How we met She was really intelligent and the most beautiful woman I’d ever met’
When Tertia was awarded a Churchill fellowship in 1997 to research music education in primary schools, she was delighted. The fund gave her the chance to travel to the US for eight weeks. “As an opera singer, it was a really exciting project,” she says. “There were lots of opera education programmes in the US at the time, which is why I wanted to go there and explore. I began writing to different companies to find out more about their work.”
As part of her project planning, she contacted Adam, who was the director of education at the San Diego Opera. “I asked him what was on and where I could stay if I visited,” she says. “He was very polite in his response, but didn’t answer my specific questions, which made me think he was a bit of an idiot. I later realised they just had so much on, there wasn’t a specific time for me to go.”
In April, Tertia attended the Opera America conference in Philadelphia, where she met Adam. “I realised he was the person from San Diego that I’d been emailing,” she says. Later, they went to the bar and began chatting. “I thought she seemed really intelligent, easy to talk to and the most beautiful woman I’d ever met,” says Adam. During their conversation, he opened up about the bereavements he had struggled with. “He’d lost most of his family and had been through so much. He struck me as being quite sad,” says Tertia.
After the conference, they stayed in touch via email. “It was clear there was something between us,” she says. Adam remembers feeling “a strong connection and spark”. In May, Tertia went to Los Angeles to visit family and met up with Adam in San Diego. “We went to Morro Bay and spent some time by the sea,” he says. “I think that’s really where we fell in love.” Shortly after, Tertia travelled to San Francisco for the last leg of her research trip. “He drove 1,000 miles to come and visit me before I flew home,” she says. For the next year, they had a long-distance relationship, with regular phone calls and emails.
In 1998, they decided to take the plunge to get married and be together in London. “For me, it was a simple choice to up and go,” says Adam. Although Tertia’s family worried that she was rushing into things, they welcomed Adam with open arms. “My parents were delighted. It was a bit mad, but it felt romantic,” she says. Adam soon found work and became the director of the Hackney Music Development Trust, now called HMDT Music, a charity that creates new operas, musicals and arts projects for young people. He and Tertia later became co-directors and they have enjoyed the challenges of working together as a couple. “Sometimes we drive each other mad, but we make each other laugh, too,” she says. They also have a daughter, Ellie, who is 16. “We didn’t think we could have children, so she was an unexpected blessing,” says Tertia.
At the start of this year, Adam became unwell and was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, a condition where the immune system attacks the liver. A bout of Covid in the summer increased the severity of his disease. “Things have changed hugely, but we have to deal with what life throws at us,” says Tertia. “Adam’s illness has made it clear just how special our relationship is and we want to make the most of every day we have together.”
He loves the way they have fun. “Tertia has a strong interest in travel and has motivated me to see the world,” he says. “I’ve learned so much from her.” She adores her husband’s “eccentric nuttiness” and his wide-ranging interests. “We always have things to talk and joke about. Illness makes life hard, but it also makes you appreciate what you have.”