“Wow!” “Terrific news!”
“I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am!”
These are a few of the comments we received from the recent recipients of OGSA assistance. The Guild is providing $10,000 in grants and scholarships in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.
The Opera Guild gave $2000 in scholarships to two University of Arizona students chosen by the voice faculty. This year’s recipients were Joseph Gouge, an undergraduate, and Brian McNiff, a graduate student. The Opera Guild also awarded Pima College student Katie Cowhey with a $250 encouragement award.
OGSA grants primarily help students with extracurricular activities important to their professional goals. It is a long road for these young singers and very costly. The Opera Guild is proud to assist them as they attend summer workshops, sing in summer opera programs, and work with voice teachers, opera directors and conductors.
Some students will be studying in the continental U.S. this summer, including Ariana Iniguez, an undergrad who will be attending the Redwoods Opera Workshop. Mezzo-soprano Samantha Luna, the first in her family to hold a bachelor’s degree, is currently pursuing her master’s. She will be attending Le Chiavi di Bel Canto, a vocal program in Houston, Texas. Matthew La Rochelle and Brian McNiff, both graduate students, will be attending Opera in the Ozarks, where Brian will be performing the title role of Hoffmann in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Doctoral candidate Jenina Gallaway was able to audition for the Chicago Lyric Opera last July with the help of an OGSA grant.
Students studying outside the U.S. include Clare Demer, who will be attending the International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, and Levi Pratt, who will be attending the Choral Institute at Oxford, England. Seth Kershisnik is performing the role of Count Almaviva in a production of Le nozze di Figaro in Vienna. The company, Sound of Austria, presents fully staged productions for cruise ship visitors. Seth will be able to sing two hundred performances of this opera. Both he and Mitch Sturges, a UA graduate also singing in Figaro, will be exposed to exciting opportunities in Europe through this experience.
All the students who have received OGSA grants and scholarships are extremely grateful for our support. These opportunities are important stepping stones to a future in the opera field, which may not have been possible without outside help. We are excited to be a part of these wonderful young singers’ lives, and we look forward to hearing all about their summer experiences!
Cultural Sparkplugs in Oro Valley
The Opera Guild is proud to name this year’s top graduate student award in honor of Vivian and Robert Weede, Jr. They have brought music to thousands in our community.
Vivian and Robert have fate to thank for their opera and symphony activities in Southern Arizona. Vivian had sung Nedda in Pagliacci and Tatiana in Eugene Onegin for Seattle Opera when Glynn Ross was executive director; at the time of their move he held a similar position in Tucson. Soon the Weedes were active in OGSA; Vivian served as president; Robert serves on our advisory council.
Fate and coincidence entered their lives at other points as well. Robert spent the second year of his life in Milano, Italy, where his father, Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Weede, was studying. Vivian and Robert spent a year in Milano some 25 years later studying with Italian Maestro Franco Ferraris and greeting their first son, Bob.
Vivian started her theatrical career at age seven, appearing on Broadway with Fredric March in The American Way. Two decades later her father-in-law appeared as The Most Happy Fella, a most operatic musical by Frank Loesser, on Broadway.
During World War II Vivian did French language broadcasts overseas for the Office of War Information. She was later fated to sing operatic roles in French including Marguerite in Faust and Bizet’s Carmen. Prior to her début at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as Violetta, she sang “Sempre libera” as a showgirl at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe in New York.
Robert Sr. toured the South Pacific with violinist Isaac Stern in the first classical music venture to that war zone, and Robert Jr. led a project of re-warehousing on Guam after the war, and also entertained on troop ships.
Robert and Vivian sang leading roles together in Northern California in La traviata, Madama Butterfly, Die Fledermaus, Carmen and The Gypsy Baron. Vivian also did lead roles in Tosca, La Boheme, and Cavalleria Rusticana.
On retiring from a marketing and management career, Robert and Vivian moved to Southern Arizona where he and a friend, Dick Eggerding, founded The Greater Oro Valley Arts Council in 1997, producing jazz concerts, arts festivals and concerts by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra .
GOVAC grew to become the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, a presenter of over 150 events, including Opera 101 with Vivian as narrator. Robert and SAACA will present a benefit concert of the Tucson Repertoire Orchestra in May of 2015.
The Weedes continue to bring the magic of opera to new generations of opera lovers. In addition to OGSA’s previews, Vivian shares her musical knowledge with enrollees in lifelong learning classes. Vivian and Robert enjoy sharing their love of music and the arts with the citizens of Tucson. Sometimes fate lends a hand, but if it doesn’t, they find a way.