National Opera Association Member Newsletter
David Holley, editor
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NOA Notes Newsletter

Vol. 43, No. 5
November 2020

In This Issue

2021 National Conference
From the President
From the President-Elect
From the Vice-President for Conferences
From the Vice-President for Regions
From the Finance Committee
Slate of Nominees to the Board of Directors

2021 VIRTUAL National Conference: January 4-6, 2021


Registration is now open! 

Take a look at the full conference schedule and see the variety of sessions, competitions, and opportunities for engagement being offered!

Learn More and Register Now...

The Keynote Address on January 4 will be given by Yuval Sharon, newly-appointed artistic director of Michigan Opera Theatre and Artistic Director of The Industry in Los Angeles. Described by The New York Times as "opera's disrupter in residence," director Yuval Sharon has been creating an unconventional body of work that seeks to expand the operatic form, including most recently, the acclaimed production Twilight: Gods, an adaptation of the final opera of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, staged as a "drive-thru" on various levels of a parking structure in Detroit.

Share What You've Done!

How did you manage to produce opera this semester while thinking "outside the box"? We're celebrating the creativity and resiliency of our members with a conference showcase of video shorts demonstrating the range of approaches to teaching and producing opera during COVID.

We invite you to share a sample of your creative work with conference attendees by submitting a 90-120 second video clip describing and showing a project you undertook at your school or university during the Fall semester.  Please include visuals of the project itself or the process you used.  You may wish to include a spoken introduction to explain your process or include a voice-over with still photos or video clip(s).  

Submit your video file (MP4 or MOV format) by Tuesday, December 15 using the link:
The best and most creative clips will be shown during the conference's Opening Ceremonies, and all will be available as a source of inspiration to attendees during the conference.

From the President

Benjamin Brecher

Professor of Music
The University of California Santa Barbara

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this finds you all well during your fall semester/quarter.  I have been overwhelmed by seeing the dedication and ingenuity of our members this summer and fall dealing with incredible times.  The NOA leadership has been very busy making plans for our 2021 Conference which will now be held virtually for the first time in NOA history. Strengthening the Foundation, NOA's 2021 Virtual Conference will now take place January 4-6. Please note the date change!! I want to thank our Executive Board and our fantastic Executive Director Kirk Severtson for their hard work and commitment to NOA.  This new format involves an incredible amount of work, and our VP of Conferences, Jess Munoz and I are driving this process with determination and vision so NOA can have a unique experience in January that will inspire us all to further our dedication to teaching, performance, and pedagogy of opera. 

Registration is now open and can be accessed HERE.  We will also have exciting news to share about major NOA news as well as partnerships. We will celebrate the Lift Every Voice award winner legendary costume designer Paul Tazewell as well as prolific stage director Dorothy Danner who will be awarded our NOA Lifetime Achievement award.  The newly renamed Robert Hansen Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition will be held virtually as well as the Carolyn Bailey and Dominick Argento Voice competition, which had a record number of entrees this year: over 300!!

Sending you all good thoughts and energy from California, and I hope to see you all as soon as we can safely.


From the President-Elect

Lisa (Dawson) Moore

Professor of Voice
Indiana Wesleyan University

“Life is a lot like jazz….it’s best when you improvise.”   –George Gershwin 

I’m sure those of us in the National Opera Association have experienced our fair share of improv during performances whether on stage or in the director’s chair.  Sometimes it was a hilarious experience, sometimes terrifying. I was recently thinking about my experiences with improvisation and thought, “What a wonderful tool we as performers have to face these uncertain days!” Improv helps free us up to think, act (or react) creatively under pressure!      

Some rules of Improvisation that will serve us well these days--as individuals and as an organization: 
            Stay open—say, “yes, and….” Instead of debating. 
            Listen closely—stay in the present—release expectations. 
            Trust your intuition—do not let fear paralyze you from moving foward. 
            Be willing to change directions—exercise flexibility and spontaneity. 
            Collaborate—work to support others. 
Certainly, planning and preparing are important, but in these days, I think improvisation can serve us well! I see many of you doing it in your individual programs and I am witnessing it the National Opera Association! The leadership team is working (and improvising) hard to prepare a fantastic Virtual Conference for 2021—I am anxious to gather with you all in this unique setting! What a great year to have your colleagues and students who have not been part of NOA to join with us! 
In the meantime, I send all my best wishes for health, safety, peace and joy! 

Lisa (Dawson) Moore

From the Vice-President for Conferences

Isai Jess Muñoz

Associate Professor of Voice and Opera
University of Delaware

Dear Colleagues,

The outpouring of messages and notes supporting the move of our upcoming national conference to virtual platform has greatly encouraged our executive team. It’s ever-clear that our members are committed, strong and brimming with empathy. Focused on the safety and well-being of all our valued members, the NOA board’s decision to broadcast the 2021 conference virtually is one of prudency, and we stand united with our members who’ve suffered budget cuts and job losses as together, we continue to navigate the evolving nature and shock waves of the COVID-19 crisis. In a spirit of solidarity, we’re pleased to announce that this year’s registration fee when compared to our regular in-person national gatherings, will be nominal.  
Our conference schedule, listing this year’s powerful sessions and events is now published on the NOA website. I want to acknowledge and thank the members of our conference and research committees as well as the many judges that took time to thoughtfully review the high volume of session proposals and competition submissions. The act of organizing our daily conference schedule has reminded me yet again that our conference is nothing without the wealth of knowledge and experience that our presenters bring. Our behind-the-scenes team looks forward to bringing you their presentations, now in a new, affordable and accessible format. 
Whether to learn, to strengthen your resolve, to heal, or to seek inspiration, there’s never been a better time to join in all the good that is the National Opera Association! As always, should you have any questions, feel free to contact me or any members of our board and we will be happy to help.
Wishing all of you much peace and safety throughout this unprecedented time,

Isaí Jess

From the Vice-President for Regions

Dawn Neely

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

Hello all,

Although we have not been able to be active in person, I look forward to a Regional meeting in January and hearing about what everyone is doing in their region. It's a great time to get creative with our plans, and I'd love to spend time finding out what everyone is up to! 

I hope that you were able to see the November 9th event hosted by NOA's Student Involvement Initiative Committee: Dr. Don Greene, noted performance psychologist, discussed important topics for your students.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with your questions and ideas about our Regional Activities. 


From the Finance Committee

Rebecca Renfro, treasurer

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

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this letter finds you all well and on the downslope of what I know has been a challenging semester. I have been working with Executive Director Kirk Severtson on finalizing tax reporting for the year, and I am looking forward to working on helping finalize year-end reports for our annual member meeting in January.

A huge shout-out to Kirk for his work with the St. Augustine resort location in rescheduling the 2021 conference and to all of the NOA board members for working together to create what promises to be a fantastic virtual conference in January. The strength of NOA relies on the resilience and innovation of its members, and I know our time together as a membership in January 2021 will continue that spirit of creativity and community as we look toward the New Year.
Be well everyone!


Slate of Nominees to the Board of Directors
On January 5, 2021, NOA will hold its Annual Business Meeting during the Virtual Conference, including the election of members to the Board of Directors.  Current board members Michael Ching and Caroline Schiller will be standing for a second term.  Four vacancies will be filled by election from the following candidates put forward by the Nominating Committee:

Tracelyn Gesteland is Professor of Voice and Opera at the University of South Dakota, where she holds the Walter A. and Lucy Yoshioka Buhler Endowed Chair.  At USD, she was selected as the 2020-2022 Knutson Distinguished Professor for her work in research and creative scholarship and was the winner of the 2015 Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching.  National awards include a NATS Emerging Leader Award in 2016 and an Honorable Mention in stage direction in 2017 from The American Prize.  Under her direction, the USD Opera has been nationally recognized by the NOA or The American Prize every year since 2011, including a third-place award in the NOA’s collegiate production competition.  She has also served as a stage director for the Lone Star Lyric Theater Festival production of Talk Opera, which was called “the gem of the festival” by the Houston Chronicle.  Dr. Gesteland co-founded the South Dakota Vocal Arts Festival and served as a directing intern at the Harrower Opera Workshop.  As a mezzo-soprano, she has performed in opera, concert, and recital across the United States, as well as in the UK, Sweden, Canada, and Australia.  Her CD of sacred classical works for voice and organ, Make a Joyful Noise, was commercially released on Raven Recordings by the Gesteland-Smith Duo, and she has presented sessions and posters at conferences, including the ICVT, NATS, CMS, and the NOA among others.  She earned her DMA in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music.

Contralto Karen Esquivel was born in the U.S.A., of a Costa Rican mother and father of Mexican descent. Karen has participated in the Apprenticeship Programs of the Des Moines Metro Opera and the Santa Fe Opera. Her experience covers performances from Music Theater to Opera to Oratorio. She served as Director of the Compañía Lírica Nacional de Costa Rica and performed as a soloist with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica, and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Colombia. She taught at the Universidad de Costa Rica, the Universidad Nacional, and founded a project for the formation of young opera singers known as Opera Nova, providing lessons and performance opportunities throughout Costa Rica, in an effort to bring opera to the community. Since 1997 she has formed a duo with her husband, Costa Rican pianist/coach Gustavo Castro, with whom she has performed numerous recitals and research presentations in the USA, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and France. They have presented sessions and poster presentations at NOA Conventions on French Baroque Opera and Spanish Opera, their main area of investigation.  As a Stage Director, her scene from Giulio Cesare in Egitto won second place in the NOA Opera Scenes Competition. Karen also enjoys serving on the Carolyn Bailey and Dominick Argento Vocal Competition committee, judging in the Scholarship Division. She was thrilled that her tenor, Lawrence Barasa Kiharangua won the Artist Division last year! Karen is currently teaching Voice and Opera Workshop at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.

Dr. Kerry Jennings is the Voice Area Coordinator and Director of Opera at DePauw University and has been a member of the National Opera Association since 2012. DePauw students have been finalists in the Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition five times (La Rondine, L’infedeltà delusa, Rusalka, Der Rosenkavalier, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) winning second place with “The Presentation of the Rose” and 1st Place in the Musical Theatre Category with “Poison in my Pocket.”  Dr. Jennings served as the NATS local coordinator for the NOA/NATS combined conference in Indianapolis in 2016 and is now in his third cycle as a member of the Chamber Opera Competition Committee.

Dr. Gayla Bauer Blaisdell, Professor of Voice and Opera, joined the faculty of Central Washington University in 2008 and became the Vocal Area Coordinator in 2010. She has a vibrant studio of aspiring singers and directs the nationally award-winning CWU Opera Ensemble. In addition to teaching, Dr. Blaisdell has sung in many major New York City venues including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall, and Symphony Space. Since moving to Washington, Dr. Blaisdell has appeared multiple times at Benaroya Hall in Seattle as a soloist and performs regularly with regional orchestras in the Pacific Northwest as the soprano soloist in the Verdi Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and concerts featuring excerpts from Wagner among others. Dr. Blaisdell often appears with the CWU ensembles to premiere contemporary works and collaborates with colleagues from CWU and around the country in recitals. Her CD, Gayla Blaisdell Performs the Songs of Ross and Paulus, is available for purchase on all major digital music sites including Amazon and iTunes and her article, “Fostering Inclusion: Unpacking Choral Dress Codes and Uniforms” was published in the September 2018 Choral Journal. Dr. Blaisdell is also a highly sought after as a clinician and adjudicator.

Dr. Joshua May, tenor, is an Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera Director at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University (Columbus, GA). He has performed and premiered works throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. In addition to his work as a performer, he is an active opera stage director. His recent directing work includes productions of Cendrillon, Speed Dating Tonight!, The Light in the Piazza, Amahl & the Night Visitors, Alcina, Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Captain Lovelock. He is currently a national semi-finalist for the Charles Nelson Reilly Prize for Stage Directors in both opera and musical theatre from the American Prize. In addition, Schwob Opera Theatre was selected as a national finalist for the National Opera Association’s Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition under his direction in 2019. He has been a resident artist with Pittsburgh Festival Opera, where he served as an assistant director on The Valkyrie in Jonathan Dove’s adaptation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. He was also as an associate director at PFO for a world premiere of an opera set to the life story and music of Puccini, Scandals. Dr. May has served as a faculty artist in the opera directing program with the Druid City Opera Workshop at the University of Alabama and as an opera directing fellow at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.


National Opera Association

2021 Virtual Conference

January 4-6, 2021


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