Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lawyer honored for pursuit of opera career

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Gazette
Chinwe Enu recently left her job as a lawyer to pursue her dream of becoming an opera singer. See story on Page A-5.
Since she was 16, Riverdale Park resident Chinwe Enu knew she wanted to be a professional opera singer, but it wasn’t until more than 10 years later that she would begin to work toward her dream.

Last fall, Enu, 28, decided to leave her job as a lawyer to return to school full-time and pursue a bachelor’s degree in music.

‘‘When I moved permanently to the United States I started to take voice lessons,” said the native Nigerian, who moved to the United States in 1994. ‘‘But when I was a kid I wanted to be a model, actress and a singer. I wanted to do something glamorous.”

For following her dream, Enu was recently given the African Jewel Award in April through African Focus, Inc., a California-based nonprofit organization that focuses on the growth and well-being of Africans worldwide.

Enu performed at the African Goodwill Awards ceremony in Los Angeles in April when she was presented with an engraved plaque from AFI her for accomplishments.

‘‘Because of my story, they [honored] me for being an inspiration to young African people,” she said.

She has also performed at a Christmas concert at the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Silver Spring and had a large performance in Nigeria last June.

Enu said as a teen, her parents said she needed to study something more practical than singing opera.

‘‘I was too young to be able to tell them that I didn’t want to study law,” she said. ‘‘But now I do have a law degree — there is a back up.”

Enu is finishing her first year at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Music and is scheduled to complete her degree in another year and a half.

‘‘It’s not seen often,” said Carmen Balthrop, Enu’s voice professor at Maryland, of Enu choosing to return to school. ‘‘It’s not easy to do something like that, especially if you spent your formative years studying something else.”

But Balthrop said she doesn’t think Enu turned her back on law — she still does some contract law work — but is broadening who she is.

‘‘Her knowledge as a lawyer may work in her favor in the entertainment industry,” she said. ‘‘She’s pursuing an area and developing an area that she has a talent for. Sometimes people have a talent and they don’t pursue it. She’s one of those people who is pursuing the talent she has.”

Once Enu finishes her bachelor’s degree, she is considering the idea of continuing her vocal training and pursuing a master’s degree in opera performance.

‘‘Definitely, though, in the long term I’m trying to do this full time and professionally,” she said. ‘‘I hope to get a job with an opera company in the States or in Europe.”

E-mail Maya T. Prabhu at