Oberlin Conservatory Launches New Competition for High School Classical Vocalists

The competition was established in honor of longtime voice faculty member Richard Miller.

October 11, 2023

Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

photo of smiling man seated in front of a piano
Emeritus Wheeler Professor of Singing Richard Miller in his studio at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio. Circa 1978.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

A new competition at Oberlin Conservatory has been established to encourage and support high school students in pursuit of a career in classical vocal music. Named the Richard Miller Classical Voice Competition for High School Students, it was established in honor of the longtime Oberlin Conservatory voice faculty member. The competition will be held on Saturday, October 14, 2023. Only the Final Round at 5 p.m. will be open to the public.

Richard Miller was a lyric tenor, voice teacher, researcher, author of eight standard books on voice pedagogy and performance, and arguably one of the most influential voice pedagogues in history. He served as a professor in Oberlin Conservatory's Voice Department for more than 40 years, from 1964-2006. He became known internationally for master classes in systematic vocal technique and artistic interpretation and presented across the United States and in Europe, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. An active researcher and author in voice technique and performance, he eagerly brought together what is known scientifically about the voice with what is known pedagogically. This work led to more than 100 articles he wrote for professional journals including Journal of Voice, Folia Phoniatrica, Choral Journal, American Music Teacher, Vocal Arts Medicine, Journal of Research in Singing and Applied Vocal Pedagogy, and Journal of Singing.

Competition director and Oberlin voice professor Salvatore Champagne ’85 led the founding of the competition. “Richard Miller taught and mentored generations of Oberlin voice students,” he shares. “It’s largely due to his international reputation as an outstanding teacher and author that Oberlin’s Voice Department became the premier undergraduate institution for vocal study in the United States during his tenure. To this day, his students are singing in leading performance venues and teaching in important music schools throughout the world. Creating a voice competition in his honor is one small way of recognizing the great contribution he made to Oberlin, and the singing community at large."

Adjudicators for the inaugural competition on Saturday, October 14, 2023, include Oberlin Conservatory’s accomplished voice faculty members as well as a featured guest judge and master class teacher. This year’s guest judge is renowned American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, a 1985 alumna of Oberlin Conservatory and performer, teacher, director, and founder of the Denyce Graves Foundation.

Response to the launch of this competition resulted in 74 applications and video submissions from singers in 23 states across the country. Eligible contestants are sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school. A pre-screening round held in September defined the roster of 15 young artists who will participate in live rounds on campus.

“We are thrilled to have received so many outstanding applications from all over the United States in our first year of the competition,” says Champagne. “Our hope is to provide an exciting day of competing and master classes to this talented group of young singers, at the same time making them aware of the long tradition of achievement and vocal excellence here at Oberlin.”

2023 Competition Participants:

Anabelle Calles, 16, Miami Lakes, FL
Bryan Corral, 17, Miami, FL
Max Foreman, 17, Hampton Cove, AL
Isaiah Gallegos, 17, Traverse City, MI
Jaxson Glowacki, 17, Santa Monica, CA
Vaughn Holleran, 17, Morton Grove, IL
Haley Hunt, 18, Monaca, PA
Gabrielle Liberman, 17, Summit, NJ
Meghan Linnington, 17, Claremont, CA
Lilliana Mindel, 17, Huntington Beach, CA
Chloe Ness, 17, Long Beach, CA
Lukas Palys, 16, Dallas, TX
Austyn Park, 17, Manhasset, NY
Aurora Sauer, 18, Chesapeake, VA
Madison Varriale, 16, Pound Ridge, NY

Competition participants will compete for cash prizes and scholarships to Oberlin College and Conservatory—including a $2,500 First Prize—as well as the opportunity to appear in two master classes—one with members of Oberlin’s accomplished voice faculty and one with Denyce Graves.

The competition schedule begins with a morning Semifinal Round and continues in the afternoon with master classes. The Final Round will feature five singers who will perform one selection of their choosing. The Finals will be held at 5 p.m. in the Conservatory’s Kulas Recital Hall and is open to the public. Admission is free.

The Richard Miller Classical Voice Competition for High School Students is supported in part by funds given in memory of former Oberlin College and Conservatory faculty member and alumnus Howard Lubin '75. 

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