Opera and interior design: Melissa Perry’s double major

Melissa Perry spent last summer surrounded by the winding streets, classical music, and Alpine mountains of Salzburg, Austria, Mozart’s hometown and one of the world’s music capitals.

Melissa Perry

Along with several other American students, the Seattle Pacific University senior studied music history, attended operas, studied German, and participated in solo performances. At the end of the summer, she performed in her first full-scale opera through the Austrian American Mozart Academy.

But as she walked the streets of Salzburg to her next rehearsal, Melissa also took careful note of the buildings and architectural design. Because while she’s majoring in vocal performance at SPU and dreams of singing opera on the professional stage, she’s also pursuing a double major and career in interior design.

Downtown Seattle is a bustling hot spot for interior design, home to many leading design firms, as well as the Seattle Design Center, where vendors display thousands of products. When she’s designing a space for a class project, Melissa heads over the Center to view her options. “I can go see in person the components I’m thinking about using in a project — light fixtures, furniture, flooring. Sometimes it really changes your perspective when you see what something looks or feels like in person,” she says.

To have real-world experience in their field before graduation, every interior design student at SPU completes at least one internship. Last year, Instructor of Interior Design Lisa Blanchard connected Melissa with an internship at Harold’s Lighting, a lighting store and showroom in Seattle.

“I learned a lot from that experience,” she says. “When you work for a vendor like Harold’s, you get to know the products on the market. It will save me time when I’m designing for clients because I already have pictures in my head of what’s available.”

Melissa also became an active member of the International Interior Design Association, joining the student council and meeting leading interior designers at networking events. “It’s just part of living in Seattle — being so close to exciting things happening professionally,” she says.

Melissa didn’t always envision her current career path. In high school, she thought she would become a professional ballerina. But due to a foot injury, she decided to combine her love of math and art by pursuing interior design.

“Seattle Pacific’s design program was rated very highly,” she says, “and I knew that SPU students had good reputations among design firms in the area.”

“Seattle Pacific’s design program was rated very highly,” she says, “and I knew that SPU students had good reputations among design firms in the area.” After working with Student Financial Services, Melissa saw SPU was the best option financially as well, and she enrolled as an interior design major.

But Melissa missed the world of dance, music, and performing. She joined SPU’s Concert Choir, quickly deciding to double major in music. When her freshman roommate took her to the Seattle Opera as a birthday present, she hit a turning point.

Melissa Perry in front of a piano.

“I fell in love with opera,” she says. “It combines highly technical singing with powerful orchestral music and beautifully designed sets. It’s powerful.” Today, Melissa spends long hours with her SPU vocal instructor Chérie Hughes, attends every opera the Seattle Opera performs, and dives into her art in music theory and history classes.

As she balances a busy schedule with spending time with friends, and hurries on campus from vocal coaching sessions to design classes, Melissa is excited about a future working as an interior designer while regularly performing in opera productions.

“Both my music and interior design instructors are kind, helpful, and genuinely care,” she says. “They’ve invested in me as a person and helped me mesh together two very different fields into something that will work.”

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