Friday, March 23, 2012


Ashland University Department of Music congratulates junior, voice-performance major Bret Cowden (United Local High School, Hanoverton, Ohio) for recent achievements based on his talent.  

In Akron Tuesday Musical Association's annual competition, Cowden was awarded second place in the voice area.  This scholarship program is widely recognized as one of the best in Northeastern Ohio. Since its inception in 1955, nearly 500 scholarships have been awarded in categories of voice, piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, organ and music education.

Bret also auditioned and was selected to participate in this summer's Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute in Spearfish, South Dakota.  Now in its fourteenth year, the institute selected 20 to 25 aspiring pre-professional opera singers from all over the United States and Canada for this unusual two-week program. Students are assigned roles in April and are asked to memorize their roles before arriving in South Dakota. World famous operatic soprano Johanna Meier is the artistic director, and the stage director is Bruce Donnell of the Metropolitan Opera and the Santa Fe Opera. Operatic conductor John Stewart is a former leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera and in Europe who recently retired from teaching voice and opera at the University of St. Louis. New York pianists Charis Dimaris and Elizabeth Hastings serve as vocal coaches and accompanists. Melanie Palm provides instruction in movement and dance. By working in an ensemble atmosphere, student camaraderie develops an important understanding of future rapport with colleagues, coaches, and those in charge of opera production.

Studying under voice professor Stephanie Sikora, Cowden will present his junior recital at Ashland University with fellow voice major Brandy Kay Riha on Thursday, March 29, 7:30 p.m. in the Elizabeth Pastor Recital Hall.  He also will appear in the music department's annual Opera Scenes performances on Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall.  These events are free and open to the public.

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