National Opera Association Member Newsletter
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NOA Notes Newsletter

Vol. 43, No. 1
February 2020

In This Issue

2021 National Conference: Date, Proposals
From the President
From the President-Elect
From the Vice-President for Conferences
From the Vice-President for Regions
From the Finance Committee
Cleveland Conference Reviews

Upcoming Events

Southeastern Regional
Conference, Feb. 15th
Columbia, GA

Register Now

Eastern Regional
Conference, Mar. 14th
Hunter College, New York

Learn More


Article Submissions to
The Opera Journal

Due March 1

Stage Director Fellowships
Apply by Apr. 17

Chamber Opera Composition Competition
Deadline May 1

Save the Date: 2021 National Conference

St. Augustine: “Exploration and Discovery”

NOA's 66th Annual National Conference will be held at the World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine Resort, January 6-9, 2021.

Whether dipping your toe or diving right in, NOA’s warm waters on Florida’s subtropical coast invite you to join us for four days of performances and presentations. Come to St. Augustine to explore, experience, and celebrate significant past and present practices, methods, and inquiries on music-drama.

Call for Session Proposals

Session proposals are now being accepted for the 2021 National Conference in St. Augustine (January 2021) on a wide variety of topics including opera education, practice, performance, production, history, outreach, and composition.

Please complete the Session Proposal Form by May 18, 2020 for your presentation to be considered. Presenters will be notified by mid-July whether their proposal has been accepted.

From the President

Benjamin Brecher

Professor of Music
The University of California Santa Barbara

Dear Colleagues,


A special thank you to our wonderful team leaders of Lisa Dawson and Scott Skiba for making Cleveland such a fantastic Conference. From Paul Hogle's inspired thoughts at our Opening Ceremonies to Howard Watkins's and David Bamberger's heartfelt words at our Gala Banquet, we were inspired by our colleagues sessions, performances, and competitions. It is with great honor that I write to you as President of this Organization that means so much to me.  I won't bore you with all the history, but it goes back to 1987 in Columbus Ohio as a participant in the Opera for Youth!! (with Dennis Jesse)  And then 1992 in San Francisco as a Vocal Competition participant. (yes, I'm old)

Cleveland also marked the celebration of 25 years of service to NOA by our esteemed past President and Executive Director Dr. Robert Hansen.  Bob has been the driving force of everything NOA for so long, and I thank him on behalf of the entire organization once again for his dedication and excellence.

A special thank you to our past President Paul Houghtaling.  What an amazing leader he was!  And a wonderful sport at our Banquet.  Thanks again Paul!

And of course a special hurrah for our new Executive Director Kirk Severtson!  We are so lucky to have Kirk onboard.  He has already been hard at work learning his way and diving into all the goings on of NOA.  I look forward to working closely with Kirk, and helping this organization move forward in every way possible.

Lastly, I will be reaching out to many of you in the coming weeks for your ideas and service to NOA.  Communication is going to be a large part of my Presidency, so please feel free to contact me about anything!  YOU are NOA. (think Paul's voice)

All the best to you all for a wonderful Winter.


From the President-Elect
Lisa Dawson

Professor of Voice
Indiana Wesleyan University

I am honored to step into the role of President-Elect for NOA!  I look forward to working closely with our new President, Ben Brecher, and newly appointed Executive Director, Kirk Severtson - along with so many others who give of their time on the committees that support the work of our fabulous organization! We are stronger together!

It was such a pleasure to serve the past two years as VP of Conferences. I know we just “Rocked Cleveland” less than a month ago, but I’m already getting excited about next year’s conference in St. Augustine, Florida!  Our new VP Of Conferences, Jess Muñoz, will help to lead the way as we prepare for another great national conference 2021!  In the meantime, I encourage you to get involved in your regional NOA activities.  What great leadership VP of Regions, Dawn Neely is providing along with all the regional governors. I am so thrilled that the good work of NOA is beginning to permeate throughout the country!
As you begin to plan for next year’s National Conference in Florida, I hope you will invite someone who might want to join us!  Get your friends and colleagues on board!
My best to all,


From the Vice-President for Conferences

Isai Jess Muñoz

Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera
University of Delaware

With record-breaking attendance, the successes of our recent conference in Cleveland reminds us, that as Past-President Paul Houghtaling shared at this year’s legacy banquet, “the future of opera rocks onward toward a very bright future and so does NOA!”
I was first introduced to our organization through the late Malcolm Frasier (my teacher and former chair of opera at the Cincinnati Conservatory), who invited me to sit in on sessions at the 2000 Conference. Experiencing NOA as a student left an indelible impact on my life, gifting me with the valuable realization that in this vibrant and hospitable community of specialists, I could forge lasting and meaningful friendships, and amass a treasure-trove of resources and ideas for meaningful work onstage and in the classroom. Fast-forward twenty years and humbled by the call to serve as your next Vice-President of Conferences, I’m inspired once again, by memories of Malcolm and other great leaders of the NOA who were once with us. I can only imagine how proud they’d be to see what their legacy continues to do for its members and for our beloved field of opera.
I want to encourage all of you to start making plans to attend our 66th Annual National Conference, January 6-9, 2021 in historic St. Augustine, Florida!  Whether dipping your toe or diving right in, NOA’s warm waters on Florida’s subtropical coast invite you to join us for 4 days of invigorating performances and presentations.  Come to St. Augustine to explore, experience, and celebrate significant past and present practices, methods, and inquiries on music-drama.  It will be a time filled with exciting exchanges of ideas on all areas of opera.
If you are interested in presenting a session in St. Augustine (and we hope you are), our submission deadline for session proposals is Monday May 18th. Click HERE for further information on our submission criteria or to submit a session proposal. There is no theme this year, just a wonderfully inspiring title, “Exploration and Discovery,” which reflects the history of our host city, as well as our organization’s forward-looking vision and welcoming spirit.
We ask you to let your students and colleagues at all levels know that we are here to support their scholarly-creative endeavors and aspirations through all the opportunities which our conferences and year-round events offer.  Should you have any questions or ideas, please contact me or any members of our board and we will be happy to help.  We’re always eager to hear from you!
Warmest regards,
Isaí Jess

From the Vice-President for Regions

Dawn Neely

Assistant Professor of Voice and Director of Opera Workshop
West Georgia University

Hello all,

I'm very excited for another great year of Regional activities!  Everyone was busy making plans at the Regional Luncheon in Cleveland so if you couldn't make it, be sure to check in with your Regional Governor and colleagues about upcoming plans!

The Southeastern's Regional Conference is Saturday, February 15th at Columbus State University. Joshua May is heading this up, and it's going to be a great day! Registration is open!

The Eastern Region is going to present a symposium celebrating 20th-century opera composers at Hunter College in New York on March 14th, 2020.

The Mid-Atlantic Region is also making plans for a one-day conference in late September or early October 2020 at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or want to get more involved with your region. Remember that these events are a great way to reach out to new members so encourage your colleagues and students to participate in Regional Conferences or come up with a smaller event in your region. Either way, NOA would like to help you get the word out! Happy 2020! 


From the Finance Committee

Rebecca Renfro, treasurer

Director of Opera Workshop
Associate Professor of Voice
Sam Houston State University School of Music

Happy New Year!  I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the NOA membership as treasurer, and am looking forward to supporting our new Executive Director as he transitions into his new position. Kirk and I have been busy familiarizing ourselves with the financial information and systems that NOA uses, and are excited to help fiscally guide the organization into the next decade in partnership with our dynamic NOA leadership.  A tremendous thank you to Carol Ann Modesitt and Bob Hansen for their continued guidance as we enter 2020.
For those of you whom I have not met, I would like to share a little of my professional background. I earned an accounting degree in concurrence with my musical studies and worked in the oil and gas industry as both an accountant and an auditor for a number of years before returning to music full time. I am excited to be able to revisit that part of my skill set in my work with NOA and appreciate the support of my colleagues during the transition.
Speaking of fiduciary responsibilities, don’t forget to renew your membership for the coming year!  Help us keep NOA going strong!

NOA 65th Annual Conference
Cleveland in Review

Paul W. Hogle, Keynote Speaker

"The Future of our Craft within the Academy" from Keynote Speaker: Paul W. Hogle
Review by Isai Jess Muñoz

The 2020 NOA Conference in Cleveland, OH opened with words from keynote speaker Paul W. Hogle, whose work as President and CEO of the Cleveland Institute of Music is greatly informed by a question that he often ponders: What is the future of our craft within the Academy?  President Hogle walked us through CIM’s current strategic plan, which argues that a smaller student body will allow the conservatory to be more selective, maintain smaller academic classes, provide greater access to performance halls and practice rooms, and allow annual fundraising and endowment resources to go further.  Under President Hogle, CIM has increased their annual fund by 80% and secured a significant number
of new endowment commitments. 

Hogle stated:
We are in a battle, where the available weapons are specialization, tuition, and graduate outcomes, and, if we are to be the engine of the artistic expression and research scholarship we all value and celebrate, we must not apologize for becoming more focused, raising the standard, unrelentingly increasing our ability to scholarship through courageous philanthropy, obsessing about every expense, and looking at our real-time graduate outcomes through the discerning lens of a prospective student.
According to Hogle, enrollment and tuition trends show that there is a 15% enrollment
cliff coming in the next 5-7 years, primarily caused by declining domestic and international birthrates.  This cliff is projected to create a highly leveraged buyer’s market.  He concluded by reminding us that in order to answer the question of what the role of our craft is in the Academy, we have to actually exist in the Academy. 

Congratulations to Howard Watkins!

“Lift Every Voice” Legacy Award Winner


Cleveland Conference Session Reviews

**We will publish several session reviews in each of the upcoming NOTE issues **

Howard Watkins Masterclass

Review by Amy Johnson

Howard Watkins, renowned coach, Assistant Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera
and recipient of the 2019 National Opera Association Lift Every Voice Award
gave a masterclass for four young singers and an attentive audience. 

Maestro Watkins met each singer at their level, inspiring each to a explore nuances of artistry.  His generosity and graceful approach to instruction was engaging.

The following singers participated:
Saavedra Martin, soprano, from Delta State University;  Elaine Hudson mezzo-soprano, from Ball State University; Nicholas Fahrenkrug, baritone from Lawrence University:
and Grace Hall Richardson, soprano, from the University of Alabama.


My Sister's Keeper: Operas by African American Women

Review by Copeland Woodruff

Drs. Davis-Hazell, Daniel-Cox, Porter, and Wright Floyd introduced the varied, astonishing lives and music of four African-American women composers, unknown to this audience member. Shirley Graham du Bois, Zenobia Powell Perry, and Joyce Solomon Moorman wrote operas blending American/Western and African-American techniques, while Regina Biaocchi embraces an eclectic, modern language. All the operas presented told stories of African and African-American experience through intensely moving style, plot, and text. The scholarship was matched by thrilling performances of the composers' works by the talented panel. If you missed it, get the session recording and, also, check out the materials online, including a list of composers not explored in this session.

It is a must have!


The Douglas Moore Songbook

Review by Carol Notestine

Michael Ching and Gordon Ostrowski, presenters

Michael Ching was the key presenter and featured live performances of some of the songs which will be found in the Douglas Moore Songbook. The Songbook is currently being released by EC Schirmer Music Publisher.  These songs are interesting, student friendly, and represent the work of this great American composer.  Gordon Ostrowski announced a New York workshop in March featuring this songbook.  Both Ching and Ostrowski are active in the Douglas Moore Foundation.




National Opera Association

2021 Conference, St. Augustine, FL

January 6-9, 2021


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