VanderLaan PrizeVanderLaan Prize

VanderLaan Prize

Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 VanderLaan Prize


Opera Grand Rapids is proud to announce the 2021/22 VanderLaan Prize, formerly known as the Collegiate Vocal Competition. The 18th annual VanderLaan Prize is an opportunity for college-level voice students to compete for cash prizes and receive feedback from adjudicators who themselves are acclaimed opera artists. Opera Grand Rapids brings world-class professionals into its adjudication process in order to give contestants meaningful instruction and critique. 10 finalists will be chosen to perform in the final-round concert at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 2, 2022. The finalists will sing for three adjudicators and participate in educational and social activities with one another.

This competition boasts one of the largest purses in the nation at nearly $25,000, awarded as follows:


First Place
Second Place
Third Place
FOTO Award
Friends of the Opera Award

chosen by audience members during the final-round concert

10 Finalists will receive $500 to be used as a travel stipend. Prizewinners will also receive special consideration for roles in upcoming Opera Grand Rapids productions.


Tivoli Treloar
University of California, Los Angeles

Clara Luz Hernández Iranzo
The New School

Lucy Altus
Carnegie Mellon University

Olivia Smith
Curtis Institute of Music

Julia Ernst
Loyola University New Orleans

Finnian Sagal
University of California, Los Angeles

Audrey Welsh
University of Houston

Alex Smith
Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Kanade Motomura
Rice University


October 1, 2021

Application opens

February 7, 2022

Application deadline

February 8-28, 2022

Round 1 prescreening and adjudication

March 1, 2022

Finalists notified

April 2, 2022

Final-round concert in Grand Rapids, Michigan


  • Entrants must be enrolled as an UNDERGRADUATE at a higher-education institution in the UNITED STATES as of February 7, 2022.
  • Entrants must be AGE 24 OR YOUNGER as of February 7, 2022.



Matthew Aucoin | Composer

Matthew Aucoin (b. 1990) is an American composer, conductor, writer, and pianist. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018, and is both Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera and co-artistic director of the American Modern Opera Company.

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Aucoin’s newest opera, Eurydice, a collaboration with the playwright Sarah Ruhl, had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera this past February, and will travel to the Metropolitan Opera in the 2021-22 season.

The role of Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera, created for Aucoin, fuses his work as composer and conductor. Aucoin has conducted LA Opera mainstage productions ranging from Verdi’s Rigoletto to Philip Glass’s Akhnaten; he has also conducted his own works, including the opera Crossing, and founded a new late-night concert series, AfterHours. In addition, Aucoin coaches the singers in LA Opera’s Young Artist program, and advises the company on new music.

The American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) is Aucoin’s newest project: an ensemble of some of the rising generation’s most exciting singers, instrumentalists, and dancers. In Aucoin’s words, AMOC is “an opera company, a new-music ensemble, a rock band, and a touring theater troupe, rolled into one.” The ensemble has an annual festival at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater, and has been in residence at the Park Avenue Armory and Harvard University. Aucoin and AMOC are at work on commissions from the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and San Francisco’s ODC Theater.

Aucoin’s orchestral and chamber music has been commissioned and performed by such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, Salzburg’s Mozarteum Orchestra, the Brentano Quartet, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, tenor Paul Appleby, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Chanticleer. Aucoin’s operas include Crossing (2015), commissioned by the American Repertory Theater; and Second Nature (2015), a chamber opera for the young, commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Crossing has gone on to productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Los Angeles Opera; Second Nature has been performed all over the continent, including productions at the Canadian Opera Company and the Music Academy of the West.

In addition to his work in Los Angeles, Aucoin regularly guest-conducts nationally and internationally. This past summer, Aucoin made his Santa Fe Opera conducting debut leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, in a new production by Peter Sellars. He has also appeared with the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Rome Opera Orchestra, the Music Academy of the West, and Juilliard Opera, among others. This season, Aucoin conducts and curates the San Diego Symphony’s annual festival, entitled Hearing the Future.

Aucoin is a 2012 graduate of Harvard College (summa cum laude), where he studied with the poet Jorie Graham, and a 2014 recipient of Juilliard’s Graduate Diploma in Composition. Between 2012 and 2014, he served both as an Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and as the Solti Conducting Apprentice at the Chicago Symphony, where he studied with Riccardo Muti.

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Abigail Fischer | Soprano

Versatile soprano Abigail Fischer has made a vibrant career soloing with ensembles such as the Kansas City Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Rhode Island Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Boston Baroque, and Mercury Orchestra Houston. With the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Fischer performed semi-staged versions of Strauss’ Salome and Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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“With her dramatic tumble of red hair and cello-mello voice, Ms. Fischer sings with a passionate restraint that has no equal in her generation. You didn’t want her to stop.” So said Zachary Woolfe from the New York Times after Abigail Fischer’s performance of George Benjamin with St. Luke’s Orchestra at the New York Philharmonic Bienniel in 2014.

Missy Mazzoli’s first opera, Song from the Uproar, written for her and the NOW Ensemble, is a one-woman show that was premiered at the Kitchen with Beth Morrison Projects, and since then at Los Angeles Opera, Chautauqua Opera, and at Cincinnati Opera.

Ms. Fischer sings the main role of Mrs. X. E. in Du Yun/Royce Vavrek’s Angel’s Bone, which has garnered great success, from the premiere at the Prototype Festival, winning the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Musical Composition, to performances at the Hong Kong New Vision Festival and Beijing Music Festival, to the ultimately cancelled performance (due to covid 19) at LA Opera in 2020. Another Prototype premiere was the Mother in Stefan Weisman/David Cote’s Scarlet Ibis. With Gotham Chamber Opera, Ms. Fischer performed Testo in Monteverdi’s Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and Eva in Martinu’s Comedy on the Bridge.

Known for her “serenely captivating” work in opera, “and disarming intimacy,” (NY Times) Ms. Fischer performed two daring alternative productions of Carmen in Boulder, Colorado and Rockport, Maine. In the 2016-2017 season, Ms. Fischer reprised the one-woman show Toshio Hosakawa’s The Raven in Bolzano, Italy for her Italian stage debut. She returns to Trento, Italy to sing another Hosakawa opera, Hanjo, in 2021.

Ms. Fischer has sung the title role in Rape of Lucretia with Opera Memphis, has premiered Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking with American Opera Projects, has sung Cenerentola with Union Avenue (in Italian) and Salt Marsh Opera (in English), and Angels in America with LA Philharmonic. One of her favorite pieces of music is Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs, which she performed with the Columbus Symphony under the baton of Jean-Marie Zeitouni.

In early music, she has worked with American Bach Soloists in programs of Vivaldi Gloria, Handel La Resurrezione, Porpora De Profundis, and Bach Magnificat; Rebel Baroque Orchestra with Mozart Mass in C and Handel Messiah; Duke Chapel Choir with Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Handel Messiah; and Early Music New York and Mercury Houston’s programs of Vivaldi motets. At Carnegie Hall with the New York Choral Society in February 2017, Ms. Fischer reprised her role as soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, which she first performed and recorded with Boston Baroque. She looks forward to singing Dido for the third time in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Ars Lyrica Houston in 2021.

Originally trained as a cellist, Ms. Fischer has worked often as a chamber musician, from Musicians of Marlboro Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, to St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, performing works such as John Harbison’s Crossroads and Respigghi’s Il Tramonto. She has premiered Elliot Carter’s Mad Regales and Bernard Rand’s Walcott Songs at Tanglewood Music Festival, numerous John Zorn chamber works all over the world, including Lincoln Center Festival, and Nico Muhly’s Elements of Style, also at Lincoln Center. Creating multi-media work through the chamber music lens has also been a theme, from her work with Da Camera, staging Schoenberg’s Book of Hanging Gardens in Sarah Rothenberg’s project Vienna 1900 and the many stagings of Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetite to her projects with her husband Jason Slayden, multi-media experiences created around Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder and Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, titled the beloved and Wesendonck Meditations: Into the Light, respectively.

Recordings of Ms. Fischer’s includes the operas Song from the Uproar (Missy Mazzoli), Angel’s Bone (Du Yun), The Judgement of Midas (Kamran Ince); the oratorios Haydn Lord Nelson Mass (Boston Baroque), Katrina Ballads (Ted Hearne); and the chamber works Variations on a Summer Day (Harold Meltzer), Mothertongue (Nico Muhly), The Quality of Mercy (Patrick Castillo), and numerous works of John Zorn.

A graduate of Eastman School of Music (MM), and Vassar College (BA), Lorenzo di Medici in Florence, Italy (Certificate in Italian language and literature), Ms. Fischer also traversed the summer scenes of Tanglewood Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival, Songfest, and the Chautauqua Voice Program, among others. Ms. Fischer is a sound meditation practitioner, and teaches mindfulness through sound and movement as a way to heal and elevate the mindbody.

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Dashon Burton | Bass-baritone

Bass-baritone Dashon Burton has established a vibrant career appearing regularly throughout the United States and Europe in key elements of his repertoire—Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions and the B minor Mass, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven 9, the Brahms Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Mozart’s Requiem.

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He opened the 2021/2022 season with the Handel & Haydn Society of Boston led by Marin Alsop for Beethoven Symphony No. 9 which he repeats later in the season with the Nashville Symphony and Giancarlo Guerrero.  Throughout the season he makes several notable orchestral debuts: the Chicago Symphony in Handel’s Messiah led by Nicholas McGegan, the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Michael Tilson Thomas for his Rückert Lieder, the Pittsburgh Symphony for the Dvorak Te Deum led by Manfred Honeck, the Verdi Requiem with the Seattle Symphony and Thomas Dausgaard.

He continues his relationship with San Francisco Performances in appearances throughout the season and makes a debut with Celebrity Series of Boston in recital.

Operatic engagements in recent seasons have included Salome at the Salzburg Festival led by Franz Welser-Möst and Peter Sellars’s production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus, un ritual de mort at Paris’ Théâtre de la Ville as well as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte in Dijon and Paris and Jupiter in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux with Les Talens Lyriques.

Dashon Burton won his second Grammy in March of 2021, for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album for Dame Ethyl Smyth’s The Prison with The Experiential Orchestra on Chandos.  An original member of the groundbreaking vocal ensemble, Roomful of Teeth, he won his first Grammy for their recording of Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer-Prizewinning Partita for 8 Voices.  His other recordings include Songs and Struggles of Redemption; We Shall Overcome, singledout by The New York Times as “profoundly moving…a beautiful and lovable disc.”; Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road on Naxos; Holocaust, 1944 by Lori Laitman, and Caroline Shaw’s The Listeners with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

Dashon Burton received a bachelor of music from Oberlin College & Conservatory and a master of music at the Yale University.  He is an Assistant Professor of Voice at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.

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First-Round Application

Contestants must submit several materials for the first round:

1. Video recordings of two arias

    • At least one piece must be in a language other than English.
    • Only arias from operas are permitted. No art songs, musical theatre, oratorio, or other genres.
    • Videos may be submitted only as YouTube links.
    • You may submit video recordings with a live pianist, a prerecorded accompaniment, or even without any accompaniment at all. Our first-round adjudicators are aware of this rule and will not penalize applicants for singing without a live pianist. We aim to make this competition as accessible as possible and acknowledge that not all students can afford a live pianist. Feel free to record from a recital hall or your bedroom.

2. Written response to the given prompt

    • The COVID-19 pandemic forced opera companies and other performing arts organizations to innovate in order to remain relevant. As the pandemic subsides in the US, what innovations do you hope prevail in the industry, and how do you envision creating your own art in this new landscape?

3. Résumé
4. Headshot
5. Photocopy of an ID with date of birth clearly displayed
6. Application fee

    • FREE for students who attend a school in the Opera Grand Rapids Collegiate Consortium
    • $50 for all other students
    • A limited number of fee waivers are available based on financial need. You must provide a 2021–22 or 2022–23 FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR), and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) must be LESS THAN $1,500. Fee waivers are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so students should apply as early as possible.

It is in a spirit of gratitude and humility that Opera Grand Rapids is pleased to announce the renaming of our National Collegiate Vocal Competition to The VanderLaan Prize. Opera Grand Rapids is saddened at the loss of one of our greatest friends, Karl VanderLaan. Karl and his wife Jean have supported our music education programs for nearly twenty years and were constant champions of arts education. Karl and Jean have demonstrated the powerful impact of philanthropy and continue to do so with the establishment of the VanderLaan Music Education Fund at Opera Grand Rapids. Our National Collegiate Vocal Competition was a particular focus of Karl and Jean’s philanthropic endeavors. From sponsoring prizes to hosting dinners for the competitors, the VanderLaans’ generosity boosted the program for years.

Click here to support the VanderLaan Fund for Music Education.

Need a pianist?

Arlene Shrut | Collaborative Pianist

Contact Arlene to make a piano recording at

As a collaborative pianist, Arlene has collaborated with Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Angela Meade, Isabel Leonard, Carla Rae Cook, Michael Fabiano, Anton Belov, Alissa Deeter, and Takaoki Onishi.

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She regularly serves as official pianist and judge for international opera competitions sponsored by The Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, The Giulio Gari Foundation, The Loren Zachary Society, The Marcello Giordani Foundation, and the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation.

While many of Arlene’s professional activities focus on collaborations with singers, she is in demand with instrumentalists as well, featuring engagements such as her NYC debut with the Yoav Chamber Ensemble, touring with the Grand’Arte Trio, and as a finalist in the Munich International Competition in the violin-piano duo category with Julie Rosenfeld of the Colorado String Quartet, as well as winning the outstanding pianist award at the Music Academy of the West. In January 2014 Arlene teamed with pianist Anna Shelest in a 4-hand version of the Brahms Requiem with Voices of Ascension, under the baton of Dennis Keene, featuring soloists Martha Guth and Richard Zeller. Arlene has recorded for Dorian, Albany, Summit, Centaur, and Orion labels. Her discography includes works from the classical canon and recording premieres by contemporary composers.

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The Secchia Family Charitable TrustFriends of the OperaKarl & Jean VanderLaanKBO GroupAria Show Technology