Neighboring University of North Georgia has a new voice teacher on its faculty in professional singer Emily Skilling, who is a 2010 graduate of Buford High School.
The daughter of two school guidance counselors (mom Kay, who retired from Buford Academy, and dad Rob, who retired from North Gwinnett Middle School), Emily began her academic career in Buford as a seventh grader. At BHS, she took honors and AP classes, was a member of the Beta Club, National Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars, graduated with a 4.0 GPA, was ranked seventh in her class and was on target to pursue a career in the medical field when she graduated from high school. However, in that summer after her high school graduation, fate had a different plan.
During her years at Buford, besides excelling in academics and playing JV tennis for three years, Emily was a standout performer. She was a member of the Band of Wolves as first chair flutist and section leader from seventh through 12th grades, was woodwind lieutenant in marching band from eighth through 12th grades and was named to the District Honor Band.
She received the prestigious John Philip Sousa Award (a national award given to the most outstanding band member) and was voted Most Talented in her senior class.
However, it was in her junior year when she finally had time in her class schedule to add another elective where she discovered what would eventually become her life’s work. Emily joined the Choral Music Department and sang in Bel Canto Chorale and Chamber Chorus, was a member of the state champion girls trio, was a Variety Show soloist, was a member of the Georgia All State Chorus and received one of three vocal scholarships.
“The most pivotal thing in helping me determine the next step for my future was the care and support of many of my Buford teachers,” Skilling said. “Actually, I originally committed to attend Georgia Tech to study biochemistry/pre-med. Once I started sharing that, I literally had four teachers question my decision. Dr. Tim Harris, Bonnie Davis, Dr. Chris Fowler and Joy Fowler all talked to me (without knowing the others also had spoken to me) and basically asked me, ‘Why aren’t you going to UGA to study music?’”
Four years later, Emily graduated from the University of Georgia, where she obtained a Bachelor of Music degree in voice performance. She then obtained a Master of Music degree in voice pedagogy and performance from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.
“Dr. Chris Fowler was pivotal in helping me decide to major in music,” Skilling said. “He pulled me into his office one day and said, ‘You know, I don’t say this to a lot of people, but I need to tell you that you have what it takes to make it in music if you want to.’”
And make it, she has.
Emily now makes her living singing and teaching in the Atlanta area. She is employed by Peachtree Road United Methodist Church as a staff singer and the University of North Georgia, where she teaches both classical and musical theatre singers. She also works as a professional classical singer, singing with small opera companies, professional choirs and orchestras across the nation.
In 2018, Skilling was the winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions South Carolina District. She has performed in several leading operatic roles and has built her choral resume with appearances with the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir, Kinnara Ensemble and the world-renowned Westminster Choir. She has performed as a soloist with the American Bach Soloists Academy, Opera on the James, the CoOPERAtive Program, Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra and Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance. Her most recent performance of Dame Quickly in “Falstaff” in New York City resulted in rave reviews for her “dark amaretto flavored voice,” “commanding presence” and “comedic skills.” “Brooklyn Discovery” praised her performance, stating, “She is born for the stage, and opera is lucky to have her.”
Emily resides in Suwanee and enjoys spending time with family, playing with her six nieces and nephews, working out and organizing things.
She recalls her time at BHS with fondness.
“The funniest story I have from my whole time in the arts at Buford happened my senior year. I came down with a really bad case of laryngitis just before the final All State Chorus audition. On a whim, I asked Dr. Fowler if I could whistle my audition, because that was how I had been practicing my music. He spoke with those in charge, and they agreed to let me do it! So I auditioned by whistling and not only got into All State Chorus, but I earned a perfect audition score!”
To learn more about Emily Skilling, visit her website at www.emilyskilling.com.
The Buford High School alumni spotlights are made possible by the generosity of the City of Buford.