It was the morning after a long night at the office for Peggy Little, a commercial litigator, and she was operating on just a few hours sleep.
The thought of returning that morning to her law firm where she was a full-equity partner was so distasteful that she decided to sit down and read the New York Times cover to cover.
When she reached the arts section, she read a story about baritone William Stone, who was performing at the New York City Opera. She was curious if he was the same Bill Stone who served as her church’s music director in Illinois when she was a teenager in the church choir. So she wrote to him at the opera.
That decision more than 10 years ago altered the course of her professional career.
As it turns out, Stone did remember Little. “He wrote back, ‘If you’re not singing, you should be,’” recalled Little.
Shortly after, the musically inclined Little began taking vocal lessons at Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, expanding on her musical training on the piano, oboe, clarinet and violin. “It became clear that my real talent was vocal,” she said.
She also left the law firm life at Tyler Cooper and opened her own practice in Stratford with her husband, Roger. They and a third attorney have been practicing law together since November 1997.
Peggy Little handles commercial litigation and appeals in state and federal courts while Roger is a transactional lawyer.
Meanwhile, Little has developed a side career as a professional singer of classical music and studies with a private coach. Many of her performances are for the Bridgeport Diocese in seasonal religious concerts and for various local churches. She gets paid for singing as first soprano in choirs and as a solo performer. “I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” she said.
Little recently has begun to “dabble” in cabaret and jazz singing, which require a different approach from classical. In cabaret performances, the vocalist treats the material with more intimacy and must use a microphone without it getting in the way of the performance. Little now performs with The Pitchpipers, an all-women’s group that sings jazz standards on a weekly basis at various Fairfield County venues.
And her legal training has served her well in her side career.
“You have to have a certain sense of poise and confidence to do either,” said Little, who appears in court on a regular basis. “I find [practicing] law easier.”
Little also has benefited from sharing an interest in music with other lawyers. That has led to forming bonds outside of the legal profession, which are “valuable from a business and personal standpoint.”
While Stone, her former teacher, has become a world-famous singer, Little said she simply wants to develop her cabaret skills and has no aspirations of performing on grand stages. “You take what you can get,” she said with a laugh.
But she is interested in finding other musicians for jazz jam sessions, just for the enjoyment of playing music with people. And she enjoys singing madrigals, which are ensemble vocal music compositions written during the Renaissance and early Baroque eras, though they require more time to practice than she currently has available.
Her practice continues to fulfill her and has led to separate side projects in legal writing, which takes time away from singing.
Her three children, all in their 20s, have moved or are moving out of the nest after college, which will allow Little to perform more because she can cut back on her law practice hours with no college tuition to pay. There should also be more time for her poetry writing.
Little has fashioned a side career in music all because she decided to take a little time for herself and evaluate her position. “If I hadn’t gotten fed up with big firm life, I don’t know if I would’ve had the nerve to do it,” she said.