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DAYTON, OH – The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA) hosted three regional competitions for students this spring: the High School Vocal Competition; the Tri-State College Vocal Competition; and the David L. Pierson Annual Young Musicians’ Concerto Competition. In total, the three competitions awarded winners nearly $10,000 in cash prizes to further their studies in music.

The High School Vocal Competition was established in 1973 by DPAA legacy organization, the Opera Guild of Dayton, to award scholarships to outstanding young vocalists. The annual competition is open to high school juniors or seniors who reside in the state of Ohio. This year, students performed repertoire from the operatic, art song, and musical theatre canons for a panel of judges that included Dayton Opera Artistic Director and Dr. Ron Anderson and Robb Sloan-Anderson Chair, Kathleen Clawson; University of Dayton (UD) Assistant Professor of Music Performance, Dr. Ryu-Kyung Kim; and vocal instructor Jarrod Davis. The competition was chaired by Dr. David Sievers, a full-time lecturer in Voice in the Department of Music at UD. Pianists John Benjamin, Bret Blasius, Emily McConkie, and Theresa Gorretta accompanied the young competitors.

Lucy Dennis of Yellow Springs took the first-place prize after a riveting performance of Robert Schumann’s “Widmung” and Amy Beach’s “The Years in the Spring.” Second place went to Gavin Poronsky from Tipp City, while Jalal Lewis of Dayton took third. Honorable mention went to Phoenix Carter of Dayton.

In 1989, the Opera Guild of Dayton established the Tri-State College Vocal Competition. Initially open to Ohio residents aged 18–23, the competition later expanded to include residents of Indiana and Kentucky. The 2024 finalists performed operatic arias before a nationally renowned panel comprised of Kathleen Clawson; opera star Stuart Skelton (tenor); and vocal coach Catherine Keen. Kenneth B. Shaw, University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music (CCM) Vocal Professor, chaired the competition, and operatic soprano Alexandra Schoeny and UD Assistant Professor of Voice, Dr. Andrea Chenoweth Wells, completed the preliminary judging. Pianist Jeffrey Powell accompanied the performers.

Each finalist performed two arias: they sang an opening piece before judges selected a work for them from a list of options. Bass-baritone Sam Dhobhany earned the first-place prize with “Claggart’s Aria” from Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd and “Non più andrai” from W.A. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Dhobhany recently graduated from CCM with a degree in Vocal Performance. Mezzo-soprano Veronica Siebert of Indiana University Bloomington took second, while mezzo-soprano Maya McGuire of CCM was awarded the third-place prize.

Dayton Opera Artistic Director Kathleen Clawson commented:

The High School Vocal Competition and Tri-State College Vocal Competition were established by the Dayton Opera Guild, and we are honored to carry on this great legacy. These competitions are a valuable part of a singer’s training, and although we focus on the winners, they give all the participants an opportunity to build confidence as they overcome stage fright while performing under pressure. They learn to express themselves through their music and receive feedback from experts in the field of singing. As singers mature, competitions such as the Tri-State Vocal Competition are a valuable way for singers to launch their careers. Caitlin Gotimer—who performed the titular role in Dayton Opera’s Tosca this season­—won the audience favorite award and took second place in the 2017 Tri-State Vocal Competition!

DPAA’s David L. Pierson Annual Young Musicians’ Concerto Competition was established by the legacy organization, Dayton Philharmonic Volunteers Association, to identify outstanding talented musicians in the greater Dayton area; encourage young, talented musicians to pursue further study; and to stimulate competition among area musicians. Dayton Philharmonic Artistic Director Neal Gittleman and a panel of distinguished area musicians—violinist Kara Camfield and clarinetist John Kurokawa—adjudicated the competition, which is open to orchestral performers in grades 10–12.

Winners of the Young Musicians’ Concerto Competition included clarinetist Will Hemmelgarn of New Bremen, who won the first-place prize with a performance of Carl Maria von Weber’s Concertino for Clarinet, Op. 26. In addition to a cash prize, Hemmelgarn will perform onstage with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra at the Young People’s Concert: Pure Imagination, a learning program that takes place on October 30, 2024, at 11:30am. Regarding his performance, Gittleman remarks:

I always look forward to the annual Young Musicians’ Concerto Competition, since it’s great fun to hear such talented young people, and I always think back to when I was a high-school violinist auditioning for competitions. I also dread it a little bit because I know that picking a winner from among the finalists can be a very difficult decision! This year’s competition was no exception—it was fun to hear the excellent performances and a tough decision to make. Clarinetist Will Hemmelgarn is a worthy successor to previous competition winners, and I look forward to performing with him in October on DPAA’s Young People’s Concert.

Pianist Isabella Fiers of Germantown earned second-place, and violinist Kieran Niska of Mason won the third-place prize. With talent abounding among the competitors, the judges honored two additional students: Finalist Harrison Cash (cello) of Monroe and Amy Juhascik (bassoon) of Bellbrook, who received Honorable Mention.

While the 2024–2025 Learning Competition dates are yet to be announced, this year’s competition promises excitement for young artists, with opportunities to compete, collaborate, perform, and be celebrated.