Ouachita Baptist University graduate Jacob Watson has been selected as a finalist in an international theatre singing competition that has sent winners on to play major roles on Broadway and perform with prestigious opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera.
The Lotte Lenya Competition, sponsored annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, is a renowned competition for young artists, ages 19-30, who specialize in singing both opera and musical theatre repertoire.
Dr. Jon Secrest, OBU professor of music and coordinator of Ouachita’s vocal studies program, said the competition is “among the most prestigious and significant of the vocal competitions held each spring.”
“This is a competition that I have wanted to be a part of since my freshman year at OBU,” Watson said.
“It’s a culmination of everything I’ve worked for at OBU – becoming the best storyteller I can in everything I do, whether it be opera or musical theatre,” he said. “It feels incredible to be recognized for that and to be given even more encouragement to keep growing and pushing myself even more.
“Ultimately, I want to do my absolute best and bring these characters and this music to life on stage,” Watson added. “I feel like I have already competed on an extremely high level, and I want to push myself to get to an even higher level of performance for the next round.”
Being selected as a finalist in this competition has the potential to have a major impact on Watson’s future.
“I have heard the Lenya competition referred to as the MET auditions for crossover artists,” Secrest said. “Jacob will be heard and recognized by casting directors and musical dignitaries from throughout the world as a result of this honor. It could have an incredibly positive effect on his singing and acting career.”
Previous winners of the Lotte Lenya Competition perform regularly in major theaters, opera houses and concert halls around the globe.
Watson was selected to be one of 12 finalists from a group of 29 semi-finalists after auditions in New York March 9-10.
For the semi-final round of auditions, each contestant prepared four selections: an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire, two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one from the pre-1968 “Golden Age” and one from 1968 or later) and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. Watson performed Franz Lehar’s “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from Das Land des Lachelns, Andrew Lippa’s “What Is It About Her?” from The Wild Party, Frank Loesser’s “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from Guys and Dolls and “Lonely House from Street Scene” by Kurt Weill.
Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark and Vicki Shaghoian of the Yale School of Drama faculty served as coach-adjudicators, evaluating and working with each of the contestants.
Finalists included Watson; Christine Amon, a mezzo-soprano from Bowling Green, Ohio; Natalie Ballenger, a soprano from Santa Cruz, Calif.; Douglas Carpenter, a baritone from Woodbridge, Conn.; Maria Failla, a soprano from Scarsdale, N.Y.; Matthew Grills, a tenor from Rochester, N.Y.; Justin Hopkins, a bass-baritone from Philadelphia, Pa.; Briana Elyse Hunter, a soprano from New York, N.Y.; Megan Marino, a mezzo-soprano from Malvern, Pa.; Cecelia Tickton, a mezzo-soprano from Roosevelt, N.J.; Mollie Vogt-Welch, a soprano/belt from New York, N.Y.; and Nicky Wuchinger, a bari-tenor from Berlin, Germany.
These talented artists will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 in the finals, to be held on April 21, 2012, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. Three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, Broadway and Encores! music director Rob Berman and Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization President and American Theater Wing Chairman of the Board Theodore S. Chapin will serve as judges.
The twelve finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on April 21 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. At 8 p.m., the competition will culminate in an evening concert featuring all of the finalists, followed by the announcement of the winners. Both the daytime finals and evening concert are free and open to the public and will be held in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
For more information about the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, visit http://www.kwf.org/.
By Nicci Fillinger