Students meeting with Tina Stewart might never suspect that beneath her patient smile and career advice, an operatic prima donna exists. Likewise, as someone passes Graham Stewart?s office they could be surprised to hear deft and skilled whistling sliding under the door.
Graham and Tina Stewart are prominent in the Ohio University community. He is the assistant vice president for alumni relations and she is the alumni and internship coordinator at the Scripps College of Communication. But, the Stewarts share more than a workplace: they share a passion for music.
Though music has always been a part of their shared story, the Stewarts have also been constantly involved with higher education administration, with Graham and Tina Stewart working in the field for 20 and 14 years, respectively. Tina Stewart coordinates major internships and opportunities for Scripps students and Graham Stewart oversees OHIO?s alumni programs.
Before they worked for universities, they attended one. The couple met at Ithaca College, in Ithaca, N.Y. "I started out in trombone performance," Graham Stewart said. "It was my major for two years. I was taking voice classes and the teacher said, ?You should be a voice major.?"
Unlike her husband?s eventual conversion to vocal performance, Tina Stewart has always had a strong interest in opera singing. "I found my voice in high school and my best friend?s mom was an artist and her best friend taught opera," she said.
Her high school studies led to roles in summer stock productions in Vermont. "I was the all-state soloist," Stewart said. After landing leading roles in college productions, she was ready to tackle something even bigger - the New York Metropolitan Opera.
"I entered the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions* competition," Tina Stewart said. "It was my dream to win this."
Only 24 years old at the time, her dream came true when she won first place at the district level and then took first place at the regional level. The prize included cash as well as free room and board, and coaching sessions at the Met for a week in preparation for the concluding event.
"When they said I was the winner, it was like being named Miss USA," Tina Stewart recalled. She went on to perform more than 20 leading roles with such companies as The Tri-Cities Opera* and Glimmerglass Opera*.
But while Tina Stewart?s musical focus has been fixed on opera, her husband?s has been marked by its variety.
"I think I have sung in just about every genre," Graham Stewart said.
After finishing college, he began singing and touring with the Grammy Award-winning group the Gregg Smith Singers*.
"I had auditioned for them my junior year of college and they said, ?Next summer we would like to hear you again,?" Stewart said. It wasn?t until late in his senior year that he received a call offering him a position ? but only after he passed a quick telephone audition. "So there I was, singing into the phone without real preparation," he said.
The pace was grueling: the group toured Asia and performed at more than 30 college campuses across the U.S. and Stewart remembers it fondly.
Stewart returned to New York and embarked on a career in higher education, but he and his wife have always stayed involved in musical performance. Both were members of the Ohio Light Opera* in Wooster, and were regular opera, oratorio and musical theater performers in Ithaca.
Graham Stewart has also gained notoriety for displaying a singular musical talent -- whistling. He took third place in the International Whistling Competition in Louisburg, N.C., in 2004. His journey through the competition was one of the stories chronicled in the 2005 documentary "Pucker Up*."
Since taking their positions with Ohio University in 2008, the Stewarts have become well known on campus. They are firmly entrenched in the Ohio University community and look forward to continuing to share their love of and gift for song.
Musically, he performs regularly with "Jazz Spoken Here*," a local jazz sextet, and has sung the National Anthem at local sporting events. Tina is planning to perform an opera recital for the coming year.
The Stewarts have remained musically active throughout their lives. It is, after all, what originally brought them together. "Of course, I would have fallen in love with her regardless of that amazing talent," said Graham Stewart, adding, "It just might have taken me a little longer."