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.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wen­zel

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 schmidt­com­pe­ti­

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

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