Humans of UK: Michael Preacely composes a community through music


Carter Skaggs

Michael Preacely, a professional opera singer and lecturer in voice at the University of Kentucky, poses for a portrait on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, at the Schmidt Vocal Arts Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Carter Skaggs | Staff

Ale Scrivner, Reporter

Michael Preacely, a professional opera singer and lecturer in voice at the University of Kentucky, is working to create a movement of unity through the power of music in Lexington. 

Exposed to artists such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole by his great-grandmother, Preacely said he learned early on that music was going to change his life. 

“My love for what I did just came from different sounds that I heard and also different sounds that I was able to make,” Preacely said. 

Preacely attended Oberlin College in Ohio for voice and opera. From there, his passion for music only grew. He said his goal as an incoming student was to sing in Hall Auditorium, an Oberlin theater used for large-scale opera and dance productions. 

His very first opera was sung in Hall Auditorium.

“It’s amazing how that whole journey took me to Oberlin and singing and cultivating my voice,” Preacely said.

Since that first performance, Preacely has been contracted by countless opera companies all across the nation. Those experiences have led him to what he’s doing now: teaching students and the future of opera.

Preacely’s experiences have allowed him to develop teaching styles and methods that enable him to better guide his students. Through music and testimonies, he teaches students to use their voice and to understand the power of singing.

Even at a young age, he said he felt he had the ability to teach, not better, but differently. 

“I’m not like any of the other professors, not to say that I think I’m special, but I am. I think that I am in my own way. We should all think (that) way because that’s what validates us in this world, our uniqueness,” Preacely said. 

His passion for guiding the youth has led to his hope to start a movement of empathy, social awareness and collaboration through music in Lexington, he said.

Preacely, born and raised in Chicago, has been involved with United Voices Chicago, formerly Chicago Children’s Choir, and was able to bring them to Lexington in January. The group performed at the Singletary Center for the Arts at an event hosted by UK for the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

He witnessed first-hand how the transformative power of their music impacted the people of Lexington and knew this something his community needed. 

“Individually, your voice is important, but collectively, that’s a movement. A movement starts with one person, but it moves with multiple people,” Preacely said. 

Preacely said his goal with United Voices Lexington is simply to bring people together — from different walks of life, backgrounds and even parts of the Bluegrass. He also hopes for Uniting Voices Lexington to develop a partnership with UK that will strengthen the Commonwealth through unity. 

“My hope is that we develop a partnership with the university to where we can be a catalyst for major change in the relationship between the university and the community,” Preacely said. 

Uniting Voices Lexington will begin this fall for students in middle and high school, though the work to bring the movement to life has already begun.