As a tradition, winners of the annual Sigma Alpha Iota competition don’t just win the prize, they’ll be invited to perform with the Music School Festival Orchestra in the Amphitheater next summer.
The SAI competition rotates among the three departments of the School of Music at Chautauqua Institution — the instrumental program, Voice Program and the Piano Program — from year to year. This year, it is the Voice Program’s turn.
Voice students Matthew Pearce, Marie Engle, Lindsey Reynolds, Lindsay Mecher, Matthew Payne, Matthew Cairns, Joseph Tancredi, Shelen Hughes, Jessica Niles, Sydney Kucine, Philippe L’Esperance, Luke Sutliff, Tyler Zimmerman, Ryan Wolfe and Aaron Crouch will sing in the competition, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, in Fletcher Music Hall.
According to Voice Chair Marlena Malas, the SAI competition provides a wonderful platform for voice students that resembles the real world.
“It gives them a chance to be paid. It’s a job. These singers are still in school — they are not out in the world having careers. That’s different,” Malas said. “So that in itself is very helpful for their confidence, and it gives them an opportunity to stand on the stage to sing with the orchestra (and) feel what it feels like to sing in a big space.”
Malas said being able to sing in a space as big as the Amphitheater with an orchestra would be a terrific learning experience for the student who wins.
“Sometimes in their learning experience, the stage is the greatest teacher in the world,” Malas said, “because you learn how to project, you learn how to engage a large audience, … you learn how to breathe for a larger space, to interact and hear the colors of an orchestra, not just the piano. So, it’s very, very much a learning, educational and musical experience that lifts them to another level.”
Malas recalled choosing four winners for the SAI competition one year — a reflection of how talented the Voice Students are.
“I have just extraordinary, wonderful voices here, … and each one is different, and each one will bring to it what it is,” Malas said. “It’s always a hard decision.”