Past Competitions



National Vocal Competition



Division I

From Left to Right

Elise Brancheau

"1st Place"

Alex Boyd

"2nd Place"

Jacqueline Piccolino

"3rd Place"





Division II

From Right to Left

Nicholas Tamagna

"1st Place"

Do Jin Jung

"2nd Place"

Phillip Gay

"3rd Place"



JUDGES FOR NATIONAL SEMI-FINALS (in alphabetical order)



Ken Benson joined Columbia Artists Management, Inc. in 1986 and for 25 years headed his own division as Vice President. Well-known and respected for his broad knowledge of repertoire and voices, he represented Harolyn Blackwell, Patrick Carfizzi, Rod Gilfry, Marcello Giordani, Thomas Hampson, Jerry Hadley, Lucas Meachem, Susanne Mentzer, Aprile Millo, and Florence Quivar, among many others. He is presently the Executive Director of the Marcello Giordani Foundation. Mr. Benson appears frequently as both host and panelist on the Opera Quiz of the Metropolitan Opera's radio broadcasts, and as a writer, he contributes to Opera News and Classical Singer magazines. He is regularly invited to give classes at Yale, DePaul, Roosevelt, and Indiana University Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College, Hartt School of Music, and U.C.L.A. as well as for many of the Young Artists Programs of major opera companies throughout the U.S. He also offers individual consultations to singers on auditioning techniques and career direction. For the past two seasons he has served as in-house consultant to the Masters students of Vocal Arts, Juilliard. Mr. Benson adjudicates vocal competitions for the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Index, Palm Beach Opera, Astral Artists, and for various foundations including: The George London Foundation, Licia Albanese/Puccini Foundation, Gerda Lissner Foundation, Giulio Gari Foundation, The Loren Zachary Foundation, and the Liederkranz Foundation. Since 1996, he has appeared each season on the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts, on the Opera Quiz, Record Collector’s Roundtables, panel discussions and presenting biographies of great singers. In 2010-11 he launched the New York City Opera's "Listening Room" series, with recorded material and discussion for each opera.



Keith Chambers was appointed Assistant Conductor of New York City Opera in 2007 and is the Director of the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Emerging Artist Program for Opera New Jersey.  He has conducted Tosca for Amarillo Opera, Roméo et Juliette for Asheville Lyric Opera, New York Lyric Opera (Suor Angelica, Le nozze di Figaro, Rigoletto, Hansel & Gretel), The Living Opera (Hansel & Gretel, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Pasquale, The Pirates of Penzance), Halifax Summer Opera (Giulio Cesare), Moores Opera Center (Die Fledermaus, La finta giardiniera), Sugar Land Opera (The Station), Martha Cardona Opera Theater (Gianni Schicchi) and Opera in the Ozarks (Don Giovanni & L’elisir d’amore).  He has served on faculty of the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program and the RESONANZ Festival and is past Artistic Director of The Living Opera and Chorus Master/Music Director of Shreveport Opera.  Additional performances include Toledo Opera, Connecticut Opera, American Opera Projects, American Lyric Theater, and Lake George Opera.  He has appeared as concerto soloist with the Delaware Symphony, Clear Lake Symphony, and Naples Philharmonic, and often performs with his wife, soprano Kirsten Chambers.  During the 2011-12 season, he conducts Tosca for the Martha Cardona Opera Theater, Nora, In The Great Outdoors for American Opera Projects, The Poe Project for American Lyric Theater, and La bohème, Die Zauberflöte, and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci for both New York Lyric Opera Theatre and Martha Cardona Opera Theater.  Mr. Chambers will lead performances of Verdi’s Un giorno di regno for the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program in 2012-13.



Alex Fletcher serves as president and artist manager at Fletcher Artist Management, a firm he founded in December 2009. As president, Mr. Fletcher proudly manages a selective roster of opera singers, conductors, and directors. Prior to the establishment of his management firm, Mr. Fletcher enjoyed a two-year tenure at Neil Funkhouser Artists Management, where he eventually assumed the position of artist manager. Mr. Fletcher has held internships with the public relations department of Washington National Opera and with the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra in Alexandria, Virginia. He is a Business Member of Opera America, and has enjoyed the opportunity to serve as a panelist for Opera America’s “Making Connections” series in New York and Philadelphia. Alex Fletcher received his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he also studied vocal performance. He is a native of Fairfax, Virginia.



Randsman Artists Management

Native of Long Island, New York, Peter Randsman already in possession of a well-developed bass singing voice.  He was “discovered” while vocalizing, and taken to an in-progress chorus rehearsal and ordered to sing!  The choral conductor, Theodore Bagdikian, was sufficiently impressed, and immediately called him to the attention of Arthur Kaye, the English and Drama teacher, and was offered the leading role (Billy Bigelow) in an as yet un-cast production of Carousel.  During the next few years, Mr. Randsman continued to develop his singing and dramatic skills, and his portrayal of Tommy in Brigadoon and Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace brought continued success. He began his first semester as a drama major at Nassau Community College, where immediately after a performance of Babes in Arms, the head of Hofstra University’s Drama Department offered him a Drama Scholarship.  He quickly recognized the tremendous honor of being included in a company of so many famous alumni at Hofstra— James Caan, Francis Ford Coppola, Madeline Kahn and Lanie Kazan to name a few—and gratefully accepted.  A highlight was to be the role of Clifford Bradshaw in Cabaret. Among many, three of his favorites are the roles of Charley in Charley’s Aunt, Dick in Dames at Sea and Gabey in On the Town. In 1976, Mr. Randsman moved to New York City.  Within two months he was chosen as the “Burger King boy” in a series of commercials, which would air on national television for several years, and was featured as Minolta’s “Camera Boy” in dozens of national magazines.  He spent several days filming Brighton Beach with Ruth Gordon and Lee Strassburg.  For most of the following decade, Peter participated in several national tours performing both operetta and Gilbert & Sullivan, and enjoyed a special pleasure singing the song, “He’s in love” while touring KISMET with the Metropolitan Opera star, John Reardon.  Appearing on Broadway, he both sang and danced LizaLiza with film legend, Ruby Keeler at a tribute to the Ziegfeld Follies.  Shortly after, he joined the New York City Opera chorus, and for the next three years appeared in many Lincoln Center productions and several national tours.  He sang in a LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER telecast in scenes from Mefistofele with Samuel Ramey, conducted by Julius Rudel, and the great Triumphal Scene from Verdi’s Aida under the direction of Anton Guadagno.   After nearly fifteen years as a professional singer /actor, he has fulfilled two life-long dreams by working 1 season (a decade ago) as artistic director of an opera company (National Grand Opera, at The Tillis Center for the Performing Arts at C.W. Post Campus in Long Island) and by starting his own company, Randsman Artists Management.  He is responsible for over 50 thriving international opera careers.



Sarah Stephens founded International Artists Management in Bremen, Germany in 1996. Her agency specialized in professional personal management and bilingual promotion for international opera singers in Europe and later expanded to include management for conductors, stage directors, and other classical musicians.  Her artists performed in theatres throughout Europe including the Staatsoper in Berlin, Covent Garden in London, Opera Bastille in Paris, Stockholm, Zurich, Graz, Bayreuth Festival, Semperoper in Dresden, Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Bayerische, Staatsoper in Munich, Mannheim, Leipzig, Bremen, Oldenburg, Kiel, Darmstadt, Augsburg, Nurnberg, and Munster.  Ms. Stephens was granted the German agency license in 2000 authorizing her artists management agency (Kunstleragentur) in Germany.  A second license was issued the same year entitling her agency to engage in business internationally and throughout the European Union. In 2008, she returned to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to complete her Master’s degree with a bilingual thesis on Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.  Subsequently, she came to New York City and founded Stephens Artist Management with Mark Nicolson.  Sarah Stephens studied as a young student in Germany, where she learned German fluently, and has spent most of her life since (25 years).  Ms. Stephens attended the University of Vermont, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg (Germany), and the University of Minnesota.


JUDGES FOR NATIONAL FINALS (in alphabetical order)



For Biography, please see “Judges for National Semi-Finals”



Respected voice teacher, Arthur Levy has students who appear in opera houses,and concert stages throughout the world as well as on Broadway. He is also a faculty member of the Mannes School of Music, has been a vocal consultant at Glimmerglass Opera, Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Roundabout Theatre, as well at the Manhattan School of Music and at the Opera House in Stuttgart, Germany and classes at the Metropolitan Opera Guild. His students include such distinguished artists as Audra MacDonald, Elizabeth Futral, rising MET star  tenor, Yonghoon Lee, William Burden, bass Hao Jiang Tian, and Broadway luminaries Marin Mazzie, Jason Daniely, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Lea Michelle.  He has helped prepare such stars as Stockard Channing, and Oliver Platt for Broadway role debuts.



For Biography, please see “Judges for National Semi-Finals”



Willie Anthony Waters is a regular guest of the opera companies in North America, Europe, and Africa, including notable recent appearances with the Australian Opera, Arizona Opera (Aida, La Fanciulla del West), Boston Lyric Opera (The Abduction from the Seraglio and a gala concert), Deutsche Oper Berlin and Capetown, South Africa (Porgy and Bess), Chautauqua Opera (The Daughter of the Regiment), Cincinnati Opera (Carmen), Cologne (Germany) Opera, Dayton Opera (Carmen), Edmonton Opera (Nabucco), Fort Worth Opera (Turandot), Kentucky Opera (Salome), Manitoba Opera (Nabucco), Michigan Opera, Montreal Opera (La Gioconda, Aida and Tosca), New York City Opera (Rigoletto and Of Mice and Men), Opera Memphis (Tosca, Rigoletto and La Traviata), Opera Carolina (Der Fliegende Holländer), Opera Colorado (Porgy and Bess), Opera de Quebec (Carmen), Orlando Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor, Falstaff, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni), San Diego Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor), San Francisco Opera, Vancouver Opera (La Traviata), and the Florida Grand Opera.   For twelve years, he served as General and Artistic Director of the Connecticut Opera, for whom he conducted more than thirty productions. He also served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Florida Grand Opera for seven seasons. During his tenure, he led a number of noteworthy productions, including Salome, Manon Lescaut, Die Walküre, Macbeth, Aida, Of Mice and Men, Falsfaff, Bianca e Falliero, Cristoforo Coolmbo, La Gioconda, Turandot, Tosca, Carmen, Trouble in Tahiti, and Lucia di Lammermoor. He has returned to the company as a guest to conduct Carmen. 


DIVISION I FINALISTS (in alphabetical order)



Alexander Charles Boyd is a young baritone from Purcellville, Virginia. Post Oberlin Conservatory, he is now studying with Mark Oswald in New York City. Mr. Boyd has performed in Austria, England, Italy, Venezuela, and Carnegie Hall's Weill recital hall in New York City, and has sung with the Oberlin Opera Theater, the Loudoun Lyric Opera, the New York Lyric Opera Theatre, the Delphi Theater, the Martha Cardona Theater, and will be an OperaNJ Emerging Artist this summer. Upcoming: Escamillo in Carmen and Pandolfe in Cendrillon with the NY Lyric Opera



Elise Brancheau is a second-year graduate student at Mannes College The New School for Music. At Mannes, she recently sang Act II of Lucia di Lammermoor as Lucia for Mannes’s Opera Scenes program, as well as scenes from Les pêcheurs de perles (Leïla) and La Cenerentola (Clorinda). This summer, she will be covering the role of Blanche in dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites. She recorded selections of the title role in Jan Albert’s new opera, Kiyo, for Mind the Art Entertainment. She has performed the role of Rapunzel in Into the Woods.



Claire Coolen is known not only for her "thrilling voice", (Portland Press Herald) but for her compelling dramatic presence on stage. The New York Times described her performance as “Winningly portrayed” and the New York Daily Post wrote, “Claire Coolen stole the show”. Performing highlights include Gilda in Rigoletto, Pamina in Magic Flute, Nanetta in Falstaff, Marie in La Fille du Régiment, Mrs. Winemiller in Summer and Smoke, and the Governess in Turn of the Screw at Banff Opera Theater, in Alberta. Recipient: Margaret Hoswell van der Marck Scholarship.



A student of Yvonne Gonzales Redman, Lindsay Eckhardt is currently pursuing a M.M. in Vocal Performance and Literature at the University of Illinois. She has performed as the Second Boy in Die Zauberflöte, Maria in West Side Story, Casilda in Gondoliers, Nanetta in Falstaff, Norina in Don Pasquale, Antonia in Man of La Mancha, and Josephine in HMS Pinafore. Most recently, she was seen as Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte.  Upcoming engagements include appearances as Lucia in The Rape of Lucretia, Gabrielle in The Game of Love, and Zerlina in Don Giovanni.



Soprano, Rachel Felstein performed Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Gounod's Mireille, Adina (L'elisir d'amore), Miss Wordsworth (Albert Herring), Juliette (Roméo et Juliette), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Frasquita (Carmen), Eurydice (Orphée aux Enfers), Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), and Sonja (Der Zarewitsch) with companies such as Mannes Opera, New York Lyric Opera Theatre, dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, Hartford Opera, and Divaria Productions. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree at Mannes College, the New School.



Soprano, Bryn Holdsworth is currently studying at the Manhattan School of Music under world renowned mezzo-soprano, Mignon Dunn.  Bryn is the proud recipient of The ASCAP Foundation Fran Morgenstern Davis Scholarship and is a three time first place winner in the National Association of Teachers in Singing of the Lehigh Valley area. She is also the recipient of the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association Highest Achievement Award for four consecutive years. Ms. Holdsworth has been a national semi-finalist in the Palm Beach Opera vocal competition.



Nikhil Navkal is a tenor currently working toward a Master’s of music degree at Mannes College, specializing in the high coloratura repertoire of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, as well as other bel canto composers. This summer, he will attend the Central City young artist program. From Andover, Massachusetts, Mr. Navkal holds a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance, with a minor in Italian, from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. In past summers, he has studied at IVAI and the Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera in Oderzo, Italy.



Jacqueline Piccolino, a Chicago native, is currently pursuing a B.M. at the University of Illinois studying under the direction of Cynthia Haymon. Ms. Piccolino will portray the role of Arminda (La finta giardiniera) and Lady with a Cake Box (cover) (Postcard from Morocco) with the San Francisco Opera Merola Program and will participate in Houston Grand Opera's Young Artist Vocal Academy this summer. Recent roles include Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), First Lady (The Magic Flute) and Giunone (La Calisto). She has performed various scenes with Wolf Trap Opera Studio. 


DIVISION II FINALISTS (in alphabetical order)



Native of Louisiana, Kristi Bulot has performed the First Lady in The Magic Flute with Opera Louisiane, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Martina Arroyo’s “Prelude to Performance” as well as with La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy.  Additionally, she covered the role of Alice Ford in Falstaff with La Musica Lirica.  Competition Winnings include: National Finalist of the Lois Alba Aria Competition, Finalist in the Classical Singer Competition (Graduate Level), Semi-Finalist with the Palm Beach Opera Competition, and a Semi-Finalists of the Loren L. Zachary Competition.



Tenor, John Calkins most recently was a featured soloist in Opera New Jersey’s Holiday Celebration Concert.  Also in 2011, Mr. Calkins performed Count Almaviva in the Barber of Seville with Light Opera Company of Maryland, in collaboration with COSMIC Symphony, under the baton of Vladimir Lande.  A graduate of The Ohio State University, Mr. Calkins currently studies privately with Dr. Christopher Arneson and Rachelle Jonck.  Upcoming engagements include Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola, a role Mr. Calkins had previously covered for Opera New Jersey.



Phillip Gay, Bass-Baritone, is currently finishing his Masters degree in Vocal Performance at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. This summer, he will be a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival, appearing in their productions of Aida, Armide and Lost in the Stars. He has been a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and has been a semi-finalist for the Gerda Lissner and Licia-Albanese competions. While at U of I, Mr. Gay has appeared in their productions of Rigoletto, Man of LaMancha, La Calisto, Die Zauberflote.



Julia Lima was awarded the 1st prize of the NY District Metropolitan National Council 2011, International Bella Voce Competition (1st prize), All-Russian Festos Competition (1st prize), and the International Festival of Arts in Yalta (1st prize). She made her American debut with the New York Lyric Opera Theatre in the role of Madame Goldentrill in Der Schauspieldirektor. She has appeared as Susanna in the American premiere of  I due Figaro by S. Mercadante with Amore Opera. She is a graduate of the State Musical College (Russia, Moscow) and a master level sport of gymnastics.



California native, Clarissa Lyons received Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of California Berkeley where she studied Music and History of Art.   She has earned Masters of Music degrees under the tutelage of Patricia Misslin from the Manhattan School of Music and Bard College Conservatory in Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts Program. Ms. Lyons created the role of St. Francis’ Trainer in David T. Little’s Vinkensport: The Finch Opera for Bard College Conservatory’s Vocal Arts Program. She appeared as Elaine O’Neill in the New York Premier of Later that Same Evening.



Sarah Nisbett has performed roles such as Mrs. Nolan (Medium), Giovanna (Rigoletto), 2nd & 3rd Lady (The Magic Flute), Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Title role in Oreste, and Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito.  Venues/Companies include: Michigan Opera Theatre, Tanglewood Music Center, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Ann Arbor Opera Theatre, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Festival and Westminster Opear Theatre.  She was a 1st place winner of the National Opera Association  Vocal Competition.



A native of Seoul, Korea, Do Jin Jung earned his Bachelor of Music Degree from the Korea National University of Arts and Master degree at Mannes, New York. He is Winner of the New York District at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and Grant winner award in The Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition. Roles: Colline in La Bohème, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro. Don Magnifico in Cenerentola. He performed scenes as Dr.Dulcamara of L’elisir d’amore and Osmin in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail.



No Biography available.



Mezzo-soprano, Perri Sussman made her Carnegie Hall debut in the 2011 Master Singer Finalist Concert for the Nico Castel International Master Singer Competition. She is a second year graduate student at Manhattan School of Music. She was a participant with La Lingua della Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy. There she performed opera scenes from Les Contes d’Hoffman (Nicklausse), Falstaff (Alice), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Romeo), and Lakmé (Mallika). Ms. Sussman will  perform Zweite Dame in Die Zauberflöte as an Apprentice Artist with Opera in the Ozarks this summer.



Countertenor, Nicholas Tamagna, winner of the Nico Castel Mastersinger Competition 2011 and Arkadi Foundation Competition 2011, made his Lincoln Center debut with DCINY Orchestra at Avery Fischer Hall in Handel's Messiah. An active concert and opera singer, Mr. Tamagna has performed with many regional US and Canadian opera companies, orchestras, and ensembles since 2008. Opera Now described him as “exquisite, combining perfect tonal quality with substantial power.  His voice soared with piecing [sic] sadness and soothed with a silky beauty."