The first thing you might notice about David Malis is his powerful, baritone voice.
That voice that has won him several awards, and allowed him to share the stage with some of the most well known opera singers in the world. Next week, Malis will share his voice with folks here, as he returns home to LaGrange to sing alongside the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.
“I think the thing you’re supposed to do with your life has a tendency to find you. Instead of you finding it,” Malis said.
The love of music found it’s way in to David’s heart very early in life. His dad was a singer and the Minister of Music at the First Baptist Church of LaGrange until 1987. His mom was also a singer and a pianist, that frequently accompanied her son during auditions and concerts. David’s passion for music quickly grew.
“I’ve been singing in my dad’s choirs since I was a little boy,” he said. “Singing is in my heart, it’s in my soul, it’s in my whole life.”
After graduating from LaGrange High School, Malis became a instrumental music major at the University of Georgia. But that quickly changed.
“Very early on, it became clear to me that singing was always going to be a major part of my life,” he said. “People kept commenting to me when I was 17, 18, 19, that I really should be singing. So I changed my major to vocal performance, and I transferred to a little school called Mars Hill College, which is just North of Asheville, North Carolina. “
From there, Malis studied for four years at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music before beginning his professional career with the San Francisco Opera in 1982. After that, at the age of 25, Malis’s career took off. He sang with the Metropolitan Opera in New York for 12 seasons. He shared the stage with well known vocalists such as Italian opera singer, Luciano Pavarotti, and Australian soprano, Dame Joan Sutherland.
Malis’ career took him around the globe. He sang for the King and Queen of Sweden in their royal palace. He’s performed in some of the most famous opera houses in the world, including: La Scala in Milan, Italy, Wales, London, Paris, Greece, Hong Kong, Vienna, Rome and New York. All told, Malis said he’s performed in 27 different countries and in 38 of the United States.
“I basically lived out of a suitcase from the time I was 27 until I was in my 40’s,” Malis said.
And his accolades grew. Malis was the first American to win the prestigious “Cardiff Singer of the World” competition in Cardiff, Wales.
“Sometimes I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world,” he said. “Not only do I get to sing and teach other people about singing, but I’ve been lucky enough for 25 or 30 years of my life to stand next to some truly amazing singers on stage. San Francisco, Vienna, Paris, Rome. Sometimes I stand up there and have the sounds burning into my ears, and I think ‘you know, life really can’t get any better than this.’”
A few years ago, Malis decided he wanted to be closer to his son, Gabriel, and ended his career on the road. Since then, he’s branched into stage directing, conducting and teaching. Right now, Malis directs the Opera program and teaches Voice at the University of Arkansas. But the love of music keeps pulling him back into performing.
“There’s just something about singing,” Malis said. “The spoken word has always been very important to me. The meaning of the songs…. I got that from my dad and my teachers at the Conservatory. You can say so much more when you set it to music. Music has a way to make the emotions and the soul behind the piece so much more poignant and full of deep meaning.”
Next Tuesday, Malis will return to the stage in his hometown of LaGrange.
“I’ve had this connection to LaGrange for a long time,” he explained. “So when they approached me to do a concert, I said, ‘absolutely’.”
Malis will be singing some of Mozart’s arias, along with some musical theater pieces. He’ll perform alongside the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.
“I don’t believe in just standing there and singing … the voice is important, it’s incredibly important. But the most important thing is that you’re telling a story, whether it’s happy or sad, and you need to share the meaning of it with people. And I think that’s what audiences are drawn to, is the fact that you have something to say and that you say it in an individual and personal way.”
Malis will briefly hit the road this summer. He’ll be teaching on the island of Syros, Greece, and two places in Italy. Then he will reprise his role in Giuseppe Verdi’s last full length comic opera, Falstaff, in Colorado.
David Malis sing with the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra in it’s last concert performance “Celebrating the Joys of Spring,” on Tuesday, April 8th at 7:30pm in the Callaway Auditorium. To purchase tickets and for more information, contact the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra at 706-882-0662, or visit them online at www.lagrangesymphony.org.