2019/20 Collegiate Vocal Competition2019/20 Collegiate Vocal Competition

Collegiate Vocal Competition


September 12, 2020 | 7:00 PM
Betty Van Andel Opera Center | 1320 East Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503

For patrons that have already purchased tickets, your tickets will be automatically moved to this new date. Please call the Box Office at 616.451.2741 with any questions.


Opera Grand Rapids is pleased to announce the finalists in its National Collegiate Vocal Competition, which offers one of the largest collegiate vocal prizes in the Nation.

For fifteen years, Opera Grand Rapids (OGR), Michigan’s oldest and longest-running professional opera company, has hosted a collegiate vocal consortium, giving experiential benefits and hosting a competition for collegiate members.  In this, the company’s fifty-second season, OGR expanded the competition to a National level and collected applicants from ten states.

Read the press release.


The final round judging will take place in a public concert. Audience members will be able to vote for their favorite performer to win the Friends of the Opera Award.

September 12, 2020 | 7:00 PM
Betty Van Andel Opera Center | 1320 East Fulton, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503

TICKETS $10 general admission
Students $5 must present valid student I.D.

Available through Ticketmaster or by calling the Box Office: 616.451.2741


Justine Alexander | Soprano

Michigan State University

Shannon Crowley | Soprano

Michigan State University

Lily Belle Czartorski | Mezzo-Soprano

Oakland University

Deepa Johnny | Mezzo-Soprano

Indiana University

Alexander Kapp | Baritone

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Ben Reisinger | Baritone

Michigan State University

Hayden Smith | Tenor

Temple University

Gillian Tackett | Soprano

Oakland University

Riley Wells | Countertenor

Grand Valley State University

David Young | Tenor

DePauw University

Special thanks to the members of our Collegiate Consortium for their support of this competition.

Grand Valley State UniversityWestern Michigan UniversityGrand Rapids Community CollegeHope CollegeCalvin UniversityAquinas College

For more information on how to get your institution involved, please contact Opera Grand Rapids Development Director, Angela Freier, at afreier@operagr.org or 616-451-2741.

First Place

Consideration for a supporting or featured role in an upcoming OGR Grand Opera production.
Second Place

Consideration for a supporting role in an upcoming OGR Grand Opera production and an opportunity to cover a major role during the Grand Opera season with access to all rehearsals.
Third Place

Offer to understudy a role in an OGR production and an invitation to understudy a major or supporting role in an OGR Grand Opera production.

Friends of the Opera Award


December 31, 2019

Collegiate Consortium Membership Deadline

February 1, 2020

Student Application Deadline

February 5-21, 2020

Independent review by panel of judges

February 24-26, 2020

Finalists Notified

March 28, 2020

Collegiate Vocal Competition Finals in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Meet the Judges

Eve Summer | Director

Hailed “a rising star of stage directing [whose] approach to directing refreshes hope for the future of opera,” Eve Summer is a director, producer, and choreographer. She has been described as having “a gift for translating classic symbolism into familiar detail with just enough flippancy to bring out the fun of the opera without skewing the emotional equation.”

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In the 2018-19 season Ms. Summer directs The Little Prince at Tulsa Opera, The Pearl Fishers at Opera Tampa, The Tales of Hoffmann at Opera Orlando, Aida at Boheme Opera New Jersey, The Magic Flute at Opera in Williamsburg, and serves as Staging Advisor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra for a concert performance of Suor Angelica at Symphony Hall starring Kristine Opolais.

Selected directing credits include Trouble in Tahiti at the Glimmerglass Festival, Così fan tutte at Connecticut Lyric Opera, Lucia di Lammermoor at Boheme Opera New Jersey and Commonwealth Opera, Xerxes at Connecticut Early Music Festival, Carmen at MetroWest Opera, The Magic Flute for University of Hartford, L’elisir d’amore for Opera del West, the world premiere of Larry Bell’s opera Holy Ghosts at the Berklee Performance Center, Suor Angelica for Boston Opera Collaborative, and Le nozze di Figaro for dell’Arte Opera Ensemble and Kaliope Opera.

Ms. Summer’s work has been called “eye-poppingly contemporary,” “a riveting, glorious production from beginning to end,” and “can only be described as brilliant.” Critics raved that her production of Xerxes was “a delight, and a testament to Summer’s gift for banishing stodginess from an art form too often seen as fossilized and elitist”. Her style is naturalistic and modern and rooted in the visceral truthfulness of stage plays where she started her directing career. Her theater productions have included The Merry Wives of Windsor, Extremities, A Midsummer night’s Dream, The Woolgatherer, ‘Art,’ Two Gentlemen of Verona and her own play Neighbors, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Berger.

A former professional ballet dancer and choreographer, Ms. Summer’s choreography credits include a commission to choreograph a new ballet, Jeanne’s Fantasy, by composer Mark Warhol for the premiere with Contrapose Dance and Fort Point Theatre Channel, Elektra at Des Moines Metro Opera, Falstaff at Opera Colorado, and Don Giovanni for Boston Opera Collaborative. She recently collaborated with renowned choreographer Karole Armitage on the critically acclaimed American premiere of Philip Glass’ Opera-Ballet The Witches of Venice at Opera Saratoga. Ms. Summer’s notable assisting engagements also include Francesca Zambello on the world premiere of Ben Moore’s Robin Hood at The Glimmerglass Festival, Julia Pevzner on her widely acclaimed production of Shostakovich’s The Nose at Opera Boston, and Tim Albery on Janáček’s Katya Kabaonova at Boston Lyric Opera.

Full Biography >>

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Kevin Bylsma | Vocal Coach

With more than two decades experience as a vocal coach, collaborative pianist, choral conductor, and organist, Kevin J. Bylsma is a musician of impressive depth and ability, well known for his work in opera, art song, and oratorio.

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A longtime member of the Toledo Opera staff, Mr. Bylsma was formerly Music Director of the Department of Community Programs for the Michigan Opera Theatre and vocal coach, accompanist, and chorus master for OPERA! Lenawee. In recitals and master classes he has collaborated with the great American singers Samuel Ramey, Diane Soviero, Marilyn Horne, Dawn Upshaw, Michelle De Young, Irina Mishura, Katherine Lewek, and Jennifer Rowley. He is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of the Ann Arbor Festival of Song, and, for the past twenty-five years, he has served the historic Mariners’ Church of Detroit as Associate Organist and Choirmaster.

Dedicated to the education and training of the next generation of operatic talent, Mr. Bylsma is Coordinator of Opera and Repetiteur at Bowling Green State University’s College of Musical Arts, responsible for vocal coaching and serving as a collaborative pianist for the school’s large body of young singers. Mr. Bylsma also serves on the artistic staff of OperaWorks, an intensive opera training program, based in Los Angeles, CA.

A native of Grand Rapids, MI, Mr. Bylsma received his musical training at Calvin College, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Michigan—where he received the Robert Glasgow Organ Scholarship. He currently resides in Toledo, Ohio’s Old West End historic neighborhood with his cats: Rex and Dickens!


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Sequina DuBois | Soprano

Lyric soprano, Sequina DuBose, is a stunning performer most noted for her engaging stage presence and charming musical style. Recently, she debuted as a soloist and ensemble member in Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey, a concert series which culminated in a performance at the Metropolitan Opera with Kathleen Battle.

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In the 2019/2020 season, she will make her Knoxville Opera debut as Kezziah/Harriet Tubman cover in Nkeiru Okoye’s opera entitled Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom. She will also debut with the Virginia Arts Festival in a double bill production of two new hybrid works, Rachel Peters’ Companionship (the role of Viv) and Nkeiru Okoye’s Bre’r Rabbit (as Sister Robin).

In the 2015-16 season, Dr. DuBose performed with Michigan Opera Theater as 4th Maidservant in Strauss’ Elektra and has performed with both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Royal Danish Opera as Annie in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. She also sang 40 consecutive performances as Clara in the 75th Anniversary National Tour of Porgy and Bess where critics raved, “her lovely lyric soprano spun Summertime winningly…she gave unusual stature to Clara as a figure of tragic grandeur” (South Florida Classical Review). As Clorinda in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Opera Memphis, critics praised her portrayal of the wicked stepsister as one of “incessant vanity”, with both sisters praised for characterization “conceived as zany grotesques…as colorful as their voices” (Memphis Commercial Appeal).

Additionally, Dr. DuBose has portrayed Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème, reprised the role of Clorinda with DiCapo Opera, and portrayed Rachel in the world premiere of Nkeiru Okoye’s folk opera Harriet Tubman: When I Cross That Line to Freedom with American Opera Projects in New York City. Dr. DuBose has also performed with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Utah Festival Opera Company. Other performed roles include Pamina in Mozart’s, The Magic Flute, Erisbe in Cavalli’s L’Ormindo, Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Nanetta in Verdi’s, Falstaff, and both Susanna and Countess in Mozart’s, The Marriage of Figaro. In the 2018/ 2019 season, Dr. DuBose created the role of Philomena in the world premiere of Nightingale and the Tower, an electronic chamber opera commissioned by the Ojai Arts Council Commission for Ojai Youth Opera Company. The pioneering new work from groundbreaking classical composer Jason Treuting and Grammy Award-winning musician Mikael Jorgenson combines orchestra, synthesizers, and earth harp. She also performed as the soprano soloist in the world premiere of Mark Lewis’ Elegy: In Memoriam of the Emanuel Nine, a work honoring the victims of the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

A versatile actress and crossover artist, Dr. DuBose has performed as Cleopatra in an Off-Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, as Lady in Blue in ArtsCentric’s production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf, created the role of Chloe in a New York Musical Theater Festival reading of 7:32, The Musical, and has performed twice as Deena Jones in the hit musical Dreamgirls with ArtsCentric and Toby’s Dinner Theater in Maryland.  She has toured as a soloist with The American Spiritual Ensemble (Dr. Everett McCorvey, Dir.) throughout the U.S. and Spain, and has performed with Chorale Le Chateau (Damien Sneed, Dir.) alongside famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing his work, Abyssinian Mass. She was a finalist in the Kurt Weill Foundation Lotte Lenya Vocal Competition, and placed third in the prestigious American Traditions Competition.

A Detroit native, Dr. DuBose received her bachelor’s degree in Music from Morgan State University, a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from George Mason University and an Artist Certificate in Vocal Performance from Manhattan School of Music where she was an All-American Scholar Collegiate Award recipient. Dr. DuBose completed her doctorate degree in Vocal Pedagogy at the University of Maryland College Park. Dr. DuBose is an Assistant Professor of Voice at UNC Charlotte. Her research is centered on the impact of genre fusion and improvisation in 21st-century operas on vocal pedagogy and performance practice. Her interests span to include many contemporary styles including musical theater and African-American folk music.

Dr. DuBose continues her work as an arts advocate, educator and administrator while maintaining an active concert and performing arts career. She is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists, the National Association for Teachers of Singing, and Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity.

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2020 Competition Guidelines

  • Applications will be submitted online through ACCEPTD
  • No Entry Fee for Students who attend a Collegiate Consortium Member School ($170 Value!)</li >
  • A $30 processing fee for use of ACCEPTD will be charged for all applicants</li >
  • Finalists chosen must come to Grand Rapids to compete in-person at the Final Concert</li >
  • All finalists will be awarded a $500 stipend
  • Final adjudication will be a ticketed event



Applicants must apply via online application by Feb 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM.

Each application will require a recording video (10 minute maximum), vocal resume and letter of interest explaining vocal experience and career goals.

First round judges will be kept anonymous

First round judges will review applicants independently

First round judges are based all over the United States and must not be affiliated with any colleges/universities in the consortium

Judges will be given standard criteria in order to rank applicants.

The top ten finalists will be invited to Grand Rapids for the final stage of competition.


March 28, 2020 in Grand Rapids Michigan (ticketed, public event)

The ten finalists will perform one aria each

A panel of three judges will determine first, second and third places

Judges for the final competition may not be adjudicators in the first round of review or be affiliated with any consortium member.

The Friends of the Opera Award will be determined by audience vote.