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UNI Opera

Testimonials

Brent Smith, bass (MM, 2014)

Brent Smith, bass (MM, 2014)

“My time at UNI gave me the solid vocal technique I needed to learn and perform many of the roles that I am now doing in young artist programs across the country. UNI also presented me with many performing opportunities: staged productions with orchestra or piano, vocal practicum classes, opera studio workshop performances, masterclasses, and solo opportunities in large choral works. Each week I had the opportunity to apply the many artistic and technical skills I was learning in front of an audience. This was invaluable to my growth as an artist. 

UNI is a unique place to study voice in part due to the close attention one receives from the private teacher, coach, and stage director. I felt (and still feel!) close to each one of my professors. The learning environment is welcoming and friendly yet challenging and demanding. As with any institution, you receive what you personally put in to your education in terms of effort and determination. However, I believe that when you put this energy into your time at UNI, you will receive invaluable rewards—vocally, intellectually and artistically.”

Apprentice Artist: Central City Opera, Kentucky Opera, Sarasota Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera

Chandra Egger McKern, mezzo-soprano (BM, 2000)

Chandra Egger McKern, mezzo-soprano (BM, 2000)

“The education and training I received at UNI was such a wonderful and fulfilling experience for me.  I met lifelong friends and received training and performance opportunities that truly shaped me in preparation for my career as an artist and opera arts administrator.  It was not until my sophomore year at UNI that I realized this was I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I realized I wanted to spend every day doing something I am truly passionate about!”

Tulsa Opera, Opera Birmingham, Nevada Opera, Pensacola Opera, Little Orchestra Society of New York. Young artist programs: Central City Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre. Education and Outreach Director for Pensacola Opera since 2010; Director of Education and Outreach & Director of Mary Ragland Young Artists Program for Nashville Opera as of 2012. 

Joel Waggoner, composer, baritone, violinist (BM)

Joel Waggoner, composer, baritone, violinist (BM)

“I am so proud to have gone to UNI. I was able to perform as concertmaster of the orchestra and violin soloist in the jazz band; I was able to sing roles in operas, musicals, and sing in a vocal jazz ensemble; I music directed, conducted, accompanied, composed, and coached—all while being responsible for my coursework. 

UNI gave me confidence and experience in every area of my artistry. The versatility I fostered there remains my greatest asset as a professional artist. I also look back with gratitude on the high level of expectation the faculty had for not only me, but for themselves. These are some of the best and brightest artists in the field and no one is resting on their laurels.  I miss how hard everyone works, how passionate people are there, how kind, how spiritual, how forgiving, and how patient. I miss not being able to master something and figuring it out five years later. I miss the challenges. I miss the way that I used to look at my teachers with wonder and curiosity. With jealousy and fear. With appreciation and electricity.  I hope that my students will look at me that way!”

Attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program. Recipient of 2009 ASCAP Max Dreyfus award for Promise as a Musical Theater Composer. Awarded the Dramatist Guild Fellowship program in 2012 (a year-long writing lab led by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens; while in that program, performed his works for Stephen Sondheim, Tom Kitt, Michael John LaChiusa and more).  Cast in Southern Comfort which performed both off-Broadway and at Barrington Stage Company, Massachusetts—played violin, sang, acted, and orchestrated.

Currently, Director of Music for the Pace University School of the Arts Musical Theater BFA Program which premiers at least 5 new musicals per year.

Also an active composer, currently commissioned to write a musical (in collaboration with my colleague Eric Price) for Barrington Stage Company that will hopefully be fully produced in the summer of 2015. 

Kelly Hill, mezzo-soprano (BM, 2008)

Kelly Hill, mezzo-soprano (BM, 2008)

“UNI prepared me to be a professional musician in part by offering many performing opportunities, weekly voice lessons AND coachings, and a fantastic and comprehensive music theory program—essential in creating intelligent, successful musicians. With the support of the faculty, I was really able to grow as a young artist. I saw the other students in the school not as competition, but as friends and colleagues who deserved support, roles, and opportunities just as much as I did. This environment helped me to perceive myself as a unique product and helped me to develop an important perspective on auditioning, wherein if I didn't get the job or win the competition, it was not necessarily because some one else sang better than I did, but perhaps because the panel was looking for something different than what I had to offer. This has helped to navigate the audition circuit more successfully, and has also helped me create a strong, wonderful, and supportive network of friends. This perspective is the greatest gift I could've received from a school, and I feel blessed to say that UNI gave me its roots.”

Fellowship Recipient, Aspen Opera Theater. Apprentice/Young Artist:  Santa Fe Opera, Central City Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre. Soloist with Yale Philharmonia, New Haven Symphony Orchestra, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and Waterbury Symphony Orchestra. MM and AD from Yale School of Music. Metropolitan Opera National Conference Auditions Regional Finalist and District 1st Place Winner. Voice faculty, Naugatuck Valley Community College.

Veronica Mitina, soprano (MM, 2000)

Kyle Albertson, baritone (BM, 2002)

“At UNI, I learned the techniques of singing, the basics of stage work, and an overall appreciation for the art of making music.  There isn’t a day that goes by in my career that I don’t reflect upon, or use the skills learned from my UNI days.  Panther and Proud!”

Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Dallas Opera, Minnesota Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Atlanta Opera, Opera San Jose, Carnegie Hall, Washington National Symphony, Des Moines Metro Opera, Long Beach Opera. Metropolitan Opera National Council national semi finalist, and George London Foundation first-prize winner, Gerda Lissner Foundation, and Marcello Giordani Foundation competitions.  

Laurie Seely, mezzo-soprano (MM, 2000)

Laurie Seely, mezzo-soprano (MM, 2000)

“UNI is where I relaxed and finally learned how to sing. My teacher gave me the foundation on which to build my technique. My plan was to stay in Cedar Falls after I received my Masters degree and continue studying because I had made so much progress; that wasn't meant to be, however, because I was accepted into the young artist program at Glimmerglass Opera and then went on to a life of auditioning and working in New York City. Now I sing in the full time chorus at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It's my dream job! The training and experience that I received at UNI helped in a big way to prepare me for what I'm doing now.”

Lake George Opera, Ashlawn Opera Theater, Michigan Opera Theater, Kentucky Opera, Mobile Opera, Sarasota Opera, Opera Company of Brooklyn, Opera North, Encompass New Opera Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus. Young Artist--Glimmerglass Opera. Recording on Albany Records.

Nicole Birkland, mezzo-soprano (BM 2001, MM 2006)

Nicole Birkland, mezzo-soprano (BM 2001, MM 2006)

“At UNI I was encouraged to develop to my fullest as a singer, something I never dreamed of when I started studying. Under my voice teacher’s direction, as well as that of other faculty members, I really grew as a performer and gained the necessary tools needed to pursue a career in opera.  I continue to study with my UNI voice teacher to this very day! My vocal technique has been an invaluably strong asset—one I absolutely need as I continue to work in the operatic world. UNI Opera also provided me with an opportunity to improve upon my skills as an actor-singer on the stage.  The school possesses a wonderful environment in which to foster a performer’s growth and I cherish my years there as a student.”

Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Merola Opera Program, Opera San Jose, Chautauqua Opera, Sarasota Opera, Wichita Grand Opera, Cleveland Opera, Winter Opera St. Louis, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Fargo-Moorhead Opera

Nicolle Foland, soprano (BM 1991, MM 1993)

Nicolle Foland, soprano (BM 1991, MM 1993)

“Earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree in Vocal Performance at UNI prepared me for a career in music that I was incredibly fortunate to have. Directly after graduating with my Masters, I headed off to San Francisco and the Merola Opera Program for two summers, both of which were followed by a national opera tour with Western Opera Theater. I then went on to be an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, and my main stage experiences there launched a 20-year career that has taken me all over the United States singing leading roles with large and small companies alike. The educational foundation laid for me at UNI prepared me on every level for what is required in an opera career – being a good musician, having knowledge of musical styles, training in acting and most important, learning a solid vocal technique. 

As my singing career has tapered off over the past years, I have discovered even more deeply how my education at UNI prepared me for life after full-time singing. I now work happily for two nonprofits that support musical entities and have started my own nonprofit with two friends to bring an after school curriculum of singing, acting and improvisation to middle and high school students. I teach private voice lessons and also raise funds for a Merola scholarship in memory of a dear friend. In addition to continuing to professionally sing on a smaller scale, success in these fulfilling projects is possible because of the education I received at UNI. My professors taught me what it is to be a professional in the world both by example and advice, and they showed me how to manage the time demands impressed on working musicians. Without these skills, I could not do the things I do, I could not help the people I seek to help and I would not have the happy life that I have carved out for myself in this ever-changing world.”

Renée Rapier, mezzo-soprano (BM 2009, MM 2011)

Renée Rapier, mezzo-soprano (BM 2009, MM 2011)

“UNI means so much to me, as it has made me the artist I am today.  The foundations I learned at the School of Music have given me the confidence to work with some of the top musicians in the world.  Likewise, the continued support of my amazing professors is what keeps me focused, grounded, and on the right path.  No matter where I go or whom I sing with, I am always proud to be a UNI School of Music alumna.”  

LA Opera, San Francisco Opera & Adler Fellowship, Merola Opera Program, Seattle Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Ravinia Festival, Opera Parallèle, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera San Antonio, the Seoul Philharmonic, Opera Theatre St. Louis.  Semi-finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Viñas International Singing Competition, finalist at the Seoul, Korea International Music Competition.  Winner of the Brava! Opera Theatre Vocal Competition, Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition.  

Rhys Talbot, bass-baritone (BM, 2014)

Rhys Talbot, bass-baritone (BM, 2014)

“I was proverbially pushed out of the nest at a fairly young age for a bass-baritone.  As a sophomore, my teacher was highly supportive and encouraging of me to go for broke and begin auditioning for summer young artist programs.  That summer I was accepted into the Central City Opera studio program, and thanks to the ongoing support of my professors at UNI, I haven't looked back. Every program I've gone to has always been complimentary of my fundamentals from my languages to the solid understanding and control of my vocal technique, particularly for an undergraduate.  I always hear, "you must tell your teacher he's a masterful pedagogue" or "most people would pay top dollar for that kind of quality coaching".  When these people find out I've learned to do what I do at UNI, they're almost besides themselves.”

Merola Opera Program 2013 & 2014, Wolf Trap Opera Studio Artist, Central City Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas CIty, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Regional Finalist, First Place Sun Valley Opera International Vocal Competition.

Roxanne Rowedder, mezzo-soprano (BM, 1997)

Roxanne Rowedder, mezzo-soprano (BM, 1997)

“While UNI is a large university, the School of Music provides an intimate atmosphere for learning; all of the music faculty are so supportive and know you on a first-name basis.  They were always very positive and encouraging toward me! The UNI faculty and students are an elite family, and to this day even after graduating, I love to visit and say hello to all. Being a student at UNI was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Winner, George London Foundation Kirsten Flagstad Award, Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation award, Lavinia Foundation and Opera Index awards. Oratorio Society of New York, Sarasota Opera, Opera Delaware, New Jersey State Opera, Canadian Opera Company of Toronto, Wagner Society of Washington, D.C., Brevard Music Center.

Samantha Kantak, soprano (BM 2012, MM 2014)

Samantha Kantak, soprano (BM 2012, MM 2014)

“The University of Northern Iowa will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I would not have experienced the opportunities or successes that I have were it not for the exceptional training and that I received there.  UNI is unique in that it is small enough to offer intimate-sized classes in which students receive individualized attention, but large enough to afford opportunities and experiences equivalent to large universities.”

Currently pursuing DMA degree at University of North Texas in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy under the prestigious Robert B. Toulouse Fellowship; winner of the North Texas Concerto Competition, 2014.  Amalfi Coast Opera Festival, OperaNEO, Schubert Club award winner. 

Suzanne Hendrix, mezzo-soprano (BM Ed. 2001, MM 2006)

Suzanne Hendrix, mezzo-soprano (BM Ed. 2001, MM 2006)

“Initially a music education major, my voice teacher trained me as a serious vocalist, which not only prepared me to teach, but eventually led me to pursue a career in opera.  Even though I have worked with some of the top teachers and coaches in the country, I still return to UNI to work with my voice teacher and vocal coach there as my schedule allows.  The two of them are not only outstanding instructors in a university setting but also rival people working at the top opera houses.  I owe my vocal technique and the confidence attached to it to the training I received at UNI.”

San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Wiener Staatsoper, Santa Fe Opera, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Memphis, Merola Opera Program. Winner of George London Foundation Award, Sullivan Foundation Career Development Grant, Gerda Lissner Foundation Award.

Teresa Buckholz, mezzo-soprano (BM, 1992)

Teresa Buckholz, mezzo-soprano (BM, 1992)

“The voice department at UNI gave me first and foremost the building blocks of excellent vocal instruction, good musicianship skills and performing experience in a variety of genres (choral music, art song recitals and concerts, operas and even some musicals).  The program was small enough that we as young students received a great deal of individual attention and it was large enough to support a choral and opera program which gave us this variety of performing opportunities in a nurturing environment.”

Bard Music Festival, Avery Fisher Hall with Distinguished Concerts International, Carnegie Hall with The American Symphony Orchestra, Gateway Chamber Orchestra, Helena Symphony, Asheville Lyric Opera, Opera Roanoke, Little Opera Company of New York, many performances as professional chorister with New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw. Winner, Nico Castel International Master Singer Competition, Apprentice Artist: Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Central City Opera, The Vocal Institute (Santa Barbara). Artist Diploma, Yale School of Music. Currently Artist-in-Residence at Bard College.

Veronica Mitina, soprano (MM, 2000)

Veronica Mitina, soprano (MM, 2000)

“The two years that I spent in graduate school at the UNI played a huge role in my development as a singing artist. Above all, I have to mention my wonderful voice teacher under whose careful and knowledgeable guidance I transitioned from a mezzo-soprano to a lyrico spinto soprano. He guided me in many ways, helping me, a freshly transplanted exchange-student from Russia, in navigating the steps of my advancing career—such as entering competitions, young artist apprenticeships and a postgraduate program. I have very fond memories of participating in several full opera and musical productions as a singer and also as a rehearsal pianist. The level of artistry among singers was high and the atmosphere of respect and caring for each other made the process very enjoyable.” 

Virginia Opera, Anchorage Opera, Nevada Opera, Sarasota Opera, Syracuse Opera, Opera North, Lyrique-en-Mer Festival, Opera Theatre St. Louis, Annapolis Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, Boston ProMusica, Charlottesville Symphony, Metropolitan Opera National Council regional and district finalist.