York’s classical singers snag scholarships and awards

As in past years, young singers in the Department of Music’s classical vocal studies program have once again won accolades in competitions. They recently captured a number of scholarships at the Newmarket Voice Festival and topped their adjudication categories at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), Ontario Chapter auditions.

“Our classical voice students are making us very proud,” says Professor Catherine Robbin, an internationally renowned mezzo-soprano who heads the program. “They’re reaping the benefits of their hard work and the opportunities they’ve been given here at York to perform and to grow as interpretive artists.

“All of the students who participated in these competitions have learned both from the experience of performing and from the professional adjudications they received. It’s always wonderful to see how these experiences also build on the supportive relationships they have with their peers.”

Twenty-one York singers participated in the Newmarket Voice Festival in November and every one of Joyce Gohthem received at least one award. Altogether, they garnered 14 scholarships, 20 gold awards, 15 silvers and 10 bronzes – 59 awards in total.

Fourth-year soprano Joyce Goh (right) took the top prize – the $1,000 Newmarket Voice Festival Senior Scholarship. Her award-winning performance included German lieder by Hugo Wolf, a selection in Spanish by Canadian composer Imant Raminsh, an operatic aria by Gaetano Donizetti and an interpretation of “De los álamos vengo, madre” by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo that the adjudicator described as “wonderful” and “beautiful”. The adjudication comments closed with congratulations to both Goh and to her teacher, Norma Burrowes.

Goh also won a gold award for a solo performance and, together with Jillian Applewhite, another Christopher Dallofourth-year student of Burrowes, the $100 Dynamic Duo scholarship.

“I’m glad I did the scholarship program competition,” says Goh. “The repertoire this year was not easy, but this experience pushed me to work harder and I definitely found that my singing improved through the competition. Many, many thanks to my voice teacher, Norma, for giving me lots of support, for believing in me and pushing me to do my best.”

First-year student, tenor Christopher Dallo (left), won three $100 scholarships: the Raffaele Sisera Memorial Award, the Visual & Performing Arts Newmarket Scholarship and the York Regional Police Male Chorus Scholarship, as well as two golds and one silver.

For Dallo, who has been performing in public since the age of 12, the Newmarket festival was just the latest in a long list of concerts and competition appearances. He has performed for the lieutenant governor and premier of Ontario, opened for Juno Award-winner Jully Black at Vaughan’s Canada Day Celebrations in 2008 and was a three-time winner in the CNE Rising Star competition.

“I always put my best foot forward and try to perform the best I can,” says Dallo. “These competitions show you where and how you can improve.”

From left, Jessika Monea, Amanda Bartella, Charlotte Gagnon, Phillip Rego, Vanessa Hernandez and Jennifer Fletcher during the NATS Night of the StarsRight: From left, Jessika Monea, Amanda Bartella, Charlotte Gagnon, Phillip Rego, Vanessa Hernandez and Jennifer Fletcher during the NATS Night of the Stars

Like Goh, Dallo was quick to share his most recent honours with his York instructor. “I’ve had a great experience learning from Catherine Robbin,” he says. “To be working with someone of such high calibre forces me to strive for higher goals and achievements.”

Soprano Jessika Monea, currently in her third year of studies in York’s Department of Music received an impressive three gold awards. She also netted two silvers, plus the $100 Jean and George Coote Memorial Scholarship.

Goh, Monea and Dallo were also among the 10 York students who took part in the NATS Ontario auditions held at the University of Western Ontario in London late last year. All 10 placed within the top three of their respective categories.

Those in first place were Goh, Dallo and Jennifer Fletcher. Phillip Rego and Akufuna Sifuba won second place, and Monea, Alessandra Paonessa, Alessia Naccarato, Vicky Gamble and Ellen MacDonald-Kramer all placed third.

In addition to Robbin and Burrowes, York’s roster of distinguished voice teachers includes Stephanie Bogle, Michael Donovan, Janet Obermeyer and Karen Rymal.

The York community will have an opportunity to hear some of the talented young artists in the classical vocal performance program in “Aria with Me”, a free concert taking place Friday, Jan. 21 at 12:30pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building.