Music has always played a significant role in Dinyar Vania’s life, but the opera singer didn’t realize his greatest gift until he became a student at OCC.
Vania grew up surrounded by music. He started playing the piano at age four, his sister enjoyed the flute, and his brother favored the clarinet. Each of them also learned to play other instruments. The Vania children followed in the footsteps of their parents who had also played instruments at young ages. “My parents were very culturally conscious. They took us to the Syracuse Symphony a lot. Whenever they went to Broadway plays they would buy the soundtrack. There was always a lot of music in our house,” said Vania.
Vania attended Marcellus High School in the mid 1990s and was very active musically outside of school. He was a percussionist both in a rock band and with the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra. Vania wanted to pursue music in college but struggled to find the right school. “I auditioned at several upstate music schools but none of them impressed me. My mom suggested I visit OCC, and that’s when everything fell into place.”
It didn’t take long for Vania to stand out in OCC’s Music program, but it wasn’t in percussion. Retired Professor Richard D. McCullough saw something in Vania right away. “From his first moments in the voice studio, I could tell there was something special about his voice. Back in the mid 90s, Dinyar sang as a ‘baby baritone.’ As time went on, he began to open up and blossom. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh! I think there is a hidden tenor in there,’” said McCullough.
With the encouragement of McCullough and other Music professors Vania flourished. “Everyone was extremely supportive which meant a lot. There were many positive influences, and that really went a long way in my development and growth.”
Vania graduated from OCC in May of 1999 with a degree in Music and a specialization in Voice. “I received the best education of my life at OCC. Everybody from the Music department to my Astronomy professors to my History professors to my Liberal Arts professors – the education was by far the best anywhere I’ve ever been.”
Vania moved to New York City and began to pursue his dream. He worked as a semi-professional chorister, singing in ensembles with choral artists for the New York Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and anywhere else he could. “I was getting great opportunities. I learned a lot about how those at the top of their profession work and conduct themselves.”
To make ends meet Vania also worked at Tower Records in Lincoln Center and as a full-time baby sitter. While dividing his time between multiple jobs Vania continued to grow professionally. He was invited to audition with the New York City Opera Chorus and did well enough to become an associate chorister. After one year Vania was promoted to understudying principal roles, then went to singing main stage principal roles.
During the summer of 2014 Vania returned to upstate New York and worked at the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown. He performed the lead role of Pinkerton in “Madame Butterfly.” One of his shows was attended by several members of his Onondaga family including McCullough, retired Music Professor Donald Miller, and Music Professor David Abrams. Abrams wrote a review for CNY Cafe Momus, a website dedicated to classical music, opera, and theater.
Vania lives his life on stage and on the road where he spends eight to nine months out of the year. After Cooperstown it’s on to Nebraska for Opera Omaha, where he will be singing The Duke in the Italian Opera “Rigoletto.” When he gets to Omaha he’ll be reunited with his fiance, Rachele Gilmore. She’s a soprano who will also be performing in “Rigoletto.” Gilmore is an Atlanta native who met Vania when they worked together in Knoxville, Tennessee. “This is the life we’ve chosen,” said Vania. “We both love what we do and understand we won’t always be able to be together.”
As Vania moves from city to city his former professors will continue to follow his work with great interest. “Teaching Dinyar and having had some small level of influence with his career development was more than just professional pleasure. He is not only an accomplished singer, Dinyar is sincerely a fine individual with a huge heart full on kindness. I so look forward to following his career and further vocal development,” said McCullough.
You can follow Vania’s career at his website.