Sometimes, all it takes is one moment—an observation or a simple statement—to change your life.
Read on to learn more about Armon
For Armon Golliday, a Dallas, Texas-based Marketing Specialist, that’s all he needed to alter his college trajectory and set a new course toward a career as an opera singer. He’s had many moments like that first one, when people saw his value and shared opportunities. Armon’s made the most of them, eventually carving out satisfying dual careers, which brought him to CBRE.
We spoke with him to learn more about his different roles, at work and on stage, and how trusting his gut and the advice of advisors helped him get where he is today.
Armon, your opera career came first. Had you always planned a career in music?
No, I started college at Dallas Baptist University (DBU), studying psychology and theology. Toward the end of my sophomore year, though, I didn’t feel fulfilled in that path.
I went to my roommate’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving. His family, after the big meal, would decorate the house for Christmas and sing carols. Midway through, his mom told me, “You have a beautiful voice…you should look into that.”
Now, up to that point, I’d sang in my church and enjoyed DBU’s choir concerts—enough to consider auditioning—but I didn’t even know how to read music. I’d never formally explored my love of music. But, something clicked when she said that.
I set up an appointment to sing for DBU’s choir director and had to perform something from memory. I sang a few verses of "Amazing Grace," which I knew by heart. He loved my voice, calling it a gift he’d like to help me cultivate. I enrolled in voice lessons, joined the choir and got involved in the theater program performing in musicals—Ragtime, Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, Carousel, classics of the genre.
I also switched my studies. At first, I focused on sacred music, as I’d grown up very active in my church community. My instructor advised, however, that my rich bass-baritone voice was better suited to operatic literature. I started learning French and German arts songs for the language and style and soon landed roles in the University’s opera productions.
Clearly, your instructor was right, and that switch was a smart choice.
Yes! Once again, I carefully considered the advice I was given and also trusted my instincts. It felt right, so I dove in. Soon, things really started to take off. An instructor connected me with a management company that arranged some vocal appearances—singing both operatic and spiritual songs—in Italy, Austria and Belgium. I was fortunate, and my professional career began even before I finished college.
DBU’s music program at the time was new and unaccredited, so I transferred to the University of North Texas to finish my studies. I graduated in 2004, and The Dallas Opera hired me later that year. They took me on full time as an auxiliary artist, and I performed in several productions that first season: Bizet’s Carmen, Janáček’s Jenůfa, Verdi’s Luisa Miller, and a double-bill of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana.
In 2005, my second season, they made me a resident artist. That’s the company’s core group of about 40 “tenured” artists, who are guaranteed roles in some or all productions—either principal roles or in the chorus—with no auditions. I sing for the Artistic Director, Chorus Master and union representatives every two years, so they can assess my vocal health, but I’ve been a permanent member of the company ever since.
What roles are you working on this season?
I’m currently rehearsing for two productions. One is The Golden Cockerel by Rimsky-Korsakov, which I’ve never performed. In this production, I am a boyar and soldier. The other is Mozart’s The Magic Flute. It’s a wonderful "singspiel" with both singing and spoken dialogue. I’ve performed this opera several times. This season, I’m one of the villain Monostatos’ henchmen and a priest.
So, how did your second career in marketing begin?
Once my opera career was solidified in 2005 and I knew Dallas was going to be my permanent home, I realized I wanted something more to occupy my days. I’m not one to be idle, and I like to challenge myself. Rehearsing mostly takes place at night, since many artists have other day jobs. I decided to look for one too.
I’d studied marketing and graphic design in college—another interest of mine—so I focused on a second career in that field. I applied for a real estate marketing admin job my best friend told me about and was hired.
Turns out, that team also needed a Marketing Manager, and they asked me to cover some of that work until the position was filled. They were impressed with my skills, so I got that role and they hired a new admin instead.
Unfortunately, I was let go during downsizing following the Great Recession, but in 2010 a recruiter contacted me, and I landed a Client Services Coordinator job on a retail team here at CBRE. Later, I joined a Capital Markets team as a Client Services Specialist, before moving to Marketing in 2013 as a Marketing Specialist, my current role with the company.
I feel very fortunate to have developed two careers that I love, that both keep me engaged and leverage my skills.
Do you ever see any overlap in your dual careers?
I serve on the Marketing Committee for The Dallas Opera’s Board of Directors. In that role, my expertise and the kind of work I do for CBRE is just as important to the Board as being an “insider” with behind-the-scenes knowledge of the opera. It’s a natural fit for all my talents.
The Dallas Opera is actively involved in several community and development programs, including a children’s educational program featuring daytime in-school performances by local college students. The company also launched the Hart Institute for Women Conductors, a multi-week seminar of masterclasses designed to help evolve a historically male-dominated role. We want opera’s future to be filled with a diverse array of talent.
Your connections have played an important role in helping to shape your career paths.
That’s true. I’ve received sound advice from many friends and advisors over the years. I think my good fortune stems from both trusting the people closest to me and from trusting my gut. I believe in myself and my abilities—and that everything happens for a reason.
Now, I try to always pay that forward and make the most of the opportunities where I might make a difference. For example, someday I hope to arrange a mini-concert performance at CBRE. The Opera House is a stone’s throw from two of our Dallas offices, so it’d be a wonderful opportunity to help grow our people’s relationship with the arts.
By the way, we also broadcast a free, live simulcast every year in nearby Klyde Warren Park. This year’s will be our November 1 performance of The Magic Flute. That’s a great way, if you’re curious about opera, to get your feet wet at no cost!
In my wildest dreams, I never would have guessed that the shy kid I was would someday share the stage and perform with legendary singers in front of thousands of people. But, here I am and that’s just one of two incredible careers I’ve made. I’ve truly been blessed.