As it enters the home stretch of its 25th anniversary season, Schmidt Vocal Arts (SVA) eagerly awaits the final destination: From June 3-5, 2022, the Sarasota Opera House will host more than 30 singers – the three top winners from each of 13 regional competitions and an independent virtual cohort are eligible – competing in the company’s William E. Schmidt Opera Theater for the first national prize in Schmidt Vocal Competition history.
The distinguished judges of the national competition will be bass-baritone Eric Owens, Sarasota Opera General Manager Richard Russell and soprano Tamara Wilson. There will also be an alumni concert on June 4 which will feature SVA alumni Virginia Mims and Aaron Crouch with pianist Brent Funderburk.
Linda McAlister, who took on the role of Managing Director of SVA in 2019 after managing the competition since 2012, explains: “After two years of online competition, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear from these young live singers! We had a great turnout for our regional live and online competitions and it will be exciting to see and hear these high school singers perform on the stage at the William E. Schmidt Opera Theater – just as Bill would have liked. . to showcase the talent of our singers in the future with the continuation of our National Competition.” Sarasota Opera General Manager Richard Russell said, “Introducing young people to the art of operatic singing has been an important part of the Sarasota Opera’s mission for nearly 40 years. William E. Schmidt was a generous supporter of Sarasota Youth Opera, which is why we are especially thrilled to partner with Schmidt Vocal Arts for this inaugural event.” Funded by the William E. Schmidt Foundation, the Schmidt Vocal Competition is a annual event for American high school students that sees more than 400 singers compete each year – this season for more than $625,000 in prizes and scholarships – just at the critical point in their early careers when they begin to turn to a professional-level training. The last regional competitions of the 2021-22 season will be held in Tacoma, Chicago and Boston. These and other regional locations are selected with the aim of providing a central location for as many corners of the country as possible. Former competitors are known to travel up to eight hours by car or take a short flight to regional competitions, but SVA’s introduction of a coh virtual orte – along with the fact that the entire competition was moved online last season due to the pandemic – has also opened up opportunities for singers in more rural areas, including some of the premier singers from Alaska and the Montana.
The milestone of SVA’s first national competition will take place over a long weekend, beginning with the arrival of the semi-finalists in Sarasota on Friday and rehearsals with the pianists. Saturday are the semi-finals, heard by a panel of five judges. At an alumni concert that evening featuring SVA alumni Virginia Mims and Aaron Crouch with pianist Brent Funderburk, up to sixteen finalists will be announced for Sunday’s final, and four cheering prizes ($300) will be awarded to non-finalists, three of whom will also be invited to participate in a masterclass on Sunday with soprano Judith Haddon, soprano Dr. Katherine Jolly and tenor Stanford Olsen. Owens, Russell and Wilson will judge the finals and decide the prizes for first place ($10,000), second place ($7,500), third place ($5,000) and runner up ($650). A reception and awards ceremony close the weekend on Sunday evening. Information on some of the young candidates can be found here.
SVA’s support and resources continue long after the competition. Recipients are eligible for need-based scholarships to support their continued studies at the university level, and SVA continues to nurture relationships with many alumni throughout their careers, providing opportunities for education, mentorship and networking opportunities and grants for summer studies. SVA recently launched an undergraduate awards initiative, building on the programs designed for high school students to create opportunities for college-level singers as well. Also under the SVA umbrella are the Schmidt Vocal Institute (SVI), an intensive two-week summer training program established by McAlister in 2016, and its Vocal Artists Network, a roster of singers and pianists/coaches vocals with famous performers who are also dedicated teachers. The network includes such luminaries as Margo Garrett, Christine Goerke, Denyce Graves, Nathan Gunn, Craig Terry, Russell Thomas, Tamara Wilson and many more, and from its ranks come pageant judges, master clinicians and visiting professors. .
William E. Schmidt was a decorated military pilot, a successful businessman, and a generous supporter of the arts and charitable organizations in the communities where he lived. Born in Irvine, Kentucky in 1933, he came from a family that loved music and believed in the power of education. He received his Bachelor of Arts from DePauw University and his Masters of Business Administration from George Washington University in Washington, DC.
After her mother’s death, and with the guidance of her sister, Anna Lee Schmidt Hamilton – a versatile singer who did postgraduate studies at Indiana University and the Heidelberg Conservatory of Music in Germany before moving to taught, conducted and performed on various occasions at Butler University, the Indianapolis Opera Company and the Indiana Opera Theater – he founded the Schmidt Vocal Competition, first held at Indianapolis University in 1997. With these competitions, along with his significant support of other scholarship programs at numerous universities, schools, and community organizations, he left a remarkable legacy of dedication to the arts and to youth on which his foundation continues. to lean on today.
Later in life, Schmidt moved to Sarasota, Florida, where he became a major behind-the-scenes supporter of several key community projects, including the Sarasota Opera House. He passed away in 2014 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, but his love and commitment to the arts and community lives on in his family, friends and colleagues. The William E. Schmidt Foundation captures his spirit of enterprise and hard work in the initiatives and projects it selects to fund – always rooted in innovation and led by people committed to a worthy mission.
Funded by the William E. Schmidt Foundation, Schmidt Vocal Arts is committed to fostering a passion for classical singing and creating opportunities for young singers. Led by Managing Director Linda McAlister, Schmidt Vocal Arts has many accomplished alumni who have gone on to pursue music studies and successful careers in the arts. The Schmidt Singing Competitions – the oldest of the Foundation’s programs – have touched the lives of more than 5,000 developing singers, awarding a total of $1.6 million in prizes and cash scholarships since their inception in 1997.
Through its national competitions, educational programs and intensive summer courses, SVA has continued to provide developing musicians with opportunities and enriching experiences amid the global pandemic. In March 2020, they quickly transitioned their National Singing Competition to fully remote programming and added engaging programming such as webinars and virtual masterclasses with opera stars such as Christine Goerke and Russell Thomas. Based on feedback from college alumni, SVA also created an online undergraduate singing contest with four $5,000 prizes, reaching hundreds of additional singers. From the start of the pandemic until the end of the current season, SVA will have donated over $1 million in awards and scholarships to support young singers.
Other Schmidt vocal arts programs include the Schmidt Vocal Institute, an intensive two-week summer residential program where singers learn from world-renowned artists, participate in workshops and masterclasses, and perform with other talented musicians; Schmidt Vocal Education, offering regional and online programs for singers and teachers to learn, challenge themselves, and participate in performance experiences; and Schmidt Vocal Scholarships, a program that provides needs-based support to talented singers pursuing professional vocal training.
Sarasota Opera recently completed its 63rd world-class opera season on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The company was launched in 1960 in the historic 320-seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. In 1984 the company moved to the former AB Edwards Theater, now the Sarasota Opera House. Since then, the company has earned an international reputation as one of the leading regional opera companies in the United States through initiatives such as the Masterworks Revival Series and the Verdi Cycle. The company’s Sarasota Youth Opera is the most comprehensive youth program in the United States. The Sarasota Opera House, called “one of America’s finest opera venues” by Musical America, underwent a $20 million renovation in 2007, when the auditorium was named the William E. Schmidt Opera Theater, in recognition of his leadership skills. Since 1983 the company has been under the artistic direction of Victor DeRenzi and under the administrative direction of Executive Director Richard Russell since 2012. The Sarasota Opera House is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council. on Arts and Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. The programs are funded in part by revenue from the Sarasota County Tourism Development Tax.