CLA Alumni

Reflections: CLA France 2018

A snapshot of the countryside by the chateau.

A snapshot of the countryside by the chateau.

Reflections:  CLA France 2018

Life is loud.  In the city, working a graduate program, running errands, the daily stuff of life, it is all part of a rhythm.  I am thankful for all of it, because the routine is part of happiness and a life as a singer.  We are always up and moving, meeting new people, acquainting ourselves with new repertoire, blending backgrounds to make some good music.  

I was down in Charleston recently for a series of performances during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.  We did a send-out concert at the beautiful Mepkin Abbey, a place rich with musical history.  The leading monk there was a career organist and pianist before turning to monastery life.  On the way back to our cars, we walked down the pathway lined with live oak trees. One of us commented on how quiet such a life would be.  No technology, no connection to the outside world — just the work.  Folks go on meditation retreats to have this great escape.  A place to reset, a haven.  In the life of an artist, we rarely get the chance.

When I woke up today, I opened my window out to the Dordogne hills.  Other than the birds singing, the occasional distant car driving down the country road, and the voices of the 10-12 singers that have come here to the chateau, it’s just us.  There is still the intensity of learning all the new repertoire, but the hassle is gone.  Food is provided, we don’t have to go anywhere (only to go for morning jogs next to the cow pastures...)  It is a retreat, and there is nothing but the language, the music, and the landscape.  

June 6, 2018


Testimonial: Briana Hunter

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Testimonial:  Briana Hunter – Mezzo-Soprano

CLA Alumna and mezzo-soprano Briana Elyse Hunter takes us with her on an inward journey reflecting on her experiences as a three-time participant of our training programs. 

Recent credits include Carmen (Carmen), Mercédes (Carmen), Cendrillon (Cendrillon), Ida/Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Laura (Iolanta), Rosa Gonzales (Summer and Smoke), and Sarah (Ragtime). She has worked under the direction of The Royal Shakespeare Company as both actress and vocal soloist in an original production For Every Passion Something that premiered at the Fringe Festival in Scotland. She was a 2014 recipient of the Lys Symonette award in the KWF's Lotte Lenya Competition. In 2016 she competed in the Mid-Atlantic Regionals of the Met Competition at the Kennedy Center. She has been on the rosters of Santa Fe Opera, Knoxville Opera, American Opera Projects, Opera in the Heights, I SING BEIJING, Sarasota Opera, El Paso Opera, and Music Academy of the West where she sang the title role of Carmen under the tutelage of the great Marilyn Horne. Ms. Hunter also serves as Artistic Director of Bare Opera In NYC.

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"When I met Glenn, I was a student in his beginner Italian diction course. I had just graduated from a small liberal arts college famous for its rigorous academics, and I was ready to take on this new academic setting with the same headstrong, nose to the grindstone attitude. I was acing my IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), and I had a natural knack for languages. However, I was not soaring above the rest. Good grades were not making my voice great. Seeing my frustration, Glenn approached me about a program he had started in Italy and said I would really profit from it (naturally, like most, I was in love with Glenn at this point and probably would have followed him anywhere). In our brief sessions in his class, I found I responded well to his style of coaching, so I wanted more of that, plus the wine and the food sounded like a good deal. I was great at school so I would be great at this.

So what does make a great singer? Lately, I’ve read a lot of articles citing the death of classical music in America, and the dearth of great dramatic voices–-basically what is lacking––but very few actually offer up a reason or any kind of solution. Tenor Michael Sylvester’s recent blog post really breaks that mold and, I think, is right on the money. He says:

'Today’s singers expect it to be fed to them. They think if they get good grades and do the work put forth for them in college, they will succeed. As a group they take little initiative to teach themselves. And if you want to be a real singer, you have to teach yourself. Listen to the great singers of the past and present. Understand their style. Empathize with their voices. Work at your languages, don’t just be prepared with your IPA. That’s merely a tool. When you study a piece of music, understand the text. Make it yours. Know its roots.'

He goes on to say:

'We... somehow believe that we can teach someone in an hour a week and make them great. If you look back you will find singers that went off to study with this or that great master and they speak of having a lesson every day, of singing only scales for a year, of long discussions with their teacher on the subtleties of music and singing. Music has long been a mentored craft. Teacher passing down to student, who in turn passes it down, and so forth. Modern life seems to thwart this kind of apprenticeship.'

This is exactly the service CLA provides. The opportunity to work closely with the masters on a daily basis in the birthplace of the music itself. The daily one-on-one grueling yet delicious work of understanding the style and the nuances of the language. Listening to Michel Sénéchal tell stories about singing at the Paris Opera with Montserrat Caballé and how she proposed to him twice, or hanging out with Poulenc. Hearing Ubaldo Fabbri’s infectious laughter and listening to the Italian language just dance around gloriously in his mouth. Listening to the recordings they recommend to you with a new attentiveness to their artistry and diction. Sitting in the garden or the piazza and contemplating what kind of artist you want to be, meditating, and asking yourself daily if this is something you really want and if you have what it takes to work for it. Listening to the recordings of your own lessons that day and figuring out what works for you. Also, realizing you are not the only one who struggles with all of these things, as you get to know your colleagues and watch them work and at times get frustrated. That’s where the wine and the food become crucial.

When Glenn said I would profit from that first experience which then turned into three (two in Italy and one in France), I doubt even he knew the magnitude of his contribution at the time. He sent me thousands of miles away on an inward journey. To an Italian village seemingly untouched by modern times to get to the heart of the art form, the essence of the language, and find how it speaks to you and what you can uniquely bring to it. Like the Cat in the Hat taught us, “There is no one alive who is youer than you!” Therefore so much of the journey must be inward, and that’s the most difficult road to take. CLA has been a huge part of my inward journey, and I am extremely grateful to Glenn and all of his colleagues who have accompanied me."

Alumni Spotlight: Haley DeWitt


Soprano Haley De Witt, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, was Apprentice Studio Artist at Kentucky Opera for the 2017-2018 season and the University of Louisville School of Music Graduate Teaching Assistant in Voice where she taught both privately and in the classroom. She has been seen as Despina in Così fan tutte, Laurie in The Tenderland, Laurette in Le Docteur Miracle, a featured soloist in the Louisville Orchestra’s performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, and a soloist in Bourbon Baroque’s Messiah. An avid singer of choral music, Haley was a member of the renowned UofL Cardinal Singers for three years and has been a member of the Louisville Chamber Choir for four years. Haley recently completed her Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Louisville, where she studied with Dr. Katherine Donner. Haley received her B.M. in Vocal Performance from U of L where she studied with Edith Davis Tidwell.

Alumni News: Dorothy Gal


Dorothy Gal


Recent 2nd place winner of Houston Grand Opera’s 30th Annual Eleanor McCollum Competition, soprano Dorothy Gal (LLL ’13, ACF ‘14 alumna) will join HGO’s Young Artist Program in the 2018-2019 Season, scheduled to make her company debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Recent roles at Rice University include Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Amy in Little Women, and Sandrina in La finta giardiniera. Since participating in Classic Lyric Arts’ summer programs in Italy and France, Ms. Gal sang in Marilyn Horne’s "The Song Continues" at Carnegie Hall, was a Vocal Fellow at Ravinia’s Steans Music institute and New Horizons Fellow at the Aspen Summer Music Festival. Ms. Gal will perform the role of First Wood Sprite in Des Moines Metro Opera’s mainstage production of Rusalka this summer. She is a recent graduate of Rice University, where she received the Renée Flemming and Cecilia Bartoli Endowed Scholarships in Voice.

Brava Dorothy! Classic Lyric Arts is super proud of you. Wishing you the best always!

(Photo by Douglas Marquez - Headshot, Photo by Ted Washington - Group Shot as Amy in Little Women at Rice University)

Alumni News: Haley Clay


Congratulations to Haley Kathleen Clay, a CLA Italy 2016 alumna.  She will attend Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the Fall to begin her candidacy as a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre.


Haley is currently in Bardstown, KY performing with the award-winning Steven Foster Story.  She has worked with Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts for several seasons and has just finished a season-long contract at Florida Repertory Theatre for 2017-18 and is a graduate of Morehead State University from which she holds two degrees, a BA in Vocal Performance and a BA in Strategic Communication.

Haley is immensely thankful for the guidance of Glenn and the entire Classic Lyric Arts Italy team. With their help, she learned the power of her voice and its never-ending ability to change the world. She is so excited to take that same joy with her to Boston as she continues to pursue her career in musical theatre!

Alumni Spotlight: Jia-Jun Hong


The Chinese baritone and pianist, Jiajun Hong (nickname: Richard), studied at Guangzhou No.2 High School in Guangzhou, China (2006-2009). He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education (Grade 3.3) from Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China (2009-2013); Master of Music degree in Classical Voice Performance (as Baritone) from Manhattan School of Music in New York City (2013-2015); and his Master of Music degree in Piano Accompanying also from Manhattan School of Music (2015-2017).

Jiajun Hong has worked as a piano teacher at Shanghai Five Arts Music School in Shanghai, China (March 2012-March 2013; Teaching children from 5-15 playing piano); Accompanying Pianist at Manhattan School of Music (since September 2015); and as Associate Music Director at Brooklyn Christian Church in New York (since May 2017). He was featured as a soloist for Manhattan School of Music Chamber Choir in J.S. Bach's B Minor Mass (BWV 232), under the direction of Kent Tritle (February 2014). He currently lives in New York City.  He currently serves as Extra Chorus in the Metropolitan Opera Chorus for their 2017-18 season.  Congratulations, Jiajun!