“Still's voice may be more relevant today than ever before.”
The Still of the evening.
Shattering color barriers in classical music with a string of firsts, William Grant Still became known as the “Dean of African American Composers.”
First, a deathbed promise fuels an emotional explosion at a small-town gas station on the seemingly tranquil Highway 1 in this intimate opera about human thresholds.
Then, ballet meets home life in times of quarantine, capturing the surreal state of a global pandemic.
Created to music from Still’s Afro-American Symphony, this finalized version of Jacobs’ 2020 Fall Ballet includes the third section of Sasha Janes’ work, as dancers are once again allowed freedom of movement.
In English with English supertitles.
Feb. 4, 5, 11, 12 Musical Arts Center 7:30 PM
Explore our IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater archive.
Use of William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony (The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Karl Krueger, conductor) courtesy of Bridge Records.
Stick around after the performances on February 4 and 5 for
Talkback: A Q&A Session
Featuring director Kimille Howard, choreographer Sasha Janes, and students from the productions—moderated by Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Sachet Watson.
Synopsis and Notes
by Justin Benard
Master’s student in Arts Administration, School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Bob and Mary prepare to celebrate Bob’s brother, Nate, graduating from college. Bob made a promise to his mother before she passed to do whatever necessary to ensure Nate became successful. Ever since, Bob and Mary have sacrificed to put Nate through school. Bob feels they should continue to help Nate even after he graduates. Mary confides in Aunt Lou that she is not happy with this; she feels Nate is deceiving them all. Bob and Mary’s friends arrive to send Bob on his way to Nate’s graduation.
It has been a year since Nate’s graduation, and he is living with Bob and Mary. Nate has not done anything to help around the house or to further himself. Bob wonders if Nate will ever find his way in life. When Bob leaves, Nate begins to profess his affection for Mary. He tells her how he’s the better brother of the two. Mary laughs off his attempts, and Nate becomes enraged and stabs her. Bob returns, but Mary is presumed dead. Nate begs Bob for protection as the police and neighbors arrive. Bob tells them he killed Mary, yet no one believes him. Mary awakens and tells everyone it was Nate who stabbed her. Bob realizes who Nate truly is, and he and Mary look forward to their future.
by Kimille Howard
As we emerged from our homes post lockdown last year, we entered a world that was drastically changed for better or worse. Evolution is necessary to survive and thrive, and so many familiar things have been shifting in this new time we are in.
One of these shifts has been in the opera community, where stories and composers of color are starting to be elevated and celebrated. Opera singers of color are finally getting the chance to embody characters that were written specifically for them by composers who come from their ethnic background. The impact is profound and long overdue.
William Grant Still was a prolific Black composer with an impressive body of work that includes nine operas. Unfortunately, due to setbacks primarily caused by racism, only three of his operas ever saw the stage in his lifetime. He faded into relative obscurity until recently, and now Still’s work is starting to receive the attention it deserved while he was alive. Finally, I hope, his name may become as commonplace in the opera community as the canonized European composers we all know and love.
There is something so romantic and captivating about Still’s melodies. You can tell he composed for Hollywood with the opening of the second scene, which reminds me of the overtures for those old MGM films during the opening credits. You can visualize the day-to-day life of Bob, Mary, and Nate through the music before the curtain even rises. The cinematic quality to the music helps raise the stakes in this very slice-of-life story.
Still wanted to counter the Black stereotypes musically and narratively, and Highway 1, USA is a prime example of his efforts to execute his goal. Mary and Bob lead a simple life in a small town with a family business and a supportive community until they’re disrupted by the arrival of Bob’s greedy, elitist brother, Nate. I’m sure many folks can identify with different aspects of their story. It is through that empathy that progress is made.
We had a lot of fun bringing these characters to life during the rehearsal process. Because the opera is shorter than most, we had time to really dig in and explore the specific nuances and relationships of each role, including principals and chorus. You’ll witness some of the details we crafted through the interactions when the church folks come to the house.
Our production is set in the 1970s, which allows the characters to be more progressive than the 1940s setting, when the opera was written. From the quirky doctor to the expecting couple to the confirmed bachelor and his “Judys,” the backstories and personalities we built really bring the community to life and flesh out the world Bob and Mary live in. It has been such a joy collaborating with these students and watching them grow as artists during this process.
This is the first production I’ve ever directed in my home state, coming from Carmel, Indiana, and it has truly been an honor to direct Still’s work. To direct a piece that gives the students of color their first experience performing in a classical piece by a composer of color. To perhaps inspire the next generation of BIPOC classical singers because they see themselves on that stage and feel invited to this world. To encourage new audience members to give opera a try. To show non-toxic Black love on stage. To give singers their first principal role. To introduce new folks to William Grant Still’s work. To change someone’s mind about what stories are worthy of being told on stage. To provide a bit of hope and levity during these strange and difficult times we are in. And above all, to give you an enjoyable night at the opera. This is for those who need it most and everyone in between.
by Sarah Wroth
Ballet Department Chair
In the fall of 2020, the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department embarked on a journey to make ballet a safe experience for dancers in times of COVID-19. Part of that process involved masking and dancing in 10’ x 10’ square boxes in the studio.
In creating the first two movements of this ballet set to music from Afro-American Symphony by William Grant Still, Sasha Janes used these boxes as a metaphor for the overwhelming sense of captivity felt by everyone during this global pandemic. Whether it’s using a phone to light the way to connection with others or getting a late-night snack from the refrigerator, everyone will see a bit of their own pandemic world play out onstage.
Arthur Fagen has been professor of orchestral conducting at the IU Jacobs School of Music since 2008. Additionally, he has been music director of The Atlanta Opera since 2010. He has conducted opera productions at the world’s most prestigious opera houses and music festivals. From 1998 to 2001, he was invited regularly as guest conductor at the Vienna State Opera, in addition to performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Staatsoper Berlin Deutsche Oper Berlin, Munich State Opera, and many more. On the concert podium, he has appeared with numerous internationally known orchestras. Fagen has an opera repertoire of more than 75 works. He has served as principal conductor in Kassel and Brunswick, as chief conductor of the Flanders Opera of Antwerp and Ghent, as music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of the conducting staff of Lyric Opera of Chicago. From 2002 to 2007, he was music director of the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dortmund Opera. He and the Dortmund Philharmonic were invited to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels, and to Salzburg, Beijing, and Shanghai. Fagen conducted a new production of Turandot at The Atlanta Opera in 2007, opening the season and inaugurating the new opera house, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. He was a regular guest conductor of the Munich Radio Orchestra and guest conducted the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, and many others. He was first-prize winner of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Conductors Competition as well as a prizewinner of the Gino Marinuzzi International Conductors’ Competition in Italy. Fagen has recorded for BMG, Bayerischer Rundfunk, SFB, and WDR Cologne. He records regularly for Naxos, for which he has completed the six symphonies of Bohuslav Martinů. Fagen’s Naxos recording of Martinů’s piano concertos was awarded an Editor’s Choice award in the March 2010 issue of Gramophone magazine.
Kimille Howard is a New York-based director, deviser, writer, and filmmaker. She is an assistant stage director at the Metropolitan Opera and recently worked on the James Robinson production of Porgy and Bess. She is artistic director of the Lucille Lortel Theatre’s NYC Public High School Playwriting Fellowship and a cofounder of the Black Classical Music Archive. Directing credits include Joseph Bologne’s The Anonymous Lover (Wolf Trap Opera), Death By Life (White Snake Projects), Mona Monsour’s In the Open (Western Connecticut State University), Chesney Snow’s Soil Beneath (Primary Stages/59E59), Pascale Armand’s $#!thole Country Clapback (Loading Dock Theatre), The Fellowship Plays (Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation), Jeesun Choi’s A Light Staggering(Ensemble Studio Theatre), Rodney Witherspoon II’s Tidwell: or the Plantation Play (Samuel French OOB Short Play Festival winner), Low Power by Jon Kern (EST), Black Girls are from Outer Space by Emana Rachelle (National Black Theatre), Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew (TheatreSquared), and Gabriel Jason Dean’s Triggered (Cherry Lane Theatre). Howard was named Best Director at the 2016 Thespis Festival for Joseph Krawczyk’s It’s All About Lorrie at the Hudson Theater and remounted the production for a commercial run at the American Theater of Actors in 2017. Her work has also been seen at the Circle in the Square Theatre Circle Series, Queens Theatre, Juilliard, The Flea, The Lark, JAGFest, New York University, Sea Dog Theater, Atlantic Acting School, and CLASSIX/The Lewis Center, among others. She was assistant director for Broadway’s Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. Recent fellowships include New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship and the Manhattan Theatre Club Jonathan Alper Directing Fellowship. She has produced shows at the HERE Arts Center, FIAF, and more. Howard is a current member of The New Georges Directors Jam, a participant in New York Stage and Film’s inaugural NYSAF NEXUS project, and a former resident director at the Flea Theater. She is the series producer for American Opera Project’s Music as the Message.
Born in Bloomington, Indiana, and raised not two blocks from campus, C. David Higgins started his theatrical studies at IU intent on becoming an actor/dancer before he discovered his love for scenic design. He studied with the famous C. Mario Cristini and became proficient in the Romantic-Realist style of scenic design and painting. After earning his master’s degree, Higgins joined the staff of Indiana University Opera Theater and worked as master scenic artist from the time the Musical Arts Center opened in 1971 until his retirement in December 2011. He was appointed to the faculty in 1976 and served as chair of the Opera Studies Department and principal designer for Opera Theater. His design credits throughout the United States include the San Antonio Festival, Memphis Opera, Norfolk Opera, Louisville Opera, Detroit Symphony, Canton Ballet, and Sarasota Ballet as well as many other venues. His Indiana University productions have been seen throughout North America as rentals by major regional opera companies. His many international credits include the Icelandic National Theater; Ballet San Juan de Puerto Rico; Korean National Opera; Seoul City Opera; Korean National Ballet; Dorset Opera (England); Teatro la Paz de Belém, Brazil; and the Teatro National de São Paulo, Brazil. He has designed the scenery for the world premiere of Our Town (Ned Rorem), the American premieres of Jeppe (Sandström) and The Devils of Loudun (Penderecki), and the collegiate premieres of Nixon in China (Adams) and The Ghosts of Versailles (Corigliano) as well as many other operas and ballets. Known for his Italianate painting style, Opera News magazine has referred to Higgins as one today’s finest American scenic artists.
Dana Tzvetkov designs and constructs costumes for opera, ballet, and theater. Her work has recently been featured in Central City Opera’s Tosca (2016) and Carmen (2017), and the National Opera Association’s Hagar (2016). Her designs have appeared on Indiana University’s Musical Arts Center stage in Saudade, Carmen, Peter Grimes, Le Nozze di Figaro, and La Bohème. She has designed rentals for Ball State Opera Theater, Mississippi Opera, DePauw University, and Butler University. Tzvetkov worked alongside Linda Pisano for Opera San Antonio to build costumes for a cast including Patricia Racette and Michelle DeYoung. She has been commissioned to create concert gowns for DeYoung and Sylvia McNair. Tzvetkov served as the costume shop supervisor for IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater from 2013 until recently, when she was promoted to shop manager. She returned to Central City Opera in summer 2018 to coordinate its production of Il Trovatore.
Alice Trent is lighting supervisor at the IU Jacobs School of Music. She has designed extensively throughout the Midwest and South, and has worked as an assistant lighting designer at the Cleveland Play House, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Drama League, and Town Hall Arts Center of Denver. She received the 2019 Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick Lighting Design Award and the 2019 Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) Spiegel Theatrical Artist Award. Trent placed first in the 2019 SETC Projection Design Competition for her work on King Charles III and was a 2020 Gilbert Hemsley Internship Program Finalist. She earned an M.F.A. in Lighting and Digital Media Design from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
Indianapolis-based Andrew Elliot is a makeup artist, stylist, wig designer, and cellist. His design and music work can be seen and heard with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, Actors Theatre of Indiana, Phoenix Theatre, Zach & Zack Productions, Summer Stock Stage, and more. As a makeup artist and stylist, his work can be seen locally and nationally in various publications, commercials, billboards, industrials, and editorials. He spent 2020 recreating icons of film, fashion, and theater, which gained national attention, with features in The New York Times, NowThis News, The Indianapolis Star, and Indianapolis Monthly.
Leraldo Anzaldua is an actor, fight director, and motion capture performer for film and video games as well as a voiceover actor for anime. He is currently assistant professor of movement and stage combat at the Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. Anzaldua’s fight direction has been seen at the Houston Grand Opera, Alley Theatre, Houston Shakespeare Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Classical Theatre Company, and Stages Repertory Theatre, among others. As a motion capture performer, he has worked internationally with Sony Pictures and Sola Digital in Tokyo, Japan, on Starship Troopers: Invasion and Appleseed: Alpha and recently completed another film, to be released soon. As a motion capture performer and action director, Anzaldua worked in Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden, for the video games The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, Just Cause, and Knights of the Temple: Infernal Crusade. He has voiced almost 100 characters in anime and has also worked on scripts and as an Automated Dialogue Replacement director and assistant director. Anzaldua has taught movement, stage combat, acting, and Shakespeare at the University of North Dakota, Rice University, University of Houston, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival, University of Alabama. He has been a resident guest teaching artist with the Houston Grand Opera Young Artist Vocal Academy and its studio for young professionals. He worked with the Harris County Department of Education’s Cooperative for After-School Enrichment program for several years, helping high school students build life skills, self-expression through different media, expressive motion, and communication skills. He has also worked with the Alley Theatre Young Conservatory Studio. Anzaldua is a certified teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) and has been assistant coordinator and teacher for its National Stage Combat Workshop at North Carolina School of the Arts. He is also a member of the SAFD Diversity Committee.
Walter Huff is professor of choral conducting and faculty director of opera choruses at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He served as chorus master for the Atlanta Opera for more than two decades, leading the renowned ensemble in more than 125 productions, with critical acclaim in the United States and abroad. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music degree from Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins). He studied piano with Sarah Martin, Peter Takács, and Lillian Freundlich, and voice with Flore Wend. After serving as a fellow at Tanglewood Music Center, he received Tanglewood’s C. D. Jackson Master Award for Excellence. Huff served as coach with the Peabody Opera Theatre and Washington Opera, and has been musical director for The Atlanta Opera Studio, Georgia State University Opera, and Actor’s Express (Atlanta). He also has worked as chorus master with San Diego Opera. He served on the faculty at Georgia State University for four years as assistant professor, guest lecturer, and conductor for the Georgia State University Choral Society. He has served as chorus master for many IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater productions, most recently, L’Étoile, It’s a Wonderful Life, Lucia di Lammermoor, West Side Story, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Elixir of Love, Bernstein’s Mass, Le Nozze di Figaro, Parsifal, Suor Angelica, La Traviata, Little Women, The Barber of Seville, Xerxes, and La Bohème. For four years, Huff has served as choral instructor and conductor for the Jacobs School’s Sacred Music Intensive. He conducted the Jacobs Summer Music series productions of Arthur Honegger’s King David and Stephen Paulus’s The Three Hermits. This past summer, Huff returned for his third year as a faculty member at the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute. He also maintains a busy vocal coaching studio in Atlanta. Huff and Jacobs faculty choral colleague Chris Albanese were invited to present at the American Choral Directors Association National Virtual Convention in March 2021.
Kimberly Carballo is coordinating opera coach for IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater and a faculty member in the Chamber and Collaborative Music Department. She is also an active international performer and educator. Carballo has previously worked as the mainstage and young artists program coach for the Compañía Lírica Nacional de Costa Rica, and music theory instructor and vocal coach at the Conservatorio Musical de Alajuela, Escuela de Artes Musicales de la Universidad de Costa Rica, and Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica. In addition to her duties at the Jacobs School, she maintains a private studio as a freelance coach, collaborator, and piano teacher. She is founder and director of Reimagining Opera for Kids, a music community engagement and education program based in Bloomington, Indiana. Carballo also forms part of the inaugural and ongoing team for Tunaweza Kimuziki (Through Music All is Possible), a project promoting exchange among music educators, scholars, and performers in Kenya and the United States. (Photo by Synthia Steiman)
Pianist Shuichi Umeyama is assistant professor of music in opera studies and an opera coach at the IU Jacobs School of Music. A collaborator with internationally known vocalists since 1988, he has performed numerous concerts as a soloist and accompanist. His repertoire includes concertos by Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and others, and his recitals have been broadcast on Japan National Broadcasting (NHK). He has served as coach and accompanist for the Indianapolis Opera and Opera Memphis. In addition, he has served as an official accompanist for many competitions throughout the United States. He is a former music director of the Aoyama Theater and the Belvillage Opera Theater in Japan. Umeyama studied accompanying with violist William Primrose and earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.
Sasha Janes is associate professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He was born in Perth, Australia, and received his formal dance training from the Australian Ballet School. He has danced professionally with West Australian Ballet, Australian Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, and Dayton Ballet, performing principal roles in works by Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Marius Petipa, Septime Webre, Anthony Tudor, Dwight Rhoden, Alonzo King, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, and many others. At the invitation of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and associate artistic director Patricia McBride, Janes joined Charlotte Ballet in 2003. In 2006, he was commissioned to choreograph his first ballet, Lascia la Spina, Cogli la Rosa, and has since choreographed several ballets for Charlotte Ballet, including Carmen, Dangerous Liaisons, We Danced Through Life, Last Lost Chance, Shelter, At First Sight, Loss, The Four Seasons, The Red Dress, Utopia, Playground Teasers, The Seed and the Soil, Chaconne, Queen, Sketches from Grace, and Rhapsodic Dances, which was performed as part of the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America series in June 2013. TheWashington Post called Janes “a choreographer to watch.” He was a participant in New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute and has been a guest choreographer for Richmond Ballet’s New Works Festival. He was a principal dancer with Charlotte Ballet for eight seasons before being named rehearsal director in 2007 then associate artistic director in 2012 and adding the title resident choreographer in 2013. In fall 2016, Janes premiered his ballet Saudade for the Jacobs School of Music, where he served as guest faculty. In spring 2017, he premiered his Wuthering Heights for Charlotte Ballet, inspired by Emily Bronte’s classic novel. In fall 2020, he premiered the first two movements of 19 at the Jacobs School.
Sarah Wroth is chair of the Ballet Department and associate professor of ballet at the IU Jacobs School of Music. She began her training at the Frederick School of Classical Ballet in Frederick, Maryland. In 2003, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Ballet Performance with an Outside Field in Education from the Jacobs School of Music. That same year, she joined Boston Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet. With the company, Wroth performed principal roles in works by William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Marius Petipa, Jerome Robbins, Helen Pickett, and Mikko Nissinen, and soloist roles in ballets by Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, and August Bournonville. She has performed with Boston Ballet internationally in Spain, England, South Korea, and Finland. In 2009, she was awarded the E. Virginia Williams Inspiration Award for her unwavering dedication to ballet and the Boston Ballet Company. Wroth earned a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University in 2015 and retired from Boston Ballet in May 2017.
Marvin Allen is a baritone from Woodbine, Maryland. In May 2020, he graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. He is currently studying for a Master of Music in Voice Performance with Russell Thomas at the IU Jacobs School of Music. Allen has been featured on the Musical Arts Center stage five times previously. In the 2020-21 season, he sang the role of Mr. Dashwood in Little Women and in the choruses of The Barber of Seville and Xerxes. In fall 2021, he sang the role of Sprecher in The Magic Flute and in the chorus of Falstaff.
Jeremiah Sanders (they/them/he/him) is a nationally awarded baritone and maintains an active schedule as a performer, educator, and conductor. This past year, they earned district wins in Kansas City and Indianapolis with the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. Their 2021 role credits include Charlie in South Bend Lyric Opera’s Three Decembers, Falstaff in IU Jacobs School of Music Opera’s Falstaff, Lindorf/Coppelius/Dapertutto/Dr. Miracle in Union Avenue Opera’s The Tales of Hoffmann, and Marcello in IU Jacobs Opera’s La Bohème. Sanders was a young artist at the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto in Guanajuato, Mexico; Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance in New York City; International Opera Performing Experience in Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy; and Opera Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York. They are looking forward to singing Sharpless in Madama Butterfly with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and being an apprentice artist in Des Moines Metro Opera’s fiftieth-anniversary season.
Kathiana Dargenson, Haitian American soprano and first-year graduate student, is pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where she studies with Carol Vaness. Dargenson hails from Orlando, Florida, and participated as an ensemble member in Opera Orlando’s latest production of Carmen. Prior to graduating with a B.A. in Music Studies and Psychology from the University of South Florida, she participated in several summer programs, including the Assisi (Italy) Music and Arts Festival, Westchester Summer Vocal Institute, and Opera Naples Youth Summer Program. In the latter, she performed the title role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience. Dargenson was featured in the Jacobs Faculty Master Class Series this semester, where she worked with Jane Dutton. Dargenson has also sung in master classes with Sherry Overholt, Luis Burkot, Peter Randsman, Tammy Hensrud, and Kyung Kim.
Born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, soprano Chase Sanders is pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance under the instruction of Heidi Grant Murphy. Sanders was most recently seen in the title role of IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater’s The Coronation of Poppea. In IU Jacobs’ 2020-21 season, she sang the role of Governess in The Turn of the Screw. Sanders earned her Bachelor of Music degree from West Chester University (WCU), where she performed the role of Mother in WCU Opera Theatre andUptown Theatre Alliance’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. She also performed the role of Mrs. Jenks/Splinters in WCU’s production of The Tender Land. Other performances include the role of Brigitta (cover) in the Russian Opera Workshop’s production of Iolanta and a soloist in the WCU Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition Winner’s Concert.
Tenor Michael Deshield is a first-year master’s student from Abington, Pennsylvania, under the tutelage of Russell Thomas. This is his debut role with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater. Deshield studied voice with Youngsuk Kim and Todd E. Ranney at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in voice performance. During his undergraduate career, he sang roles including Monostatos in The Magic Flute, Ferrando in Così fan tutte, and Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He plans to give a master’s recital in April.
Sylvester Makobi is a Kenyan student pursuing a Doctor of Music degree under the tutelage of Marietta Simpson. His professional engagements began as a soloist with the Kenyan Boys Choir. He later cofounded and directed the a cappella group Taifa Mziki. His performances have allowed for travel to other East African countries as well as the U.K., France, China, and the U.S. A highlight includes performances during the inauguration of President Barack Obama. In Kenya, Makobi performed with the Ravenna Festival Chorus under the baton of Ricardo Muti and as a soloist during state events at State House Nairobi with the Kenya Conservatoire of Music Orchestra, as well as in celebrations for the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union. His concert performances include tenor soloist in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Requiem, and Coronation Mass, Haydn’s Creation, and Handel’s Messiah. His operatic roles include Don Basilio and Don Curzio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Second Priest in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Rev. Horace Adams in Britten’s Peter Grimes, and Elder in Ondieki the Fisherman by Francis Chandler. Makobi has been a volunteer with Reimagining Opera for Kids (ROK), where he performed all three tenor roles in the world premiere of The Firebringers by Chappell Kingsland. Makobi was recently featured on BloomingSongs’ latest album, Building Blocks. He will soon join a group of classically trained singers from the Pan-African Diaspora for a residency at Princeton University.
A lifelong choral singer and a Rutgers University graduate, mezzo-soprano Maisah Outlaw spent much of the last eight years in the field of education, where she enjoyed an international career as a Montessori teacher for young children. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Outlaw was inspired to finally begin pursuing a solo career in opera and sought to train with the best voice teachers and at a top university for her master’s degree. In fall 2021, she moved to Bloomington to begin her graduate studies at the IU Jacobs School of Music. This is her debut with IU Jacobs Opera Theater.
From Daejeon, South Korea, mezzo-soprano Dajeong Song is a first-year doctoral student at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where she studies under the tutelage of Jane Dutton. Song earned an M.M. and a Professional Studies Diploma in Vocal Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Music Education from Konkuk University, Seoul. Song has been in several performances at the summer program Opera in the Ozarks, including Die Fledermaus (Prince Orlofsky) and The Ballad of Baby Doe (Mama McCourt and Effie). She has also been on opera stages at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in several performances, including Trouble in Tahiti (Dinah), Rodelinda (Unulfo), and Sour Angelica (Zelatrice). She has sung in several master classes, including with Frederica Von Stade, Barbara Reed-Honn, Martin Katz, and George Shirley. Recently, Song worked at high schools in South Korea as a music teacher and a choir conductor.
Praised for his “clear enunciation and powerful steady voice” by Opera Canada, bass Drew Comer is a second-year master’s student studying under the tutelage of Jane Dutton and Gary Arvin. Recent roles include Il Commendatore and Masetto (Don Giovanni) under the direction of Carol Vaness in her Graduate Opera Workshop and Pistola (Falstaff) and the Second Armored Man (The Magic Flute) with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater. In March 2020, he performed the role of Sarastro in The Magic Flute with the Bloomington Chamber Opera. During his time at IU, Comer performed the roles of Marco in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Antonio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Curio in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. He has also been seen in the choruses of The Barber of Seville, Oklahoma!, Florencia en el Amazonas, Lucia di Lammermoor, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Bernstein’s Mass, The Three Hermits, Suor Angelica, and The Magic Flute. In 2018, he made his Canadian debut with the Halifax Summer Opera Festival, where he brought to life the roles of Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Seneca in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. Comer has also sung in master classes with soprano Caroline Worra and tenor Matthias Klink. Comer will present his final master’s recital in March, followed by performing in the chorus of H.M.S. Pinafore before graduating with a master’s degree in May 2022. An Indiana native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in voice performance from the Jacobs School in 2019 as a student of Patricia Stiles, graduating magna cum laude.
Ben Strong, from Indiana, Pennsylvania, is a second-year master’s student at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where he studies with Peter Volpe. Previous roles with IU Jacobs Opera Theater include Basilio (The Barber of Seville) and Sarastro (The Magic Flute).