Crane Opera Ensemble Earns the American Prize for Performance


From left, Lonel Woods as Balthazar, and D’Nasya Jordan as Amahl in the award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

The Crane Opera Ensemble has for the second year in a row earned top recognition with a national award for one of its productions. The American Prize in Operatic Performance for 2012 awarded first place in the colleges/universities category to the group from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

The Crane Opera Ensemble earned the national award for its Fall 2011 production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

“I find it particularly significant that the Crane Opera Ensemble, as a primarily undergraduate ensemble, should again receive recognition in this national competition, in which all college, university and conservatory programs compete together in the same division, regardless of the size of their program. It’s a credit to the entire cast, orchestra, crew and staff, who brought incredible creative energy and talent to the production,” said Dr. Kirk Severtson, who served as music director and vocal coach.

Crane beat out two other finalists for the 2012 award, including productions by the University of Houston’s Moores Opera Center and the University of Connecticut School of Music, both doctoral degree-granting institutions.

This is the second year in a row that the Crane Opera Ensemble took first place in The American Prize competition for an opera production.

Dr. Carleen Graham served as stage director and production designer and Dr. François Germain was vocal coach. Kerri Canedy choreographed the production, while SUNY Potsdam student Vincent Loucks designed costumes. D. Jefferson Reeder was technical director, Tonry Lathroum was the guest lighting director, Sydney Lant was the production stage manager and Crane student Audrey Saccone served as production manager.

D’Nasya Jordan, a current senior vocal performance major from Brooklyn, N.Y., played Amahl, while 2012 vocal performance graduate Katherine A. Beck of Bennington, Vt., played the role of Mother. King Kaspar was portrayed by 2012 music education graduate Jordan Davidson, from Philadelphia, N.Y. Current senior Christopher Sendziak of Lancaster, N.Y., another vocal performance major, played King Melchior. Brady Walsh, a current junior studying music education from Burnt Hills, N.Y., played the Page. The cast was rounded out with Dr. Lonel Woods, a tenor and an assistant professor of voice at Crane.

“Amahl and the Night Visitors” was presented alongside “The Gift of the Magi,” with music by David Conte and a libretto by Nicolas Giardini, based on the short story by O. Henry. One challenge the opera ensemble faced was devising scenic elements that incorporated the settings for both one-act operas.

In addition to the first place award for the production, music director Dr. Severtson, chair of the performance department at The Crane School of Music, earned second place in the colleges/universities division for The American Prize in Conducting for 2012.

He has served on the music staff of Opera Saratoga (formerly Lake George Opera) for six years and has previously coached at Opera North, the Opera Theater of Lucca (Italy), the Cincinnati Opera outreach program, the Rising Star Singers festival and Dorian Opera Theater. He is a graduate of Luther College and holds graduate degrees in piano performance from the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music.

The American Prize is a series of non-profit national competitions providing cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances of music by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels.

For more information about the Crane Opera Ensemble’s award-winning performance history, visit

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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.