Voices echoing with operatic arias -- an air or melody in an opera, cantata or oratorio, especially for solo voice with instrumental accompaniment -- rang through the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in the 33rd West Palm Beach Vocal Competition, held this past April in West Palm Beach, Fla. Five of the winners were students from IU and one was an IU alumnus. \nThere were 150 singers from 28 states, Canada and Puerto Rico who entered the contest. From those singers, 52 were chosen to move on to different divisions. Thirty-three singers were placed in the advanced division, while 19 were placed in the junior division. Representing IU were eight students in the advanced division and three students in the junior division. Six students walked away with high accords.\nIU had five winners in the advanced division and a first place winner in the junior division. Doctoral student Leah Hunt was first; graduate student Stephanie Dawn Johnson was second; masters student Timothy Kuhn, third; graduate student Weston Hurt, fourth; and grad student Brandon Mayberry, sixth. In the junior division, graduate student Ailyn Perez was the first place winner. \nTo be able to compete in the competition, the singers had to submit an application with a resume and a tape consisting of two different arias. The competitors were asked to prepare four arias in different languages and styles. \nAt the competition, the first aria was picked by the vocalist, while the judges chose the others. Once the winners decision was announced, the vocalists met with the Maestro to discuss what would be sung for the Grand Winner's Concert with the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra. At the Winner's concert, there were also two ensemble pieces in which the winners all performed and were assigned chorus and solo parts.\nHunt, a soprano, sang two arias, "Ardon gl'incensi" from Lucia di Lammermoor and "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide. Hunt has been at IU for four years and completed her Master of Music degree last year. She has also started her Doctorate in vocal performance at IU. Studying under Virginia Zeani, she has been in many competitions. She was a finalist in The Eleanor McCollum Competition and a first place winner in the Opera Birmingham Competition. \n"I began to seriously study operatic music when I attended Mercer University. I have always thought of myself as a singer, and hope to continue singing in the future," she said. "I will be singing in many operas next year, including Mozart's 'La Finta Giardiniera' and Mozart's 'Le Nozze di Figaro.'" \nHunt believes that IU had a great representation. \nWeston Hurt, a full lyric baritone, has attended IU for three years. He just graduated from IU with a Performer's Diploma in Professional Opera Studies under James McDonald. He won fourth place at the competition and performed "Francesco's Scena ed Aria: from Verdi's opera "I Masnadieri," and the Count's aria from "Le nozze di Figaro." For the winner's concert, he sang Enrico's aria from "Lucia di Lammermoor."\n"Since my mother wanted me to do music because she is greatly involved with it, I did not think I would want to do music. But during my junior year in high school I fell in love with singing," Hurt said. "I hope to have an international singing career that allows me to retire after 15 or 20 years into teaching at a university."\nJohnson sang the aria "The Jewel Song" from Goumod's opera, "Faust," and then "Sempre libera from Verdi's "La Traviata." She is earning a Performer Diploma in Professional Opera Skills and studies under Costanza Cuccaro and Gary Arvin. \n"When I saw 'Adriana Lecouvreur' in 1994, I decided right then that I wanted to sing opera. I never knew that such glorious and dramatically involved music existed, and there was no other question of what I wanted to do," Johnson said.\nJohnson has also competed in the Metropolitan Opera Competition and the MacAllister Competition. She is currently a young artist singing with Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y.\n"All of the experiences I have had up until now, the IU opera productions, wonderful guidance from my vocal directors, and other opera programs, have left me well prepared for this career. I want to sing, and I am waiting for the doors to open up to wherever they may go," Johnson said.
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