Conservatory students studying opera will have a chance to step onto the professional stage in December with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
Vinson Cole, Professor of Voice at the Conservatory, will lead the recently announced Resident Artists Program.
Auditions for the program will be held in Kansas City and New York in December. Four singers will be chosen to participate in the program, receiving extensive training to prepare them for a profession in opera.
Cole cited the Chicago Lyric Opera Ryan Center Program, Houston Grand Opera Studio, and Adler Fellows Program at the San Francisco Opera Center as inspirations for the new program.
The program provides singers with daily opportunities to hone their craft. These include classes, coaching on pieces, work with a resident pianist and possibly a resident stage director. Singers will be expected to participate in three projects, such as new operas and workshops, chosen by the Lyric Opera. Singers will have the chance to participate in Lyric Opera productions and the Lyric will offer lead roles to those proven to be exceptionally talented.
Several guest artists will work with the singers as well, though their names could not be confirmed.
“We’ve thrown around a couple ideas of people we would like to bring, but I’m probably not at liberty to say,” Cole said. “I don’t want to break any confidentiality.”
The Resident Artists Program hopes to build on the success of the Apprentice Program here at UMKC. The Apprentice Program involves yearly auditions for students selected by UMKC to participate in Lyric Opera productions. These students go on to perform in supporting roles as well as sing in the chorus.
Two things, primarily, separate the Resident Artists Program from the Apprentice Program. First, the Resident Artists Program is its own entity unaffiliated with UMKC. Second, the Lyric Opera is looking for “young professionals,” students prepared and ready to move into the world of professional opera.
“We have wonderfully talented students [at UMKC] and this is by no means a derogatory statement,” Cole elaborated. “They are still students, they are still learning.”
Cole expressed that some fear the new program will overshadow the Apprentice Program, but he reassured that this is not the case.
“That’s by far the opposite. If you do workshop a new opera, since there are only four singers [in the Resident Artists Program],” Cole said. “There are usually more than four singers in an opera. So they will probably call upon the resources of the young artists program [Apprentice Program].”
As an internationally recognized opera singer, Cole was approached by the Lyric Opera some time ago to lead the Resident Artists Program. He was somewhat skeptical at first because as he put it, he’d never run, he’d always just sung.
Cole sees his role as that of a guidance counselor of sorts. Singers in the program can seek vocal help from him as well as talk to him about working in the field. Cole will also assist in choosing the repertoire for the program, which he sees as an important task. The pieces chosen must be within the ability of the singers who will be performing.
Cole hopes to give students the same wonderful experiences he had as a student that taught him how to make music out of something. He wants to encourage students to think about the music and the shaping of lyrics.
“For me it’s always about the music,” Cole said. “The music, the words, and shaping them into great phrases so that wonderful music is made.”
Students coming out of the Apprentice Program or on the verge of starting their careers, as well as those who have participated in other programs, are encouraged to apply for the Resident Artists Program. Applications can be found at YAP Tracker at www.yaptracker.com/applications/kansas-city-2016.
Cole recommended that students applying be prepared and ready – vocally, musically, intellectually and physically. They must confidence in their abilities.
“Your Achilles heel, you can never show it,” Cole said. “You have to have a very tough skin and say that ‘I know what I can do. I know I do it well and there will be people that like me.’”