"I was incredibly well prepared for grad school and I owe all of that to Cornell and the high level of expectations of students and faculty…Cornell professors are already grooming a student for graduate school, should they want to continue their education."
-- Jim Thompson '04, foreground, from a Boston University performance of Dominick Argento's Postcard from Morocco
Jim Thompson '04
When Jim Thompson '04 handed opera legend Simon Estes a tape of his senior recital during a benefit concert in Monticello, Iowa, he was simply seeking singing advice. But Estes invited Thompson to become his protégé at Boston University, prompting Thompson to leave his high school vocal music post for a master's program in vocal performance at BU.
"With almost 43 years of professional singing, Simon has so much experience," Thompson says. "Having sung with the likes of Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras, Freni, and Leontyne Price, he has picked up tips from them along the way. So every time I go to my lessons, it is like I am studying from all of those people too."
Thompson says he thinks of Estes as a mentor and friend, not just a professor. He looks back at his Cornell professors with similar respect and fondness.
"The quality of the professors at Cornell is so high," he says. "I still refer to Dr. Chamberlain’s theory lessons when doing my theory homework now. Dr. Lisa Hearne is so knowledgeable about solo vocal repertoire, and is a fantastic singer herself. Dr. Jama Stillwell and James Martin’s passions for history are so evident in their instruction. I hope to be as intelligent of a musician as Dr. Martin Hearne. And I can’t thank Dr. Thull enough for all of his guidance."
Thompson says Cornell experiences helped him make a smooth transition to the demands of graduate school.
"The small class sizes allow for a student to really become engaged in the class instead of just blending in, " he says. "Going into grad school, I didn't know what to expect. I am happy to say that I was incredibly well prepared for grad school and I owe all of that to Cornell and the high level of expectations of students and faculty.
"Again, I still refer to the teachings of the professors at Cornell to help me with my schoolwork. What's also great is that I'm realizing that I have learned some of the concepts already at Cornell, which means that the Cornell professors are already grooming a student for graduate school, should they want to continue their education."
Thompson began his Cornell years in pre-engineering but realized he didn't want to have music be only a hobby. He switched to a vocal education major and performed with Concert Choir and Chamber Singers where he eventually earned soloist roles in major concerts.
Thompson graduated from BU in May, 2008, and returned to Cornell as a vocal music instructor for the 2008-2009 school year.