It wasn’t the singing debut that usually leads to a major role in “Phantom of the Opera.”
Four-year-old Sophia Masterson jumped at the chance when her teacher asked the class for volunteers to sing in a Christmas show. Sophia’s hand shot up as the lone volunteer.
Her mother, Teresa Masterson, remembered the moment her daughter took the stage.
“She sang, ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,’” Teresa Masterson said. “I was mortified because the other moms were like, ‘How does a little one even know that song?’ But Sophia had four older siblings.”
Now 18, Sophia Masterson doesn’t have to worry about what the other moms are thinking. The 2016 Lakewood Ranch High School graduate is starting classes at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to study vocal performance, which includes classical voice training combined with musical theater.
“The thing that sounds horrible to me is an office job.
I want to be never sure where I’ll be and always traveling and doing what I love to do.”
Masterson’s voice coach, East County opera singer Carol Sparrow, expects her student to become an elite talent.
Sparrow said Masterson showed innate talent, matching pitches and rhythms with ease when she came to her four years ago.
“She’s what we call a triple threat, in that she can sing up a storm, dance up a storm and act up a storm,” Sparrow said.
As a backup, Masterson will major in music education as well. She hopes she won’t have to use it.
“The thing that sounds horrible to me is an office job,” she said. “I want to be never sure where I’ll be and always be traveling and doing what I love to do.”
Teresa Masterson always has known about her daughter’s passion for performing. She now sees it every time her daughter goes on stage.
“It’s in them and it’s has to come out,” she said of Sophia and her fellow performers. “It’s a labor of love for them.”
Music has helped Sophia Masterson in other ways, according to her mom.
Academics didn’t come easily for Sophia, and in third grade she was in mostly remedial classes. When Teresa mentioned her daughter’s love of music, her teacher said to put learning to songs. It wasn’t unusual to hear mother and daughter singing about math.
“She ended up doing well,” Teresa Masterson said.
Growing up, Sophia focused much of her energy on sports, playing softball and soccer through sixth grade. On a whim, she auditioned for a part in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” at Nolan Middle School and earned a “tiny” part in the ensemble.
“I loved it,” Sophia Masterson said. “You’ve got to put on a costume and makeup. It was fun.”
In seventh grade, Sophia traded her cleats for a spot with the Sarasota Youth Opera.
“I would sing opera and then go home and listen to more opera,” she said.
As a freshman at Lakewood Ranch High School, she played “Trix” in the school’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and further solidified her love of character acting. Formal vocal training started in 10th grade. Then she started performing with Manatee Players, earning the lead role of Christine in “Phantom of the Opera” her junior year.
Along the way, she learned more about singing technique. “You can’t just sing,” she said, noting a person could strain or damage their vocal chords if they use them incorrectly. “You have to protect yourself.”
Besides the singing aspect, Masterson learned about the importance of acting as well. Singing an opera in a foreign language can make acting skills even more important when performing in front of an American audience.
“It’s almost like ballet,” she said. “You’re telling a story through your movement. Opera is story-driven.”
Masterson can’t imagine her life without performing, and her mother doesn’t believe that will ever be the case.
“I told her I’m going to go see her in the theater when she’s on Broadway,” Teresa Masterson said.