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OWR Young Artists look to go live in 2021

After a year without live performances, Opera Western Reserve’s Young Artists program is preparing for a return in June.

The Young Artists will do two free outdoor performances of an opera based on the story of “The Three Little Pigs” on June 11 in the DeYor Performing Arts Center garden, and a cabaret show that evening will feature soprano Randa Rouweyha and tenor Jesus Daniel.

“COVID-19 essentially put a big, long pause on almost all types of live performance,” said Robert Pierce, OWR’s educational outreach director and production stage manager. “Across the globe, many companies have taken to creating virtual programming in the past year. The last performances given by our Young Artists were part of a school tour in March of 2020 immediately before Ohio began going into lockdown, but we look forward to bringing them back for live performances this summer.”

While the Young Artists program brings in talent for the productions, it also allows for a great outreach program for students looking at a career in the performing arts, opera in particular.

“The Young Artists are selected by audition,” said Lynn Ohle, administrative assistant and Education Outreach coordinator for Opera Western Reserve. “We seek local singers who are interested in pursuing a professional career in performing, opera, musical theater or music education, or who are up and coming young professional singers who are in the process of building their performing resume.”

Ohle said the Young Artist program offers opportunities for paid contracts throughout the year, rehearsals with individual vocal and music coaching, and the ability to work with professional international opera singers during main stage operas.

“We don’t usually have a ‘limit’ to how many Young Artists we contract throughout the year,” Ohle said. “Each event requires a different collection of voices, so we audition as many young singers as we can, and hire as many as we are able for that year’s needs. A lot of what we do is a compromise between what singers are available and what their capabilities are. We always want to enrich the experiences of the singers rather than add additional or conflicting stress.”

This year’s Young Artists include Alexander Kluchar, Rebecca Enlow Walker and Emilio Santiago.

Kluchar, a 2017 Canfield High School graduate and a vocal performance major at Youngstown State University, hopes to make singing a career.

“Music to me is so much more than a hobby or pastime; it is my passion,” he said.

Santiago, a 2015 Hickory High School graduate, didn’t become an opera fan until college.

“When I started at YSU, I was an English education major,” he said. “I wanted to pursue music, but I just didn’t have the confidence. After a miserable first semester, I took a chance and auditioned for the Dana School of Music. I signed up for opera workshop on a friend’s recommendation. There, I watched as two senior tenors, Victor Cardamone and Patrick Niess, loudly and proudly sang their hearts out. I thought they were the coolest. I wanted to be like them, sing like them. From then on, opera consumed me.”

Santiago is returning to the Young Artists program after first joining it in 2017.

“Back then, I was an awkward kid who was just glad to be there,” he said. “Now, I feel like through my experiences with OWR, I have grown into a something that resembles a professional musician. I still have a long way to go, but knowing I have the backing of a great opera company, and the guidance of mentors like Jon Simsic and Robert Pierce, I’m confident in my future.”

Pierce himself is a veteran of the Young Artist program, performing as a student in 2009. He was recruited by the program’s director Diana Farrell and took over as director in the 2013-14 season.

“A lot of great voices / performers have come from this area, and it has been a privilege to see many of them grow, and learn, through their experiences with Opera Western Reserve.” Pierce said. “I most enjoy imparting the knowledge I have as a performer to younger singers who are often having their first major experiences in front of an audience. I also take great pride in exposing the young audiences of the Mahoning Valley to an art form that has greatly enriched my life, hopefully sparking an interest that will only grow from there.”

jtwhitehouse@tribtoday.com

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