A voice worth thousands

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Sarah Eades, Photo Editor

Stepping in front of nine judges, junior Willnard Anderson gives his music to the accompanying pianist. He takes his stance and butterflies flutter in his stomach. Once Anderson begins to sing “Per La Gloria D’Adorarvi” by Giovanni Bononicini, the nerves unwind. 30 seconds later, he’s “on autopilot.”

Anderson, along with Seniors Darren Barnes and Cierra Dalske, Junior Kamaria Keely, and 300 St Louis area students auditioned in September for the highly selective Opera Theatre of St. Louis Young Artists in Training (AIT) program, a scholarship competition that recognizes students with extraordinary opera singing abilities. Anderson, Barnes, Dalske and Keely are 4 of the 22 students that made the cut.

“Opera singing is very demanding,” said choir teacher Mr. Baker. “It takes a lot of discipline, control, and development.”

While opera is a rigorous genre, Anderson is confident about his singing ability. Beginning as an R&B and gospel artist, he found opera was a true art in his freshman year. Three years of opera prepare him for his audition.

“I just winged it,” said Anderson.

Cierra Dalske is usually very nervous during performances and auditions, but for AIT, she was calm and confident in herself and the song. That was one of the reasons she was selected to compete.

Darren Barnes had a different experience. This will be his second year competing. He prepared much more for this audition. The judges had higher expectations and he had to work harder to meet them.

“It feels like I made their expectations and made myself proud,” said Barnes.

Seniors are eligible for $5,000; juniors and sophomores compete for all other scholarships. For taking part of the program, the students will receive at least $100 and coaching by a professional opera singer.

On January 29th, AIT performed its first recital in the Graham Chapel at Washington University. This recital is used to showcase the students’ process and prepare them for the final recital on April. All competitors sang solos.

Preparation for this recital was intensive, but rewarding.

“There was a lot of practicing,” said Cierra Dalske. “I had an hour of practice on top of regular rehearsal and lots of retraining my voice.”

The final recital on April 22nd will determine which student will win the $5,000.

“We’re all amazing singers, so it will be a hard competition,” said Dalske.