Lower Las Casas Resident Julia Chang Balances Time Between Being a CPA and Opera Singer with Verdi Chorus

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

CPA by day, opera singer by night: Lower Las Casas resident Julia Chang does it all.

Chang, who has lived in the Palisades for more than 10 years, arrived in the United States from Korea when she was approaching 18 years old to attend college.

“I took my CPA exam immediately after and starting working at a small firm,” she explained. Eventually she moved onto an international firm, which allowed her to pursue her passion, which at that time, was estate planning and financial planning.

She later joined a private equity firm, and after nearly seven years there, she decided to retire. Or so she thought.

“I decided to retire because I had some health issues,” Chang explained, “and I took a year off and I got well and I was still young, I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

An opportunity arose to join IRPAC, a volunteer position with a committee that advised the IRS.

“I thought with my 30 years of career in accounting, there ought to be something I could give back,” she shared. Now Chang takes on freelance work because she “gets bored not doing anything”—and she balances that out with opera singing.

For the past three years, Chang, an alto, has been performing with Santa Monica-based Verdi Chorus.

“I thought they were too good for me to get involved with,” Chang, who has no formal training but has sung with church and school choirs throughout her life, said with a laugh.

“I never felt like I belonged there and one of my friends encouraged me to audition.”

She shared that she loves the opportunity to bring opera music to everyone from aficionados to those who are just getting introduced to it. Chang has also taken a role as a board member

The Verdi Chorus, founded in 1983 at the since-closed Verdi Restaurant in Santa Monica, features members from all walks of life, from students to opera singers, ranging in age from 22 to 80. Even though the restaurant has closed, the group continues to gather and rehearse for shows on Monday evenings.

Led by Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the “only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus.”

“I am so proud to not only be launching our 36th fall concert, but to also see the Verdi Chorus, now over 55 members strong, continue to grow and excel,” Ketchum shared in a statement.

This year, Verdi Chorus celebrates its 36th season with its fall concert, “Sound and Fury,” for two performances at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.

“Sound and Fury” will feature operatic sequences from Verdi’s “Otello” and “Il trovatore,” as well as Puccini’s “Turandot” and “Tosca” and Lehár’s “The Merry Widow.” Guest soloists include tenor Alex Boyer, soprano Shana Blake Hill and baritone Malcolm MacKenzie.

The shows will take place on November 16 at 7:30 p.m. and 17 at 2 p.m., with tickets starting at $10 for students and going up to $40 for priority seating.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit verdichorus.org.