into multiple parts: a state level, regional level, video audition and the final national competition, hosted this year in Las Vegas at the University of Nevada. 

Golden in previous years had won at the regional level, but this is the first time a Mason student has won first place at the national level. As part of her award in the NATS competition, she has received invitations and a scholarship to attend the American Institute of Musical Studies in Austria.

For the finale, Golden sang “Oh, Quand Je Dors,” which is French for “Oh, When I Sleep,” a song Franz Liszt composed based on a Victor Hugo poem about seeing one’s lover when they are dreaming. 

"She created that for that audience,” said Miller, who was in the audience during her performance. “People were weeping … because of the beauty of her voice." 

Golden’s next performance will be as Belinda for the Mason opera’s performance of “Dido and Aeneas,” at Harris Theatre on the Fairfax Campus on Friday, Nov. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. and at the Fairfax Old Town Hall on Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.