Photo submitted Michael J. Hawk, of Fredonia, is an accomplished baritone opera singer.

Recently, Hawk has seen his recognized talent and hard work pay off, culminating in major roles across the country, as well as award recognition by the musical theater community.

Not too bad for a kid who started signing when he was in elementary school here in rural Chautauqua County.

Hawk, 28, has seen his career as a baritone opera singer evolve from singing in the Chautauqua Children’s Chorale at the age of 10, to now performing in theaters across the country, from New York to Los Angeles. Angeles with Houston, Texas, Santa Fe, NM, and Aspen, Colorado also included.

Hawk’s success in the field was confirmed when he was recently selected as an Emerging Artist Award winner by Opera Index.

Michael J. Hawk, second from right, is shown with the cast of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Santa Fe Opera House in New Mexico.

Hawk remembers that when he was young he was able to perform in Alaska and Hawaii. He likened the experience to an athlete playing in major out-of-state tournaments. “Going to Alaska and Hawaii to perform was a special experience. In my own way, it was my own invitation,” Falcon said.

After graduating from Fredonia High School in 2012, Hawk went on to earn a Bachelor of Music: Vocal Performance from SUNY Fredonia. He continued his studies at Rice University, where he earned a Master’s degree in Music: Opera Performance in 2018. Hawk then became a member of the Los Angeles Opera’s Young Artist program.

Last summer Hawk starred as Don Giovanni in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart “Don Giovanni” and also starred in Giuseppe Verdi “Falstaff” at the Aspen Opera Theater in Colorado. Playing the role of the Don was what Hawk called his most defining role to date.

“It’s a role I’ve studied for a long time, and it just keeps growing and growing. It’s so fun to watch him evolve. Falcon said.

Acting as a villain has become a common occurrence in Hawk’s career because of his voice. “A lot of roles that I play, because I’m a baritone in an opera, the characters are already decided because of my type of voice. I play a lot of bad guys as a baritone, but I want to bring a lot of humanity to those characters. Falcon said. “I love tapping into these characters because it’s so far from who I am as a person.”

Michael J. Hawk, right, is shown performing on stage. Hawk recently received Opera Index’s Emerging Artist Award in recognition of the success he has had during his young career in musical theatre.

Hawk has also performed extensively with Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, including the role of Demetrius in a William Shakespeare adaptation. “A Midsummer Night’s dream.”

But of all the exciting roles Hawk has played so far, there are still two that he considers on his to-do list: Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof” and the main character of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Going back to his portrait as a student at Fredonia Central, Hawk has always appreciated Tevye’s humor and positivity. However, Hawk joked about the prospects of playing the role of Tevye professionally, “That’s very unlikely for me as a 28-year-old redhead, 6ft 6in tall. It definitely won’t be anytime soon.”

ACCEPTANCE

Partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawk once again resides in Fredonia. He lived primarily in Los Angeles after graduating from Rice University. Since moving, Hawk has focused on spending time with his family, auditioning, and competing in competitions, like the one he won to receive Opera Index’s Emerging Artist Award.

But the pandemic has meant more than just a change of address for Hawk. He found the time spent in solitary confinement particularly difficult.

“When all you’re left with is your thoughts, what we’ve all learned during the pandemic is that nothing can replace face-to-face communication,” Falcon said. “It was really exhausting. I remember thinking it was one of the hardest things I’ve done.

Considering some of the obstacles Hawk has faced in his life, this statement holds significance.

For many years Hawk struggled with the fear of not being accepted as a gay man. Hawk recalled that he only dated after college for fear of the response he might have had.

“For me, it was always me projecting my fears onto others. I was afraid they wouldn’t like me if I was different. If I told someone and they didn’t like not that, I would lose friends. he said.

But instead, Hawk was surprised by the warmth with which he was accepted, not only by his family members, but also by friends and members of his circle in the community.

“One of the best things I’ve ever learned is that the more true to yourself you can be, the more people can relate to you,” Falcon said. “I think when we’re treated with grace, that’s what we can then bring to ourselves and to others.”

PANDEMIC LIFE

“A lot of my struggles happened in a short time when I moved back to Los Angeles, living in a studio apartment and doing everything remotely,” Falcon said. “It was incredibly lonely.”

Years before the pandemic, Hawk suffered from an eating disorder, which caused aggressive episodes of binge eating and starvation in response.

“I dealt with overeating for years. I had a lot of cycles of shame that kept me from moving forward. It’s really easy to get stuck in cyclical traps like that,” he said. “I felt like a hamster stuck in a box. This lack of motivation was truly debilitating.

Throughout the pandemic, Hawk has been committed to improving his well-being. He wanted to find something positive in the negative circumstances surrounding the pandemic.

“The pandemic has been such a terrible time. But for me, it was also an incredibly brilliant time. It was a moment of self-love and reflection. Falcon said. “I remember thinking it was different. This is something that is a big turning point in the world for a lot of people. … I thought I could use this as an opportunity to grow. I watched how I took care of myself, physically and mentally.

Hawk bought a mini trampoline “to make (his) steps enter” work on his physical condition after struggling with his weight. He also bought a journal to help document his progress towards self-improvement.

“I remember buying a little journal at Target. I had just started focusing on myself and set myself the goal of eating healthy and walking every day for 40 days,” Falcon said. “I remember I got to the first 40 days, then I went on and got to the end of the log, then I bought another log. … It was something that was very gradual.

Hawk credits journaling, therapy, and working with a trainer for ways he’s been able to make such positive strides in his physical, mental, and emotional health in recent years.

“Having a coach has helped me change the way I think about things. I don’t shy away from having fun on certain days,” Falcon said. “There’s not much we’re looking for if we’re not having fun.”

THANKS

From the response online to especially now since Hawk returned to Fredonia, Hawk appreciates the community supporting him throughout his music journey and on his own path as well.

“I want to thank the community for the outpouring of support I have always received. It keeps me going.” he said. “I hang out with people here and I always remember that I have so much support. It really is a special community.


Today’s breaking news and more to your inbox