A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, former Aiken resident Sarah Beaty spent six months this year in Macau – an administrative region of China, as is nearby Hong Kong.

Throughout that period, Beaty joined 40 other professional singers in performing opera and Italian popular music six days a week in a casino.

Not just any run of the mill casino. It’s also a hotel and the sixth largest building of any kind in the world as part of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

“It was a crazy experience and I enjoyed it so much,” said Beaty. “My favorite part was meeting new people, some I worked with and others I met that we were singing for.”

The daughter of Renee Beaty of Aiken and Frank Beaty of Tampa, Fla., she currently is pursuing auditions in New York and Los Angeles – exploring opportunities in opera, musical theater, film, commercials and voice work.

While opera is her passion, Beaty does enjoy other forms of music.

“I’m still young at 24,” Beaty said. “The voice for opera does not begin to fully mature until the late 20s or early 30s. I’m always making new discoveries as I simply get older.”

After learning about the overseas position about a year ago, Beaty auditioned for the Macau trip and was accepted to perform from March through September. She was among 40 singers from throughout the world. The entertainment ensemble also included others musicians, including violinists, as well as stilt walkers and jugglers.

“I felt like we were living in a circus,” she said.

Yet that doesn’t begin to describe the hotel and casino, The Venetian Las Vegas takes on the look of Venice, Italy, and so does the Venitian Macao.

The Macao is overwhelming – a 40-story building that cost more than $2 billion. Canals are located throughout the building, and Beaty actually served frequently as a singing gondolier, rowing people around.

“They would dress me up as a princess with a hoop skirt and a fancy gown and crown,” she said with amusement.

Throughout her stay, Beaty learned so much about the food and culture. She spent time in Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and The Philippines. She later visited Cambodia with her older brother Andrew, a Columbia University law school graduate currently clerking with a federal judge in New York.

Beaty remains thrilled at the chance to experience such memorable sites as the Great Wall of China and the ancient and massive Hindu Temple Angkor-Wat in Cambodia.

She was offered the chance to return to Macau for another year, but decided to return to the U.S. to focus on her career.

Beaty always enjoyed music throughout her childhood, both vocals and the violin. While in middle school, she moved to Aiken with her mother and brother. After enrolling at South Aiken High School, Beaty began studying voice with Catherine Stapleton Nance, the director of music at St. John’s United Methodist Church.

Nance described Beaty as one of those rare students who comes along and is especially interested in classical forms of music.

“That’s instead of the Britney Spears kind of thing,” Nance said with a laugh. “Sarah loves the Italian repertoire and soaked up whatever I gave her.”

Beaty was accepted into the Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville for her senior year of high school. Music had always been a valued hobby for her, but she wanted it to be a part of her life. Beaty worked with other talented musicians at the Governor’s School, who had studied at conservatories and went on to teaching careers.

“As they nurtured me, their encouragement showed me that it was possible to have a career,” said Beaty.

The instructors recommended good music schools, with Nance providing perhaps her biggest boost. During her own graduate school days, Nance worked with Joan Patenaude-Yarnell at the Manhattan School of Music.

“Catherine introduced me to Joan, and I just loved her and her style of teaching,” Beaty said.

The Manhattan School enrolls each year only a total of 900 undergraduate, graduate and doctor students in all disciplines. Beaty was among just 20 students in her first-year voice classes.

“It was amazing to get selected,” she said. “The real world started for me, four years of hard work. I made great friends, but we were ultimately competitive with each other in a healthy way.”