Amaya, Bowles bring magic, energy to the stage

Submitted Photo Efrain Amaya, left, and DeVera Bowles, right, are co-directors of the Western Plains Opera Company. Both are also a part of Minot State University with Amaya a music assistant professor and DeVera a voice professor.

Be it inspiration, joy or an escape from everyday life, live music offers a visceral experience unique unto itself.

“People forget, it’s such a magical thing that happens being at an actual performance,” said Efrain Amaya, music assistant professor at Minot State University. “Just the energy and the connection that you miss if you’re not there.”

For Amaya and MSU voice professor DeVera Bowles, who together serve as co-directors for the Western Plains Opera Company, creating that atmosphere is something that takes a lot of hard work – and a bit of serendipity.

“It’s amazing to me, to see how these students and performers delight and take on their character. There’s this electric energy when a show finally comes together,” said Bowles. “It’s magic.”

“It’s always a buildup, there’s so many things going into the pot – the final product is always the best thing to look forward to,” said Amaya. “Seeing it actually come to life.”

The Western Plains Opera Company showcased “Into the Woods” over the Jan. 25 weekend. The production involved regional and local talent and guest stage director Julie Wright Costa, University of Utah voice area head. Bowles produced the show while Amaya was symphony maestro.

“Into the Woods” was the company’s first production for the 2019 season. In 2018, “The King and I” and “Orpheus in the Underworld” took to the stage.

“It’s only been recently that we’ve added this second show. The company was just one opera a year – that’s really what the company is about – to promote opera and the art form,” said Amaya.

“The opera company was the brainchild of Wayne Nelson, who was a voice instructor here at Minot State,” said Bowles. “His goal was to make sure his students were involved in these opportunities.”

An opera, Bowles and Amaya believe, is something everyone should experience at least once.

“I think people can have the wrong stereotype and I think they don’t give opera a chance,” said Amaya. “Because it’s the most wonderful music. It’s so close to the soul because of the voice. Any musical voice speaks to who we are.”

“To see someone walk off stage after having completely committed themselves to something that made them vulnerable – they practiced and they’re prepared and they go out there and give it their all,” said Bowles. “The audience is with them, the orchestra is with them.”

Having such an art form available in Minot and at Minot State University is a testament to the community.

“I’m from rural North Carolina and had to drive three and a half, four hours to see any opera production. When my husband and I were looking at moving to Minot we did a lot of research about what was available here,” said Bowles. “The city has a thriving arts community.”

Included in the vibrant community is the Minot Symphony Orchestra. In the past, Bowles has performed with the group as a soloist, and, for his fourth season, Amaya is currently serving as music director.

The Minot Symphony Orchestra is comprised of student, community, and professional musicians from the Minot area. Their performance, “Decomposing Composers,” takes place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Minot State’s Ann Nicole Nelson Hall. Prices and tickets can be found online at