COLORADO’S 11 BEST SLEIGH RIDES, RINKS BOAST VERSATILITY
From cowboy meals to double axels, make this winter one to remember for years to come. And if all else fails, spike that hot cocoa.
Whether or not you realize it, you have probably heard at least one winner of the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition over the years at an opera, classical music or chorale performance.
The 30-year-old, nationally renowned program lures the country’s most ambitious high school singers to compete for more than $200,000 in prize money, as well as the chance to study at the world’s most prestigious music schools under veteran performers and teachers.
That makes the Saturday, Dec. 10, debut of the program at the University of Colorado in Boulder a rallying cry for local and regional talent who are convinced they’re ready for the next stage.
“The (winners) receive national exposure, scholarships and the chance to debut at important venues, so it’s a great launching pad for kids who are aspiring singers,” said Ben Smolder, director of the Schmidt Foundation and the opera program at Miami University of Ohio, where the competition is based. “One of our former winners, Reggie Smith, just won the Met auditions.”
For the uninitiated, that’s the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which follows Smith’s performances with the Houston Grand Opera Studio and many more across the country. Like the 5,000 other young singers who have participated in the contest since it was founded, Smith benefits from the Schmidt Foundation’s partnership with big names like the Kennedy Center, the National Opera Center and Cincinnati Opera.
It all starts with the competition, which takes place at 15 different locations around the country annually, including the Seattle Opera and the New England Conservatory. Colorado and the surrounding area had no representation with Schmidt until Smolder worked with CU tenor and assistant professor of voice Matthew Chellis to bring it to Colorado for the first time.
“We have so many talented young high school singers here in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, and it is a great way to introduce them to what our voice program is doing here in Boulder,” Chellis said. “The competition is open to the public and allows CU to show off their facilities as well as faculty to a new audience.”
Since October, Schmidt has been holding about two competitions per month around the country, from Atlanta and West Palm Beach, Fla., to Las Vegas. Most, like Boulder’s, are at universities, although the Jan. 28 New York event lands at the National Opera Center.
Applicants plunk down $45 and fill out an extensive online application that has them listing both a three-song repertoire and recommendations from teachers and choir directors. Spots are limited to 35 sophomores, juniors or seniors (sorry, frosh), and the submission process even weaponizes applicants by asking them to name their hometown paper and provide contact information “used for press release,” according to schmidtcompetition.org.
That’s smart promotion, but it wouldn’t mean much if the program only served the interests of its judges. Notably, Schmidt is not just one of the largest youth singing competitions in the country, but also the biggest with a nonprofit mission.
“This is really based out of the foundation so there’s no moneymaking aspect of it,” Smolder said. “Scholarships are based on need, and we gravitate toward kids who have a social bent, so if they have a sense of giving back and volunteering that’s also something we look for. But our goal is to make it available to everyone. If a kid can’t afford it we waive all application fees.”
Of course, CU is also using Schmidt to promote its own music programs, including full opera productions, its CU NOW opera workshop, mentorship opportunities and student work. And for added incentive, the Schmidt Foundation offers a $2,000 matching scholarship for the winning singer to whichever music program hosts the event.
Besides the Dec. 10 competition, the Schmidt Foundation will also host a master class with the judges (Chellis, plus William Florescu of the Florentine Opera Company and Stella Zambalis of the Met and New York City Opera) and offer the winner a chance to attend Schmidt’s summer music program — with most expenses paid.
“The participating students get to perform for top level music professionals and air out their music for a discerning audience,” said Chellis, a former professional opera singer who also serves as artistic director of Michigan’s Up North Vocal Institute. “It’s a big deal to host it.”
Clara Hevia, a high school student from Arlington, Mass., competes solo in the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition, the country’s most prestigious nonprofit singing contest for aspiring vocal performers. Provided by University of Colorado