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Virginia Opera Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program

 Emerging Artists withText sm 2015-16Virginia Opera's 2014-15 Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists as part of the Master Teacher Series

The Virginia Opera Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program provides training, performance opportunities and access to industry connections and resources to a group of Opera’s talented rising stars. As one of the most competitive training programs in the nation, the Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program has over 650 applicants annually for an average of 12-20 artist contracts. Our Emerging Artists appear in Virginia Opera mainstage productions, touring educational productions and perform in recitals, donor events and our Master Teacher Series. Recent alumni of the Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program (formerly known as Spectrum Artists) include: David Pershall, Brian Jagde, Julia Ebner and Nathan Stark.

2015-16 Application & Audition Information


At this time, applications for the 2015-2016 Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program are closed. For more information on how to apply for the 2016-2017 program, please check our website in the summer of 2016.


Judges’ forms and comments are the sole property of Virginia Opera and will not be made available to applicants.    


Congratulations to those singers who are granted auditions for the 2015-2016 Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program. Artists must confirm their audition with Alexandra Stacey, by email at or by phone at (757) 213-4541 no later than November 26, 2014. 

To view your audition date and time, please open the Audition Listing Announcement.

Auditions for the 2015-2016 season will be held in New York City. Preliminary rounds will take place on December 8, 9 and 10, 2014; and the final round will take place on December 11, 2014. All candidates must be available to sing on one of the preliminary dates AND on the date of the final round. Virginia Opera will provide an accompanist. Guest accompanists are not permitted. Candidates should prepare five (5) arias. Your repertoire should include a variety of languages and styles.



Performing Opportunities

Virginia Opera's Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists perform leading and comprimario roles and/or cover leading roles in the company's mainstage productions. Additionally, some Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists perform leading roles in fully-staged Education and Community Outreach productions that tour schools throughout the state of Virginia. Community concerts and company promotional concerts offer artists the opportunity to perform standard arias and ensembles in concerts with piano. Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists are regularly re-engaged for main stage productions in future seasons.


Study Opportunities

Each participant receives regular coaching with members of Virginia Opera's Artistic Staff, which include Principal Coach Shelby Rhoades, Resident Conductor Adam Turner and various guest conductors, directors, and singers. Master classes are held throughout the season covering topics such as resume preparation, auditioning techniques, stagecraft and foreign languages.

Our program provides exceptionally talented emerging artists with a seasonal residency program that offers an extensive schedule of performing opportunities in the context of a professional training program. Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists receive weekly compensation, plus housing and transportation to Virginia.

Virginia Opera is committed to finding and training the outstanding artists of tomorrow. Those selected to participate in the program will be challenged and supported by an outstanding staff.

Apprentice Coaches

Education and Community Outreach Performance Opportunities

Apprentice Coaches must serve as musical directors and pianists for Education and Community Outreach productions. They also serve as coaches for the resident young artists, preparing them for their mainstage roles, cover roles, and concerts. Coaches learn the basics of artistic administration and company management by serving as  tour managers, as well as providing coaching for the young artists' personal repertoire. Apprentice coaches are adjunct members of the mainstage musical staff. They are scheduled to serve as pianists for cover rehearsals.

Mainstage Performance Opportunities

Apprentice coaches are adjunct members of the mainstage musical staff. They are scheduled to serve as rehearsal pianists in several mainstage productions and serve as pianists for cover rehearsals. Community concerts and company promotional concerts offer apprentice coaches the opportunity to perform for a variety of audiences.

Study Opportunities

Each participant receives coachings from Principal Coach Shelby Rhoades and Resident Conductor Adam Turner. Coaches will receive training and support from administrative staff to aid in tour management. The in-house artistic staff offers classes in resume preparation and auditioning techniques during the course of the season. Master classes are held with visiting stage directors and other distinguished guests throughout the season.

Candidate Qualifications

Apprentice coaches should have attained at least a Bachelor of Music degree in piano and have exceptional experience in vocal accompanying. Graduate work is strongly preferred. Individuals should be capable of managing artists on tour and overseeing non-artistic aspects of the Virginia Opera's Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program.

Apply to the Program

Please send your resume and a cover letter via e-mail to We would also welcome an MP3 or video of your playing.

The Audition

For the audition, please prepare a Mozart finale and a 10-minute excerpt from a standard opera by Puccini, Verdi, Strauss or other romantic composers. You will also be asked to sing vocal lines in order to demonstrate your understanding of the integration between the vocal lines and the orchestra.


Alyssa martin

Alyssa Martin, mezzo-soprano

Hometown: Greensboro, NC

Where I studied: B.M and M.M at Indiana University, Apprentice Artist at Des Moines Metro Opera, Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Apprentice Artist at Utah Festival Opera, Young Artist at Bay View Music Festival.

Performance History: Isolier (cover) in Le Comte Ory at Des Moines Metro Opera; Kate (cover) in Pirates of Penzance at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Siebel (cover) in Faust at Utah Festival Opera; Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Cendrillon in Cendrillon,  Dorabella in Così fan tutte, and Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, all at Indiana University; Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflöte at Bay View Music Festival.

Awards: Grand Prize and Audience Favorite at Orpheus Vocal Competition (2014); Encouragement Award at Metropolitan National Council Auditions (2014); 1st Prize at Florida Grand Opera’s Young Patronesses of the Opera Competition, (2013); 1st Prize and Audience Favorite at Dayton Opera Guild’s Tri-State College Vocal Competition (2012); 2nd Place at Utah Festival Opera Competition (2012); 2nd Place at Indianapolis Matinee Musicale (2012)

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Fall Educational tour of The Empress and the Nightingale, Page (cover) in Salome, and Flora (cover) in La traviata.

Andre Chiang

Andre Chiang, baritone

Hometown:  Mobile, Alabama

Where I studied:  University of South Alabama, Bachelor of Music; Manhattan School of Music, Master of Music; Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Shreveport Opera Resident Artist, Portland Opera Resident Artist, Glimmerglass Festival Young Artist, Virginia Opera Emerging Artist

Performance History:  Le Dancaïre in Carmen, Second Priest in The Magic Flute with Virginia Opera; Lancelot in Camelot with The Glimmerglass Festival; Ford in Falstaff, Argante in Rinaldo, Maximilian in Candide, Young Galileo in Galileo Galilei with Portland Opera, Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte with Washington-Idaho Symphony; El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Masetto in Don Giovanni with Shreveport Opera

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Regional Finalist (2011); Honorable Mention in Shreveport Opera "Singer of the Year" Competition (2011); Winner of Franco-American Vocal Academy Grand Concours de Chant (2010); Winner of Eisenberg-Fried Concerto Competition at the Manhattan School of Music (2010)

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year
Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd, Baron Douphol in La traviata

Benjamin Werley

Benjamin Werley, tenor

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Where I studied: Indiana University, Bachelor of Music; Indiana University, Master of Music; Opera Theatre of St. Louis; The Castleton Festival

Performance History: Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Steve Hubbell (Mitch cover) in A Streetcar Named Desire at Merola, Tinca (cover) in Il tabarro at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Rodolfo in La Boheme at Arbor Opera Theater, Gherardo (cover) at the Castleton Festival, Fenton in Falstaff, Camille in The Merry Widow, Rodolfo in La Boheme, Der Wird in Der Rosenkavalier, and Monostatos in The Magic Flute at IU Opera Theater

Awards: Semifinalist, 2012-13 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions; Encouragment Award, 2011-12 MONC Indiana District

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: The Beadle (cover) in Sweeney Todd, Second Jew (Narraboth) in Salome, and Giuseppe (Alfredo cover) in La traviata

Brian Mextorf

Brian Mextorf, baritone

Hometown: Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Where I studied: Oberlin Conservatory, Bachelor of Music; Westminster Choir College, Master of Music; Opera Theatre of St. Louis; CoOPERAtive Program

Performance History: Frog Footman/Seven in Alice in Wonderland and Zuniga (cover) in Carmen with Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Judas in Mattäuspassion with The Philadelphia Orchestra; Lesbo in Agrippina with operamission; Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gianni Schicchi in Gianni Schicchi, and Four Villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann with Westminster Opera Theatre; Keçal in The Bartered Bride, Publio in La Clemenza di Tito, and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte with Oberlin Opera Theatre.

Awards: N/A

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Anthony Hope (cover) and Bird Keeper in Sweeney Todd; Captain Corcoran (cover) and Bill Bobstay in H.M.S. Pinafore; Educational tour of The Princess and the Pea

Cody Martin

Cody Martin, coach

Hometown: Mascoutah, IL

Where I studied: Murray State University (B.M.), Florida State University (M.M.)

Performance HistorySuor Angelica (conductor), Three Decembers, and Soldier Songs at FSU; Albert Herring, Don Giovanni, Sister Carrie, Sweeney Todd, Falstaff, La tragédie de Carmen, The Merry Widow, and Speed Dating Tonight! at Janiec Opera Company; Into the Woods and Orphée aux enfers at Murray State University.

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Music director/pianist for outreach productions of The Empress and the Nightingale and The Princess and the Pea

Courtney Miller

Courtney Miller, mezzo-soprano

Hometown: Madison, WI

Where I studied: University of Michigan, Bachelor of Music; The Boston Conservatory, Master of Music, Professional Studies Certificate

Performance History: Meg Page in Falstaff, Second Lady in The Magic Flute, Dryade in Ariadne auf Naxos while covering the Composer, and Mercédès in Carmen (Virginia Opera); Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor and Maddalena in Rigoletto (Chautauqua Opera/Chautauqua Symphony); Suzuki cover in Madame Butterfly, and Elizabeth Griffiths cover in An American Tragedy (Glimmerglass Festival); Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking (Boston Opera Collaborative).

Awards:  2013 winner of the National Federation of Music Clubs’ Young Artist Competition in Women’s Voice, First Place winner of the American Prize in Art Song in Women’s Voice, New England Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions (2010), and is a current Career Bridges Encouragement Grant recipient.

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year:  Cousin Hebe in HMS Pinafore, Page in Salome, Flora in La Traviata, and covering the Beggar Woman while singing in the ensemble in Sweeney Todd.


Cullen Gandy, tenor

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Where I studied: The Juilliard School (MM 2012), Georgia State University (BMus 2010), Santa Fe Opera Apprentice 2013, Des Moines Metro Opera Apprentice 2012.

Performance history: Young Messenger in A Streetcar Named Desire at LA Opera; Ixion and Orfée (cover) in La Descente d'Orfée aux Enfers at Gotham Chamber Opera; Fritz (cover) in La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein at The Santa Fe Opera; Vladimir Lenski (cover) in Eugene Onegin and Gobin in La Rondine at Des Moines Metro Opera; Edoardo Milfort in La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Gerardo in Gianni Schicchi, Soldato 1 and Lucano (cover) in L'incoronazione di Poppea at Juilliard Opera; Candide in Candide and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at Georgia State University Opera Theater.

Awards: Metropolitan Opera National Council Eastern Regional Finalist (2012)

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore, Gastone in La Traviata, Fourth Jew in Salome, and Pirelli (cover) in Sweeney Todd.

Katie Polit

Katie Polit, soprano

Hometown: Bradenton, Florida

Where I studied: Indiana University, Performer Diploma; University of Texas at Austin, Master of Music; Carnegie Mellon University, Bachelor of Humanities and Arts; Ash Lawn Opera, Bay View Music Festival; Opera in the Ozarks

Performance History: Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel at Main Street Opera (Arlington Heights, IL); Carrie Pipperidge (cover) in Carousel at Ash Lawn Opera; Nanetta in Falstaff  and Despina in Così fan tutte at Indiana University; Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost at Bay View Music Festival; Musetta in La Bohème and Yum-Yum in The Mikado at Opera in the Ozarks; Papagena in The Magic Flute and Flora in The Turn of the Screw at The University of Texas at Austin.

Awards: Winner, Adrain Boyer Aria Competition (Bay View Music Festival, 2011); Winner, Friends of Music Travel Grant Competition (Indiana University, 2011); Performer’s Certificate for Excellence in Recital (Indiana University, 2009)

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Johanna (cover) in Sweeney Todd, Josephine (cover) in H.M.S. Pinafore, Educational Tour of The Princess and the Pea

Keith Brown

Keith Brown, bass-baritone

Hometown: Beavercreek, OH

Where I studied: University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music: Bachelor of Music, Master of Music; Sarasota Opera; Opera Saratoga

Performance history: Colline in "La Boheme" with Opera on the Avalon; Myles Brodrib in Howard Hanson's "Merry Mount" at Carnegie Hall with the Rochester Philharmonic; L'Émir de Ramla in Verdi's "Jérusalem" and Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Sarasota Opera; Ceprano in "Rigoletto" and Otis Burrows in "The Mighty Casey" with Opera Saratoga.

Awards: Leo M. Rogers Award for an Outstanding Apprentice Artist: Sarasota Opera, 2013

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: First Soldier in Salome, Doctor Grenville in La Traviata, Judge Turpin (cover) in Sweeney Todd, Bob Beckett in H.M.S. Pinafore

Martin Bakari

Martin Bakari, tenor

Hometown: Yellow Springs, Ohio

Where I studied: The Juilliard School, Master of Music; Boston University, Bachelor of Music and Opera Institute; Royal College of Music, London, Study Abroad; Tanglewood Music Center; Opera North.

Performance History: Wissam in Tobin Stokes' Fallujah at the Kennedy Center in D.C.; Ferrando in Cosí fan tutte with Opera Ebony; Double Duty Radcliffe and Trash-Talking Player in Daniel Sonenberg's The Summer King with American Opera Projects and Portland Ovations; Tenor soloist and chorus in national tour of Wynton Marsalis' Abyssinian Mass with Mr. Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Chorale Le Chateau; Henrik in A Little Night Music and Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte at Pine Mountain Music Festival; Ferrando in Cosí fan tutte, Tybalt in Romeo et Juliette, Katz in Stephen Paulus' The Postman Always Rings Twice, Monsieur Grivet in Tobias Picker's Thérèse Raquin, Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor, the tenor soloist in Elijah, and the lead tenors in William Bolcom's Lucrezia and Paul Bowles' zarzuela The Wind Remains at Boston University; Solo concert of Italian arias with the Salem Philharmonic Orchestra; World premiere of ASCAP-commissioned song cycle by Grigory Smirnov at Merkin Hall in NYC; Schoolmaster in The Cunning Little Vixen at Juilliard; Scaramuccio in Ariadne auf Naxos, 2nd Attendant and John Harbison's Full Moon in March, and lead tenors in Milhaud's L'enlèvement d'Europe and L'abandon d'Ariane at Tanglewood; Remendado in Carmen at Opera North.

Awards: Orpheus Vocal Competition, Bellini and Audience Choice Awards; Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition, 2nd Prize (Junior Division); Tanglewood Music Center, Grace B. Jackson Prize; The Juilliard School, Lucrezia Bori Grant; Boston University Opera Institute, Phyllis Curtin Artist Award.

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Ralph Rackstraw (cover) in H.M.S. Pinafore, 3rd Jew in Salome, and Gastone (cover) in La Traviata.

Matthew Scollin

Matthew Scollin, bass-baritone

Hometown: Walled Lake, MI

Where I studied: Michigan State University (B.M.), University of Illinois (M.M.), Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program, Merola Opera Program, Seattle Opera Young Artist Program, Virginia Opera Emerging Artists Program

Performance History: Zuniga in Carmen, Truffaldino in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Speaker / 2nd Armored Man in The Magic Flute at Virginia Opera; Antonio (cover) in Le nozze di Figaro at Santa Fe Opera; La Rocca in Un giorno di regno with Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program; 2nd Prisoner in Fidelio at Seattle Opera; Man with a Cornet Case in Postcard from Morocco with San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program

Awards: Jerry Hadley Memorial Voice Scholarship, University of Illinois (2012); Encouragement Award, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (2011)

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore, 1st Nazarene in Salome, Marchese d'Obigny in La Traviata

Michael Kuhn

Michael Kuhn, tenor

Hometown: Crofton, MD

Where I studied: Syracuse University, Bachelor of Music; New England Conservatory, Master of Music; Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Virginia Opera; Central City Opera

Performance History: Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at DC Public Opera; Scaramuccio (cover) in Ariadne auf Naxos at Virginia Opera; Bardolfo (cover) and Dr. Caius (cover) in Falstaff at Virginia Opera; Lover in Il tabarro at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Remendado in Carmen at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Tobias in Sweeney Todd  at Syracuse Opera; Ferrando in Così fan tutte at Opera del West; Ernesto (cover) in Don Pasquale at Boston Midsummer Opera; Younger Son (cover) in The Prodigal Son at Intermezzo Chamber Opera; Tamino in The Magic Flute, Candide in Candide, Piquillo in La Périchole, Hot Biscuit Slim in Paul Bunyan at New England Conservatory.

Awards: Semifinalist, Young Patronesses of the Opera/Florida Grand Opera Competition

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Tobias (cover) and ensemble in Sweeney Todd; Second Nazarene and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Jews (cover) in Salome

Sarha Gilbert

Sarah Gilbert, soprano

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Where I studied: University of Colorado at Boulder, Bachelor of Music; McGill University, Master of Music

Performance History: Norina (cover) in Don Pasquale with American Landmark Festivals; Rose Maybud in Ruddigore with the Blue Hill Troupe; Sophie (cover) in Werther with Opera Company of Brooklyn; Patience in Patience with Utopia Opera; Despina in Così fan tutte with Vancouver Summer Opera Studio. 

Awards: Eastern Region Finalist and 1st Alternate, NATS Artist Award; Finalist, Elaine Malbin Vocal Competition

Where to find me at Virginia Opera this year: Educational tour of The Empress and The Nightingale

Shannon Jennings

Shannon Jennings, soprano

Hometown: Orlando, Florida

Where I studied: Ash Lawn Opera Young Artist; 2013-14 Virginia Opera Emerging Artist; Wolf Trap Opera Studio; Mittelsächsisches Theater Young Artist; Florida State University, Bachelor of Music

Performance History: Susannah (cover) in Susannah at Ash Lawn Opera; Micaëla (cover) in Carmen, Nannetta (cover) in Falstaff, Nimue and Guenevere (cover performed) in Camelot at Virginia Opera; Maddalena in Il viaggio a Reims and Nannetta (cover) in Falstaff at Wolf Trap Opera Company; Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at Mittelsächsisches Theater in Freiberg, Germany; Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi and Monica in The Medium with Florida Opera Theatre

Where to find me at VA Opera this year: Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore

Trevor Martin

Trevor Martin, baritone

Hometown: Fayetteville, GA

Where I studied: Georgia Southern University, Bachelor of Music; University of Houston, Master of Music; Seagle Music Colony; Janiec Opera Company

Performance History: Masetto in Don Giovanni at Opera in the Heights; Marcello in La Bohème at Kingwood Summer Opera; Arthur in Camelot at Seagle Music Colony; Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Ford in Falstaff, Paul in Amelia, Chucho in Salsipuedes and Marullo in Rigoletto at Moores Opera Center; Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore, Marcello in La Bohème, and the Father in Hansel und Gretel with Janiec Opera Company.

Awards: Semi-Finalist in Dallas Opera Guild Competition (2013), 1st Place GA NATS Vocal Competition (2010, 2011)

Where to find me at VA Opera this year: Educational tour of The Empress and the Nightingale; Baron Douphol (cover) in La Traviata