By Emily Binetti
Sam Houston State University’s School of Music will present an impressive array of highly talented vocalist and pianists competing for top prizes in the fourth annual SHSU Art Song Competition. This on-stage showcase featuring 21 SHSU student singer/pianist teams will take place on Sunday, April 2, 2017 in the acoustically acclaimed setting of the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center in Huntsville, Texas. Winning team members will be awarded scholarship money with first place awarded $1000, 2nd place $750 and 3rd place $500.
The final round of the competition, a formal concert will be presented to audience members at 7:30 PM. The evening concert will feature five finalist teams and concluded with three winning teams selected by a panel of esteemed judges. The finale concert is open to the public with free admission.
According to Deborah Popham, SHSU Coordinator of Vocal Studies and Assistant Professor of Music, participating students must first be recommended by their instructor, so the competition represents the top musicians in vocal and piano, but to win the competition it requires more than just independent performance skills. “The competition is about more than being a good singer or pianist, but how the two performers collaborate together to elevate the poetry and music,” explained Popham.
For the event, competing teams, comprised of one singer and one pianist, must prepare either three art songs (poem set to music for voice and piano to be performed in a recital) or two art songs and one aria (selection from an opera). One of the art songs selected must be in a language other than English. Of the remaining two selections (art song and/or aria), at least one must be in English. The other can be in the language of the performers’ choice.
Created in 2014 the Art Song Competition is designed to promote student singer and collaborative pianist achievement in the performance of song literature and to promote degree studies at SHSU that encompass vocal and collaborative piano arts. Dr. Ronald E. Shields, Dean of SHSU’s College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication, along with his wife, Renee Thompson, served as founding sponsors of the competition.
Judges for the competition include Mary Dibbern, Dr. Samuel Mungo and Barbara Hill Moore. Dibbern is completing her fifth year as Music Director of Education with Dallas Opera. She can be heard on numerous recordings on the Toccata Classics and Harmonia Mundi France labels. Mungo is Director of Opera at Texas State University. His honors include Classical Performance of the Year for his Rigoletto and Opera Production of the Year from the National Opera Association. Moore is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Voice at Southern Methodist University. She has presented master classes throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Her students can be heard singing at such venues as Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, and La Scala, among others.