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Many voices

By By Paul Nyden
Staff writer
CHRIS DORST | Gazette
After considering a move away from Charleston, local music teachers Deborah and Roger Lucas are continuing their instruction of local musicians.

Back in 1969, Roger and Deborah Lucas met at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Today, they teach local students how to sing and are artistic icons to many in Charleston.

Over the years, the couple has trained hundreds of young men and women who have gone on to prestigious colleges including the Oberlin College Conservatory, Westminster Choir College, Florida State University and Ball State University.

“We not only voice train young people vocally. We guide them in helping make their career choices,” Deborah Lucas said.

Her husband said the couple has former students “all over the country either in school or performing in various types of musical performances.” Many of them continue to stay in touch with the Lucases.

They recently considered moving away, but have decided to stay in Charleston. “I love teaching here,” Deborah said. “All my music is here.”

Today, Deborah teaches 30 to 35 students every week. She will lose 10 graduating seniors this year. Roger generally has 20 to 25 students. Deborah teaches the girls, while Roger teaches the boys.

Roger said, “It is so rewarding seeing these gifted young people receive nice scholarships to help them fulfill their dreams.”

For many years, he also ran a downtown art gallery and custom framing business on Quarrier Street where he sold art works by local and international artists. He continues to do custom framing by appointment at his Edgewood home on the West Side.

Deborah and Roger were among the initial performers for the Community Concerts First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve. They continued to perform at First Night programs with their accompanist and friend Ron Neal for 11 years.

Their collaboration with Neal led to a number of concerts as they helped him start the Forum series at the Kanawha United Presbyterian Church, which has been running for 18 seasons, and a four-times-a-year concert series in the Lucas Gallery. Roger still sings in the church’s choir.

Also a graphic artist, Roger regularly paints in watercolor, pen and ink, acrylics and pastel works of his own. Several magazines and newspapers have featured his works over the years. Many of his paintings have been used in promotional literature published by West Virginia’s Department of Tourism and the Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Calendar.

“Living here has been wonderful. I was raised along the Elk River,” Roger said.

“After graduating from Charleston High School, I went to Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, for three years before transferring to the New

England Conservatory of Music because I wanted to go into opera.”

Roger met Deborah, who transferred there from Birmingham Southern College for the same reason.

“As fate would have it, we both had the same voice teacher,” Roger said.

Deborah also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and Hunter College in New York City.

After graduating from the New England Conservatory and moving to New York City, Roger was asked to be a member of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Studio, where he received training from many of the Met Opera’s coaches. He performed in recitals and opera productions around New York

“It was fun getting into the Met and meeting so many great singers,” Roger said.

Between 1972 and 1975, the Lucases lived and sang in Austria. They went there on full scholarships to the American Institute of Music Studies in Graz, Austria. They were fortunate enough to receive contracts with Austrian opera companies, which led to them stay there for three years.

While in Austria, the United States State Department asked them to perform a week of concerts in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, as relations between the two countries had stabilized.

In 1975, the Lucases returned to New York City and continued singing with opera companies, symphonies and recital venues before deciding to raise a family.

They made a decision to move to Roger’s hometown of Charleston after Deborah became pregnant with their first child, Meredith, who was born on Halloween in 1981. They also have a son named Bristol. Today, both of their children live in Orlando, Fla.

After returning to Charleston, Roger began working in his father’s printing shop. “ I also used to love going turkey hunting with Dad.” Roger operated his own gallery between 1986 and 2009.

After returning to the U.S., Roger and Deborah traveled on tours around this country.

“We went on one cosmopolitan tour all over the U.S. in a Dodge station wagon, stopping in places like Key West, Florida; McComb, Mississippi; and Blue Earth, Minnesota on our way out to the West Coast,” Roger said.

“That was a six-week tour, with three to four performances a week. We made pretty good money.”

Both started teaching in Charleston in the spring of 1980. In recent years, Deborah has taught music at the University of Charleston and West Virginia State University.

They also sang in local operatic performances including: Gaetano Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love,” Giuseppe Verdi’s “Falstaff,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutti” and Giacomo Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.”

The Lucases recently released two sets of CDs with a wide variety of songs and arias Roger assembled from many recordings from different periods during their careers.

“Roger Lucas: A Retrospect” includes four CDs: “Neopolitan Songs,” “Classical Songs and Arias,” “Popular Opera Arias” and “Songs of Inspiration.”

Most of the recordings were made during the 1970s. His songs of Inspiration include “The Holy City” and “How Great Thou Art.”

“An Evening With Deborah Lucas” includes two CDs. One features operatic arias, written by composers including: Verdi, Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti and Offenbach. The other is titled “An Evening of French Art Songs.”

Roger’s four-CD set costs $16, while Deborah’s two-CD set costs $10. Anyone interested in purchasing them may call 304-552-4568 or e-mail rogerlucas@wvdsl.net.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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