‘Magic you create:’ Meet OUWB’s Director of Financial Services — and opera singer
An image of Greg Ashe performing in an opera
Greg Ashe, associate director of Financial Services at OUWB, played "Official Registrar" in the recent Detroit Opera production of "Madame Butterfly." (Photo provided by Detroit Opera)

Like many who grew up in the 1980s, Greg Ashe dreamt of being the next Michael Jackson but remembers the day his aspirations were derailed.

He was in first grade and a teacher had encouraged him to do a song for the Christmas show with two others.

Things didn’t go that great for the young introvert who is now OUWB’s associate director of Financial Services.

“I looked at the ground the whole time…just stared down,” he recalls. “After that, my mom and dad were like ‘Greg, you looked at the ground the whole time. You didn’t even look out at anyone.”

“For a long time after that, I was kind of nervous about being out in front of people.”

Then, one day, he wasn’t.

Feelings of wanting to perform overtook his shyness — and led to a career as a performer.

Only instead of “Beat It” or “Thriller,” Ashe’s performances have been for operas like “La Bohème” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”  

Currently, he sings with the Detroit Opera (he’s been part of 25 performances since 2012, including the recent production of "Madame Butterfly"), but also has sung with the Cincinnati Opera and International Opera Theater of Philadelphia, which included a trip to Italy and a performance at the Rome Opera House. (See video at end of story for a sample of Ashe in action.)

“The magic you create as a performer is always the drive,” he says with a big smile.

Of course, the big question: How did he end up at OUWB?

‘Greg the singer’

An image of Greg Ashe


Ashe grew up in Huber Heights, Ohio. Between the time of his performance as a first grader and his first two years of at Wayne High School, he didn’t sing formally.

When he was a junior, Ashe joined the choir. About a year later, he had his first solo.

“I didn’t think I had a strong enough voice to carry a solo,” he says. “But my choir teacher at the time encouraged me to try out.”

Ashe says the solo played a big role in his growth as a performer.

“It was more someone believing in me,” he says. “From then on, I grew more confident.”

Before the end of high school, there would be other highlights pivotal to Ashe’s musical growth. He was selected to be part of the state choir and had a big performance during his high school’s talent show.

Performing allowed him to shed the feelings of being too shy and introverted.

“By then, I had become known as ‘Greg the Singer,’” he recalls.

He had yet to sing a note of opera before starting college.

‘Here I am’

An image of Greg Ashe performing as part of an opera

"Madame Butterfly" was produced by the Detroit Opera in October. (Photo provided by Detroit Opera)

With aspirations to become a choir director, Ashe launched his college career in the music education program at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. He says he was looking at a career in music that could also be viewed as a “regular job.”

At Sinclair, Ashe also participated in choir and his first real voice instruction, where he began to learn more about classical music.

Before the days of YouTube, Ashe says he often found himself at the local library, listening to recordings and essentially mimicking what he heard. And though he couldn’t understand everything, the language of music still spoke to him.

“It was a lot of aching and pleading,” he says. “I didn’t know what they were talking about exactly, but I could sense the sentiment behind the music and that was cool.”

The first song he learned was “Caro Mio Ben,” an arietta by Giuseppe Giordani. It opened Ashe up to what he calls “a whole new sphere” of music.

“Getting on stage and being able to sing in a different way was really intriguing to me,” he says.

However, performing “Caro Mio Ben” for the first time at a student recital brought back familiar feelings of angst — but for different reasons.

“I was mortified,” he says. “Because I loved the song so much that I had this perception that it had to be perfect.”

Backing down, however, wasn’t an option.

“I was still going to do it no matter what,” he says. “It was like ‘I’m going to do it, here I am, and if it’s not a success, maybe I go back to the drawing board.”

‘At the top of my game’

Ashe transferred to Bowling Green State University. He started in choral music and in his second year took a shot at trying out for opera and landed the lead role of Paoulino in “The Secret Marriage.”

“It was exhilarating,” he says. “I was super excited.”

Of the total 250 pages in the opera, Ashe had to learn about 90. It was in Italian.

Ashe says he didn’t speak Italian, but part of his education included learning how to pronounce words in foreign languages.

Learning his first opera was “stressful,” he says, but it paid off.

“It went really well,” he says with a smile. “After that, I loved it.”

Ashe’s love of opera would continue. He did three more at Bowling Green, including the American premiere of “The Loves of Apollo and Daphne.” And he improved each time — he prepared better, took copious notes, and practiced, practiced, practiced.

“By the time I got to my senior year, I felt I was at the top of my game,” he says.

He graduated with a degree in choral music education, but still felt compelled to perform. Eventually, he auditioned for the Cincinnati Opera and was accepted. He was part of a company that performed regionally.

After that, Ashe went on to participate in an intensive training program in Santa Monica, California, called OperaWorks. That, he says, set him up to audition for the International Opera Theater of Philadelphia. He was part of a company that performed “Buffalo Soldier” in Italy, including at the Rome Opera House.

“It was the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done,” says Ashe. “I can’t even explain it. It just was so surreal.”

Making ‘dreams reality’

The origins of Ashe’s career in financial-related positions trace to when he was at Sinclair Community College and worked as a teller at a bank. Ashe says he loved working with customers and “counting other people’s money.”

At Bowling Green, he was in a work-study program. With his experience in banking — coupled with the fact it paid the most on campus — he started at the financial aid office.

He worked there for four years as an undergraduate. When he returned for a master’s degree, Ashe was offered an assistantship. His responsibilities included counseling students and giving presentations on financial aid, like what he does at OUWB, position he enjoys.

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“I enjoy helping others figure out how to make their dreams reality,” says Ashe.

When he graduated, he landed a job at Tiffin University in financial aid where he also served as associate director of financial aid for four years. (The position allowed for him to continue involvement in opera.)

While at Tiffin, he was at a former Toledo location. That allowed him to get involved with the Detroit Opera (formerly Michigan Opera Theatre). Wanting to relocate to southeast Michigan from Toledo, Ashe took a job he was offered at Oakland University. For more than eight years, he held various positions: financial aid advisor; senior financial aid outreach advisor; and course instructor.

In August 2022, he started at OUWB.

Ashe says there were many appealing aspects to the job, including the fact that he had “built up a lot of skills through financial aid outreach” and that he could bring those to a new position of leadership.

“I really enjoy being at OUWB, and the people make it even better,” he says.

And he is still involved in the Detroit Opera. He recently finished playing a part in the classic 'La Bohème.’ He also performs outside of the opera, with groups like the Toledo Choral Society.

Ashe says he doesn’t know how long he’ll continue the balance between opera singer and working in financial aid, but that opera makes up a big part of who he is.

And he feels like there is a good lesson in that for medical students, physicians, and just about anyone else.

“Take time out to do the things that you love and enjoy,” he says. “If you have a passion and it provides you enjoyment, then enjoy it and don’t take it for granted while you’re doing it.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.