Metropolitan Opera Star Stephanie Blythe Establishes Fall Island Vocal Arts Semiar at her Alma Mater

05.07.12

Stephanie-Blythe
Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar Artistic Director Stephanie Blythe ’93 will share her talents and artistic vision with young musicians and North Country audiences from May 21 to May 26.

Stephanie Blythe ’93, the mezzo-soprano with the “once-in-a-generation” voice, will return to her alma mater for the premiere season of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar from May 21 to May 26 at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

The inaugural season of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar is aimed at reinvigorating individual artistry through the American art song by energizing up-and-coming young singers from across the United States and Canada. North Country audiences will be able to take in world-class recital performances throughout the week.

“Coming back to Potsdam is like completing a circle for me. SUNY Potsdam and The Crane School of Music put me on a road to self-discovery as an artist and a person. This place gave me the courage to search out my dreams and succeed, and now it will be a place where I can share what I can with the next generation of musical interpreters,” Blythe said. “Being an artist is about finding a voice, about discovering how to get your point of view across to an audience by taking risks in interpretation, saying something real with music and poetry, giving voice in a personal way to great composers and poets. I took my first steps in musical interpretation here at The Crane School of Music, and I am thrilled to be developing this exciting seminar in this wonderful place.”

The Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar embarks on its inaugural season realizing a dream that SUNY Potsdam alumna Stephanie Blythe shared with her former undergraduate opera director, Dr. Carleen Graham.

The seminar was founded as a venue for emerging singers and collaborative pianists between the ages of 23 and 35, to promote individual artistry through the art song genre. The Metropolitan Opera star is joined by Dr. Graham and their former vocal coach, Alan Smith, a prominent collaborative pianist, vocal coach and composer.

After ongoing discussions about singer and collaborative artist training, Blythe and Graham began to formalize a plan that would specifically encourage and cultivate autonomous artistry in emerging artist-level singers and pianists. Blythe, as artistic director, and Graham, as administrative director, chose to invite Smith to collaborate in this unique project. To complete the team is administrative intern and Crane School of Music student Audrey Saccone ’12.

They have developed an intensive week of music making for the 10 invited participants that will incorporate related aesthetics and what it means to be a performing artist in today’s society. All music will be performed in English and will feature a number of living composers, many of whom Blythe has professionally collaborated with.

“Poetry and art song often find a way to connect with us through images in nature, creating sensory memories that evoke very personal responses from their audiences. When Carleen and I were discussing what we wanted to call this vocal seminar, we searched to find that same kind of connection with a name. Fall Island seemed a natural fit. Providing Potsdam with one of its most picturesque views, the island surrounded by the beautiful waters of the Raquette River has a special significance. To anyone who has weathered a Potsdam winter, watching the trees and water spring to life as the cold fades away brings a sense of renewal and beauty that makes everyone a poet. Fall Island is a perfect symbol for an artistic endeavor,” Blythe said.

Participants this season were selected from a competitive national audition. This distinguished group of artists includes:
• Steven Brennfleck, a tenor from Ewing, N.J.
• Carola Emrich-Fisher, a mezzo-soprano from Boston
• Zachary Finkelstein, a tenor from Toronto
• Matthew Gemmill, a pianist from Wheaton, Ill.
• Bridget Hough-Meynenc, a pianist from Santa Barbara, Calif.
• Grant Knox, a tenor from Newport, Calif.
• Ryan McCullough, a pianist from Toronto
• Lauren Michelle, a soprano from Los Angeles
• Adrienne Pardee, a soprano from New York City
• Jason Weisinger, a tenor from Baldwin, N.Y.

The participants will be treated to a full week of masterclasses, coachings, discussions and recitals led by Blythe, Smith and Crane School of Music Professor Dr. Gary Busch.

Several events are open to the public, including Blythe and Smith’s American Art Song Recital on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater at Crane. The recital will feature songs in English by composers Samuel Barber, James Legg, Victor Herbert and Irving Berlin, among others.

Proceeds from this recital will support future years of the seminar. Tickets are $20 per person, or $15 for SUNY Potsdam students and faculty with ID. For ticket information, contact the Community Performance Series Box Office at (315) 267-2277 or www.cpspotsdam.org.

Many additional events are free and open to the public. They include public masterclasses led by Blythe and Smith at 10 a.m. on both Tuesday, May 22 and Friday, May 25 in Snell Theater. Dr. Busch will present a performance lecture entitled “Early American Song: Rediscovering a Legacy,” with performances by the seminar participants on Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m. in the Ralph Wakefield Recital Hall. There will be a culminating final recital with the seminar participants on Saturday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Snell Theater.

For more information about the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, visit www.potsdam.edu/fallisland.

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution, and is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2011-12.