From Vocalist to Entrepreneur: Q&A with Jonas Laughin

Jonas Laughlin

Voice/Opera

Why did you choose to attend Boston Conservatory to study voice?

Of all the schools at which I auditioned, Boston Conservatory at Berklee felt the most welcoming. I can still remember walking into the opera studio and seeing all the smiling, encouraging faces of the voice faculty. I felt like those people were really engaged in their work, and instinctively, I just knew it was going to be a great place to study. 

What were your goals during the program?

At the outset, my two goals were to fine-tune my singing and to get lots of stage experience. I was lucky to work with an amazing voice teacher, Bill Cotten, who really helped me iron out some major technical hurdles. The opera department also had a strong complement of directors and coaches who guided me through concerts and roles. In my second year, when a freak cold virus permanently damaged my singing voice, my goal was to simply complete my degree with as much finesse as I could muster. 

How did you find your way from the Conservatory to your current work at Laughlin’s Bakery? 

This was a very circuitous and painful path. When my voice stopped functioning, and when it became fairly clear that my professional singing career was over, I turned to cooking, and baking in particular, as a therapeutic and creative outlet. It felt very natural to me to start with a written version of something, in this case a recipe, and to personally recreate it. I worked on desserts the way I had practiced my arias—slowly, repetitively, critically. I eventually found myself selling my baked goods to restaurants and folks around town, and when my business had outstripped the capability of my home kitchen, I decided to try and open a shop.

Can you describe a day in the life of Jonas?

Ha! Yes! Well, it starts in the middle of the night, usually around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., depending on the day and my baking load. I'll arrive at my shop by 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and bake the pastries that we will sell for the day—croissants, scones, muffins. I also divide, shape, and bake our bread for the day. Sometime around 10 a.m., I make my way to the gym. After about an hour at the gym, I go back to the shop to bake more, usually until about 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. Once home, I try to spend a little time with my cat and my partner until I head to bed around 7 p.m.

What are your favorite parts of your work?

I really enjoy the quietude of doing my work alone in the middle of the night. It's always a spiritual, very reflective time for me. I also love the method of developing, practicing, and attempting to perfect my craft.

What projects do you feel have been highlights of your career?

The success of my Kickstarter campaign that helped me raise the money to open my bakery last year was a highlight, for sure. Also, I was pretty proud of teaching myself how to make a real baguette.

How has your arts training impacted your career decisions and your effectiveness at work?

My training is a constant source of strength and discipline for me. I knew the hurdles and difficulties that I would face once I opened my shop, but I also knew that I would have the fortitude and determination to face and conquer them. It's impossible to express just how positively my time at Boston Conservatory influenced me. I call upon those wonderful memories daily.

Are there ways in which you have used your arts training that have surprised you?

Yes, actually. I had no experience as a supervisor prior to opening my shop, but in thinking about the sort of boss I wanted to be, I found inspiration in my own mentors at the Conservatory. Patty Thom, Bill Cotten, Kirsten Cairns, Karl Paulnack—all of these people showed me how to demand excellence without compromising professionalism and kindness. I aspire to their examples.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just my unfaltering gratitude to the Conservatory for its kindness, support, and incredibly nurturing atmosphere during my years there.