Irving graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music and moved to New York to pursue a doctorate from the City University of New York. At the same time, Irving was performing classical opera and concert work all over the United States.
"I went all over the place," Irving said. "I performed in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Pittsburgh. I did that for about three years."
At the same time, Irving worked for the famed Alex Williamson publicity office, doing public relations and publicity for several classical musicians. It was during that time that Irving was introduced to renowned composer Vincent LaSelva, the founder of the New York Grand Opera Company.
Over the years, LaSelva has been known for bringing opera to a wider audience, including the free productions in Central Park. More than three million opera aficionados and intrigued newcomers alike have been treated to operatic masterpieces produced and conducted by LaSelva.
"I wrote press releases and proposals for Maestro LaSelva," Irving said. "He was one of our clients. I still had the hope of being a full-time performer."
But over the years, Irving's goals and dreams changed a bit. After pursuing a career as a singer in New York for several years, Irving got married to respected North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue Captain Tom Irving a decade ago and decided to raise a family while teaching music at North Bergen's Franklin School.
"When I got married, things changed," Irving said. "I took a little break from singing. I always wanted to teach and I always thought that teaching would make me a better singer. When the opportunity came to teach with the North Bergen school system, I took it. I became more nested and gave teaching a go. I decided that I really liked teaching."
So for 10 years, Irving concentrated on being a teacher, a wife, and a mother. She was content with her life.
But about two years ago, Irving caught the performing bug once again.
"I started to think about performing again," Irving said. "I liked the way my voice sounded. I wanted to give it another try."
Asking a favor
Irving decided to call Maestro LaSelva, who was still running the New York Grand Opera Company.
"I called up and asked to audition for him," Irving said. "I went to his office and he said he remembered me from my days doing publicity. He said, 'How can I forget you? You did a nice job.' I asked him if I could come and sing for him. He agreed."
So Irving went to audition for the maestro. There was only one problem.
"I was trained on 18th century works like Mozart, Beethoven, even Handel," Irving said. "The maestro works mostly with Italian 19th century opera composers like Verdi. I never ventured into that era. I was always told that my voice was more suited for the 17th century operas. I was very successful with those."
When Irving went for the audition, she sang what she knew best.
"I did two Mozart arias," Irving said. "He told me his bread and butter were Italian operas and he was surprised with my voice that I never tried the Italian operas. He told me that I would never know if I could sing the Italian operas unless I tried. He agreed to work with me."
Added Irving, "He said, 'Let's see how it goes. I can't promise you anything.' I was just excited that he agreed to work with me."
In October of 2005, Irving began to study with Maestro LaSelva, training twice a week. Almost instantly, Irving felt the change.
"I started to sing things I never did before," Irving said. "My voice went into a whole different dimension. I hit notes I never thought I could sing. My voice grew 100 percent. All the things I thought I never could sing since I was 18 years old, I could now sing. My singing was at a totally different level."
Irving said that she didn't understand the metamorphosis.
"Everything was happening to my voice, things that never happened before," Irving said. "When I asked Maestro, he said, 'Well, you started singing again.' He said that it enabled my voice to grow and improve. I couldn't believe what was happening to me."
Needless to say, Irving felt good about performing once again.
"It was wonderful to go through the lesson period and learning so much from a true professional," Irving said. "When he tells me that I sounded good, then I believed him. The whole year training with him was so invigorating and so stimulating. It was like I had a totally different life. I still didn't know when I was going to perform, but I felt ready."
One of the eight in the benefit
LaSelva believed that his star pupil was ready to get on the stage.
"He told me he was having a benefit concert," Irving said. "He was showcasing eight singers and he wanted me to be one of those eight. The moment was here and it came out of nowhere. I was very excited and so happy he selected me. I know a lot of people, family and friends from North Bergen will come to hear me. I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Irving will perform in the New York Grand Opera's fundraising concert on Thursday, March 8, beginning at 8 p.m. at the Veill Recital Hall inside Carnegie Hall. She will perform two duets from LaTraviata and will also perform two arias from LaBoehme.
"They're both brand new pieces for me, although they're very well known in the opera world," Irving said. "That's what makes it even more difficult for me to do. It's not some obscure work. It's well known with the audience. But I'm just thrilled to be working with a professional company and being able to perform. It's a chance of a lifetime."
Irving said that she was happy to tell her students about her fortune.
"The students were all excited and thrilled for me," Irving said. "They wanted to have a field trip to come see me sing."
Irving said that she hasn't displayed her newfound voice to her students as of yet.
"Not yet," she said, "but I think I will after I record this program."
Irving said that this concert could evolve into the turning point of her life.
"I hope there are many more to come," Irving said. "Let's see how successful I am. It is a whole new life and it's getting better and better."
North Bergen's Armine Irving will perform as part of the New York Grand Opera Company's fundraiser on Thursday, March 8 in the Veill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced at $100 and $50. To purchase tickets, send a check to the New York Grand Opera, 154 West 57th Street, Suite 125, New York, N.Y. 10019 or call (212) 245-8837.