VanderLaan PrizeVanderLaan Prize

VanderLaan Prize

The 2024 VanderLaan Prize application is open.

Opera Grand Rapids is proud to announce the 2024 VanderLaan Prize.

The 20th 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 March 23, 2024. 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
Audience Choice 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.

The winner of the VanderLaan Prize is obligated to return to Grand Rapids and perform at our annual gala April 19, 2024.


November 15, 2023

Application opens

February 12, 2024

Application deadline

February 13–26, 2024

Round 1 prescreening and adjudication

February 27, 2024

Finalists notified

March 23, 2024

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 12, 2024.
  • Entrants must be AGE 24 OR YOUNGER as of February 12, 2024.

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. Photocopy of an ID with date of birth clearly displayed

3. 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 2023–24 or 2024–25 FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR), and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) must be $2,500 or less. Fee waivers are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so students should apply as early as possible.


All first-round adjudicators will remain anonymous. After prescreening, each application will be adjudicated by three opera professionals along the following criteria:

  • Tone/vocal quality (5 points)
  • Breathing/alignment (5 points)
  • Language/diction (5 points)
  • Musicianship (5 points)
  • Artistry/stage presence (5 points)

The three anonymous adjudicators will each rate applicants on each category for a total of 75 points. The ten applicants with the highest scores will receive $500 and proceed to the final round.


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.

Congratulations to the 2023 winners!

1st Place Winner, Emily Damasco, Soprano, Curtis Institute of Music
2nd Place Winner, Demetrious Sampson, Jr., Tenor, Georgia State University
3rd Place Winner, Adriana Stephen, Soprano, The Julliard School
Audience Choice Award Winner, Natalia Adame, Mezzo-soprano, University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music

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.

Full Biography >>

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