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

Vol. 43, No. 2
April 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


Nominate Someone for the NOA Board
Deadline Apr. 15

Stage Director Fellowships
Apply by Apr. 17

Chamber Opera Composition Competition
Deadline May 1

2021 St. Augustine Conference Session Proposals
Deadline May 18

2019-20 Opera Production Competition
Apply by June 30

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,

Greetings from the West Coast. I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.  I know we are all dealing with extraordinary circumstances in our lives and opera programs. Personally, I have been helping my kids with home school projects, and doing house projects that I was too busy to get done in the past few years.  At UCSB, we begin our spring quarter next week with all remote teaching.  I will give all my voice lessons on SKYPE, my opera production of a Kurt Weill Cabaret has been cancelled, and I will do independent study for those who need another credit of opera to graduate in June.  This is most likely the reality you are all in as well. I feel so sorry for all of you and our students who have put so many hours into these events and won't have a performing experience this spring.

Although things are very different than normal in our lives, NOA moves full speed ahead.  Kirk, the Board, and I have been in constant contact in regards to competitions, regional events, and our St. Augustine Conference in January 2021. Remember May 18 is our session proposal due date!! Please check the website for all the information and links.

As always, I enjoy hearing from you!  Please let me know any ideas and concerns you have.

I look forward to getting back to normal life as soon as safely possible, and seeing you all in person very soon.



From the President-Elect

Lisa Dawson

Professor of Voice
Indiana Wesleyan University

“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” ― Martin Luther

I am currently sitting by the window in my make-shift office and online studio at my Indiana home. The birds are making music and the sun is beginning to shine after a night of terrible storms.  The grass is greener and there are more spring flowers blooming today than there were yesterday. I have heard it said that the only antidote to grief is beauty. So, today, I’m looking for the beauty - and it is abundant.
As we continue to make our way through these strange days of the COVID-19 pandemic - with so much unknown, many disappointments and some fear -- I’m offering one of my favorite children’s books to you. It is simple and profound…a reminder that what we do as artists matters - perhaps now more than ever.
Frederick the Mouse
I am thinking of you all with great fondness. I am enjoying seeing so many of you lighting up social media. I am remembering fun and meaningful times together and looking forward to our next gathering in sunny Florida. What a celebration we will have!! In the meantime…I’ve just opened my score for next year’s mainstage production and am dreaming big!
With affection,


From the Vice-President for Conferences

Isai Jess Muñoz

Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera
University of Delaware

Each day we are experiencing right now brings new challenges, and the fields of voice and opera are adjusting in ways that none of us could ever have imagined…with innovative resilience, reassuring grace, heart-felt support and undying spirit. In the time of Coronavirus, we are inspired by the many artists now showcasing their work via social media, and in a myriad of creative ways that demonstrate the power of the arts to connect, cope, and heal.

Driven by our organization’s values to care for one another and make a difference, your leaders at the National Opera Association continue to prudently and responsibly plan for our 2021 national conference in St. Augustine. I’m really looking forward to next January, where we will be able to come together once again, reminded that as a community of artists and educators, our collective resiliency, resourcefulness, kindness, hard work and willingness to adapt to rapid change is vital to our world!

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 find further information and submission guidelines. 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 resources 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!

In appreciation of our community that is the National Opera Association,

Isaí Jess

From the Vice-President for Regions

Dawn Neely

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

Hello all,

On February 15th, the Southeastern Region had a wonderfully successful one day conference. Regional Governor, Dr. Joshua May, hosted the conference at his school, Columbus State University in Columbus, GA. We had many exciting sessions, and students from several universities participated in the concurrent scenes workshop. Directors for each scene were then able to get feedback from the guest clinician, David Ronis, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The key-note speaker for the luncheon was Keith Wolf, General Director of Opera Birmingham. Mr. Wolf gave an excellent speech about opera innovations going on today to strengthen our art form. Congratulations to the Southeastern Region and Dr. May for a wonderful for all of our participants. 

As we all know, many events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, NOA did have several regional events canceled. Our Symposium in the Eastern region and peer-review pilot program in the Great Lakes region were both canceled or postponed. Please stay tuned to our website and social media pages for updates on these events. Luckily, we do have several events still in the planning stages for next Fall and Spring. I hope to bring you those updates very soon. In the meantime, I hope that you all will let me know what you'd like to plan in your region! I am all ears and ready to help you with the details! 


From the Finance Committee

Rebecca Renfro, treasurer

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

Dear Colleagues,

What incredible times we live in.  I know everyone reading this is adjusting to their new normal – which for me has been juggling between homeschooling my son, zooming in on faculty meetings, and trying to figure out how to be an on-line music teacher in a matter of days.  All of us have been impacted by cancelled projects, uncertain job prospects and a constant barrage of news information that we never could have imagined before now, all under the burden of social isolation in the name of personal safety.

I think the greatest loss that many of us have experienced is our sense of community. Opera is a communal art form – it is through our work together that we are able to share our love of theater and music, and this sense of the collective has been disrupted.  I see this loss most strongly in my college students – they are experiencing the weight of uncertainty for the first time in their lives, and don’t have their music community to fall back on.  Many are isolated from their families, and are scrambling to pay bills all while remaining safe in an environment that is unchartered territory for all of us. 

It is my hope that through these challenges we can find strength and solace in one another and our community.  Nurture and encourage those around you; reach out to friends and colleagues as much as possible.  I am finding gratitude in this rare opportunity for quiet and solitude; for me it is a chance to reset and find a renewed sense of purpose as we all find our way back together again.

The arts are more important now than ever, and we cannot lose sight of the importance of what we as artists contribute to the global community. I wish for you all much peace and health in the coming months, and look forward to continuing our work together with NOA; with a strength of purpose and renewed energy towards our mission as an organization.

Be well –


NOA 65th Annual Conference
Cleveland in Review

Cleveland Conference Session Reviews

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

Back to Before: The Immortal Music of Ivor Novello and the Unlikelihood of a Return of the "Novello Show" 
(Review by Copeland Woodruff)

J.R. Fralick led us through a smile-filled trip down an all-but-unknown memory lane with the life, theatrical curiosities, and music of Ivor Novello. Being introduced to this screen idol and national hero, was at once enlightening and, more importantly, captivating in the hands of Fralick's deft passion and comedy. It was truly one of the most enjoyable sessions I have attended at NOA conferences. With pictures of the extravagant spectacles and the charming and witty performances by the students and faculty of Baldwin-Wallace University, the audience felt transported back to the time of the silent screen and the popular musical revue. Bravi!


Creation of a Hip-Hop Opera for Youth 
(Review by Linda Lister)

UTSA colleagues William McCrary and Jourdan Laine Howell gave creative ideas on how to construct and create an original hip-hop opera for outreach performances, as well as how to engage your university and community in the project via mutually beneficial collaborations and support of curriculum and STEAM initiatives.


Libby Larsen and the Dominick Argento Connection
(Review by Paul Houghtaling)

A highlight of the conference was headliner Libby Larsen in her session “Libby Larsen and the Dominick Argento Connection.”  Hosted by David Tayloe, Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Alabama, Dr. Larsen offered engaging stories and anecdotes on Argento’s teaching and shared how he shaped her own writing. She impressed upon the audience the all-important relationship between text and music and drawing inspiration from story and character.  Dr. Tayloe moved the conversation along nicely, and Libby ended with an encouragement to all to find joy in each other, through the music makers in our lives, through the collaborative process, because that is where the art comes from. 


From Dreams to Reality:  Challenges and Solutions for the Developing Collegiate Opera Program
(Review by Carol Notestine)

Ellen Denham and Jon Truitt, presenters.  Each presenter spoke for 15 minutes to share their experiences.  Jon has produced 50 productions and explained purchasing key items that can be used in many productions will save your budget in the long run.  i.e. benches, table, chairs, windows, etc.  Ellen is in her third year of producing and found it helpful to enter the NOA Opera Video Competition to get feedback concerning her production.  So having peer review is helpful.   Both presenters were articulate and stimulated an excellent sharing discussion.




National Opera Association

2021 Conference, St. Augustine, FL

January 6-9, 2021


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