Patrick Howle thinks highly of opera, which is fortunate because he spends so much of his time either teaching it, directing it, listening to it and performing it.
"Opera is an art form that combines all the elements of art — visual art in the settings, vocal and instrumental music and many even incorporate dancing," said Howle, Pittsburg State University instructor and director of the PSU Voice and Opera Workshop. However, he noted that there is no dancing in either "Suor Angelica" or "Gianni Schicchi," the two Puccini one-act operas that the PSU Opera Theatre will present at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.
"Every art form is touched on in opera," Howle said. "I tell my students it's amazing that it happens at all because there are so many things that go into it that it shouldn't work. But it does."
His own career also has so much going on that maybe it shouldn't work, but it does. Howle teaches, directs PSU opera productions and finds the time to also have an active opera career.
"It's a juggling act, but I haven't run into too many situations where I've shortchanged anything," he said. "I'm very fortunate to have supportive colleagues in the music department and a supportive chairman who allows me to take opportunities when I have them."
It can be hard, Howle said, to be directing operas while he's trying to learn new repertoire or working so hard that he gets sick and can't sing.
"But my performing keeps me in touch with what's going on in the performance world, and I can share that with my students," he said.
Howle said he probably started singing as a youngster in church in North Carolina, and became serious about it while still in high school. He received a bachelor of music in vocal performance from East Carolina University and a master of music in vocal performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music.
It was at Eastman that he sang for Metropolitan Opera star Renee Fleming in a master class.
"My teacher at Eastman was the teacher she had while she attended there," Howle said. "Of course she's super famous now for singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl."
He has performed in more than 25 productions with the Ohio Light Opera, including appearing as "Marat" there in the world premier of Robert Ward's "A Friend of Napoleon." He has also sung with Lyric Opera of Oklahoma, and in April will perform in a one-night Gilbert and Sullivan revue presented by Heartland Opera on the campus of Missouri Southern State University, Joplin.
Closer to home, he'll perform in March in a piano solo presented by Reena Natenberg at PSU.
Howle was an adjunct voice professor at Alfred University and served as director of music at the First Baptist Church of Rochester, N.Y. He also performed with the Connecticut Opera as a member of its educational outreach program and as a main stage artist.
He joined the PSU faculty in 2005.
"I'm very lucky to support myself doing something that I'm so passionate about," Howle said. "The best part is that I'm able to share my love of opera with my students."