If there ever was a "typical opera singer," Ashley Thunder Lowe is not it. She grew up thinking that you get an education, then work hard at a job from 9-to-5.
That work ethic has taken the Tampa resident on an interesting route, including a stint as a professional football player in the Lingerie Football League. These days, however, her focus is on music, or more specifically classical opera.
So how did this former college athlete wind up singing music by Bach and Puccini? It's a funny story, Thunder Lowe said.
A few years ago, she was singing Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner covers at a bar in Tampa's Ybor City. The bartender there -- a family friend -- suggested she speak with his dad, a longtime voice coach. She said she wasn't really into classical music, but decided to look into it.
That first assignment led to "three week of tears," Thunder Lowe said, because it was in Italian, because she didn't understand the language, and because opera was a whole new world for her. It was Giacomo Puccini's "O mio Babbino Caro." But gradually, she started to get it and "completely fell in love with it."
Trying something new isn't out of the ordinary for Thunder Lowe, a midwesterner who played collegiate tennis for Ohio Dominican Univerity from 2003 to 2007. She said the love for sport is what led her to a stint playing for the professional Lingerie Football League that launched in 2009.
She played safety for the Tampa Breeze and said the scantily clad women were anything but "lightweights." Thunder Lowe said the teams were lead by former NFL and Arena Football League coaches who wanted to win.
Now, Thuder Lowe said she's reaching for the stars in the realm of opera. She's heading to Europe to hone her skills and audition for classical singing gigs. Thunder Lowe says after three years of study, she's ready to go.
"I've never done anything in my entire life that makes me feel as comfortable as singing on stage," she said. "It comes from a place where literally, you can't touch it, you can't explain it, it just feels so natural. I don't get nervous because I study diligently. I take classes four days a week. If I am unprepared, then I get nervous."