When BMCC students hear the words, “The Metropolitan Opera” their first thoughts are generally, “nope, not for me,” or “thanks, but no thanks.”
But D’jory Vilsaint is out to change that misconception.
Vilsaint, a full-time student known to wear a big smile—and a suit!—around the BMCC campus, has a special job at The Metropolitan Opera.
He is the only community college student involved in The Met’s Student Ambassador program, which, according to Vilsaint, has about 30 students from colleges nationwide.
“As a Met Student Ambassador, we discuss ways we can expand the opera, and bring it to a more culturally diverse crowd,” explains Vilsaint. “A lot of people perceive The Met as something for people of white descent, not for people of color. But The Met reaches out to different communities and I’m happy to be part of that.”
As a Met Student Ambassador, Vilsaint works with students from colleges all over the U.S.
“I work with students from schools like New York University, Columbia and Princeton. At first I was so intimidated by these students because they were from Ivy League schools, but now we’re all friends. They tease me. They can’t believe I’m so much older than them,” he laughs. “At the opera, no one minds if you’re from a community college. They only want you to possess a willingness to learn.”
Vilsaint explains that BMCC’s popular slogan kept him motivated as an Ambassador, when he first joined the program.
“BMCC’s slogan is ‘Start here, Go anywhere.’ Well, I thought, here I am, representing BMCC at The Met alongside other students. I speak up often at meetings because I’m so proud to put BMCC at the forefront. Plus, I adamantly believe that The Met gives students an opportunity to expand their horizons, even musically, and it connects people from different backgrounds.”
‘Don’t make any excuses’
Vilsaint first heard about The Met’s Student Ambassador program from BMCC staffers Ashtian Holmes and Brian Haller, who oversee the college’s Urban Male Leadership Academy.
“At first I was hesitant about applying,” admits Vilsaint, who has been an Ambassador for almost a year now. “But I love the arts and I’m always up for new challenges. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and I jumped on the opportunity. It’s been a wonderful ride.”
Holmes, the Coordinator for BMCC’s Urban Male Leadership Academy, describes Vilsaint as “outstanding.” Holmes and Haller, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, wrote letters of recommendation for Vilsaint’s Ambassador application.
“D’jory''s enthusiasm, professionalism, and eagerness to explore new opportunities puts him in a class by himself,” says Holmes. “Other students had the chance to apply for The Met position, but D’jory handed in his completed application the very next day. That''s what sets him apart—his courage, willingness to succeed, and his self-confidence.”
Vilsaint believes the key to success is “don’t make any excuses.”
“I ask myself, what is the best way for me to get from Point A to Point B?” says the Business Administration major, who also works in a security firm.
“I have few days off,” admits Vilsaint. “But that’s OK. Mindset is so important. Sure, we all get busy, but I always try to look at the bigger picture. I want my time at The Met to be my BMCC legacy. I don’t want the next Ambassador from BMCC to say, ‘Oh, D’jory couldn’t do it…he couldn’t make it work…’ I knew my job, classes and my time as a Met Ambassador would be challenging to juggle, but I never back down from a challenge.”
Take advantage of culture
Vilsaint wants BMCC students to give the opera a fair chance.
“When we don’t know something, we have tendency to perceive it’s not for us,” he says. “But, try it. You never know. I’ve been fortunate to come across people in my academic career who helped me become a big fan of the arts.”
Vilsaint—who has easy access to free and discounted shows at The Met—recently enjoyed productions of Hamlet, The Queen of Spades and Anna Bolena.
“They were fantastic! Many people have this misconception that the opera is boring. I really enjoy the shows and seeing firsthand what the actors go through to bring us these live performances.”
Vilsaint reminds the BMCC community that NYC has “rich cultures that should be taken advantage of—especially by students.”
“There’s no discrimination at The Met—they don’t care where you’re from. You just have to go there with an open mind and an open heart,” he explains. “You can’t call yourself a New Yorker if you don’t experience some type of culture, and I don’t mean going to a club on weekends. I mean something bigger.”
Vilsaint’s favorite part of being a Student Ambassador for The Met is the feedback he receives.
“I have convinced quite a few students to check out the opera. They initially said, ‘Oh, no thanks.’ But when I tell them I have free tickets, they’ll immediately say, ‘Oh, yeah?’ I explain how they can join The Met and see shows at a massive discount. These students will later stop me in the hallway and the look on their faces…oh, wow…” says Vilsaint, proudly.
“I have been thanked many times by BMCC students who had a blast at the opera," he continues. "Students assume it’s not for them or too expensive but The Met makes it so easy and affordable for students to go.”
And, with his contagious smile, Vilsaint assures his peers: “If you take a young lady out on a date to the opera it will not be your last date. I can promise you that!”