Lincoln, Neb. - University of Nebraska–Lincoln School of Music graduate student Kayla Wilkens finished as one of eight finalists in the National Opera Association’s 2013 Vocal Competition in the scholarship division. The finals were conducted Jan. 5, 2013, in Portland, Ore.
“I was very pleased and honored to be chosen as a national finalist—only a handful of applicants are chosen to proceed to the final stage of the competition,” Wilkens said.
The National Opera Association seeks to promote greater appreciation of opera and music theatre, to enhance pedagogy and performing activities and to increase performance opportunities by supporting projects that improve the scope and quality of opera.
The scholarship division of the National Opera Association’s vocal competition was open to singers aged 18-24 who are currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs or their equivalent.
Wilkens was encouraged to apply by a colleague in Oregon. She prepared her audition, which included a recording of two arias. Wilkens recorded “O luce di quest’anima” from Gaetano Donizetti’s “Linda di Chamounix” and “The Silver Aria” from Douglas Moore’s “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”
Listen to Kayla Wilkens singing "The Silver Aria" from Douglas Moore's "The Ballad of Baby Doe."
At the finals last weekend in Portland, Wilkens prepared four arias in contrasting styles and periods: the two above, plus “Glitter and Be Gay” from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” and “Bester Jüngling” from W.A. Mozart's “Der Schauspieldirektor.” She performed two pieces at the competition—one that she selected and a second that the judging panel selected—“O luce di quest’anima” and “The Silver Aria.”
“Kayla is an exceptional young woman who possesses a warm, flexible and engaging voice that surrounds her audiences and easily transports them to her musical world,” said Assistant Professor of Voice Jamie Reimer. “She has a compelling stage presence and her innate musical ability is evident each time she sings. Kayla is a pleasure to have at UNL.”
Wilkens received a Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Student Presentation of Scholarly/Creative Activity Grant to attend the conference in Portland, which also included other activities and workshops, in addition to the singing competition.
“During the school year, money can be very tight for students, and despite the competition and educational opportunities offered by the convention, I wouldn't have been able to accept the finalist position unless I received aid,” Wilkens said. “I am very grateful.”
“I'm very excited to be reaching the competitive start to my career and am so very glad to be returning to my home state to sing at a competition hosted by such a prominent organization,” she said. “It's always fun to meet other vocalists at my level of training and see what they're working on and doing, and despite the competition, it is usually a very friendly atmosphere. I've met good friends at similar events.”
A Singer's Journey
A native of Salem, Ore., who earned her bachelor's degree at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., Wilkens performed as Marie Shabata in the UNL Opera production of "O Pioneers!" in November. She was a semifinalist at the 2012 Classical Singer Vocal Competition and the recipient of the 2011 Bev Sellers Memorial Award from the Young Singers Foundation. She also performed the soprano solos in the world premiere of Libby Larsen's "Moabit Sonnets" with the Linfield Chamber Orchestra.
She remains open to her future career possibilities.
“The future is a very interesting thing to reflect on, as there are no guarantees and no way to predict what will happen,” Wilkens said. “I do know that I will pursue performance in a professional career after I graduate and hope to continue teaching later on.”