Presidential Scholar Maggie Hunt Arrives with a Big Voice — and Bigger Plans
A funny thing happened to Maggie Hunt as she took music classes and performed at her magnate school in Florida: She decided she didn’t need to be the one in the spotlight. “I figured out I liked the behind-the-scenes stuff a little bit more than the actual performing,” she says.
Of course, Hunt isn’t prepared to give up singing entirely. One of the things she’s looking forward to about Georgia State — where she just began her freshman year as one of 10 new Presidential Scholars in the 2015-16 class — is the ability to continue performing even as she pursues a degree in music management.
“I fell in love with the fact that they’re really big into opera and I would still be having private voice lessons every week,” she says. “That’s been my life for the last five years, and I really look forward to going. I just felt more at home knowing I was going to keep singing and not wasting all the energy I’ve put into it.”
The Stage Is Set
Originally from Lake Wales, Fla. — a small town she describes as “nothing but orange groves” — Hunt attended high school at the Harrison School for the Arts, about 30 miles down the road in Lakeland. She remembers her high school years as being full of performances and full of trips to Walt Disney World, sometimes at the same time.
“Disney has this show at Epcot each Christmas called ‘Candlelight,’ and high schools audition to be part of it,” she says. “My school got to sing in it for a few years. We’d sing four days in December, 12 shows of ‘Candlelight,’ and we got two free tickets to Disney World for every day we went. But if we performed Christmas Day, we got four tickets, so I was coming out with 10 or 12 tickets a year.
“Because so many of my friends had those tickets too, it almost became like our hangout spot. ‘Oh, it’s your birthday, let’s all meet at Disney.’ ‘It’s after our AP test, let’s go to Disney.’ We’d go all the time.”
Still, as much as she enjoyed performing, Hunt sensed that her true calling wasn’t on the stage. So she sought the advice of one of her teachers as to what else she could do with her talents. “In talking to him after school, he said, ‘I think you would be good at producing or managing an artist,’ so he led me in the direction of managing a business.”
‘I Just Felt More at Home’
Hunt admits that her chorus teacher was a little disappointed to hear her decision. “He definitely thought it was weird — he was like, ’Out of everyone in your class, you would be the one that’s most able to go on and be an opera singer and fill a whole house.’”
Though she assured him that she had no intention of giving up singing entirely, finding a college with her ideal balance of business and performing opportunities proved to be harder than it looked. For a while, she says, her first choice was a university in Nashville that offered direct inroads into the city’s music industry. “But what I didn’t like about their program was that I wouldn’t be singing at all anymore,” she explains. “They believe you don’t need to have a music background to be in the music industry, and that just seemed kind of backward to me.”
When Hunt got a call from Georgia State offering to fly her up to Atlanta for a visit and put her in a hotel, she says she originally saw it as a free trip that would let her cross a school off her list. But then another funny thing happened: She realized she loved it.
“Wherever I went, people were friendly, and I was treated like an adult,” she remembers. “And I was kind of blown away by how professional the Honors College is, especially in comparison to the other schools I looked at. Those places felt like middle-school orientation, and here it’s very professional and well run. Georgia State was originally my last choice and I didn’t really think twice about it, but once I came up in March, I said, ‘This is where I’m going, and this is where I should be.’”
Music to Her Ears
Through the School of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences, Hunt has access to specialized music management courses that can open up a wide variety of career options in the music industry. Not only that, she’ll have access to continued voice coaching and workshops focusing specifically on operatic performance.
“That’s just kind of what I’m good at,” she says. “My voice is really high, and it’s really loud. I know everyone hates opera, and a lot of singers hate performing classical music in general, but that’s what I’m good at. You just have to have a taste for it.”
Hunt admits, though, that she doesn’t listen to much classical music in her free time. “If I’m cleaning or writing a paper, I like to listen to symphonies and different things like that, but it’s definitely not my everyday music,” she says. “Actually, I like to listen to rap — Drake’s my favorite. I’m super excited because I’m seeing him here in September.”
Atlanta’s music scene, Hunt says, is just as active as Nashville’s and more diverse. Though she hadn’t spent much time here before coming to Georgia State, she’s looking forward to exploring the city and all the opportunities it has in store.
“I’m pretty excited because it’s very different from where I live,” she says. “I’m a little hesitant too, just because I don’t know anybody here. But when I started ninth grade, I was going to school 45 minutes away and I didn’t know anybody there, either. So I figure if I did it once, I can do it again.”