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Major Opera-tunity: Moores Singers Win at National Opera Association Competition

NOA awards Brian Yeakley (M.M. Applied Music ’14) and Katherine DeYoung (M.M. Vocal Performance ’18) for outstanding performances.

University of Houston’s Brian Yeakley (M.M. Applied Music ’14) and Katherine DeYoung (M.M. Vocal Performance ’18) sang their hearts out at the National Opera Association (NOA) 2018 Carolyn Bailey and Dominick Argento Vocal Competition.

“I was very proud of their win,” Buck Ross, director of the Moores Opera Center, says. “I was bragging to my colleagues when Brian and Katherine got their awards.” 

NOA aims to cultivate an intense love and appreciation for music, drama and opera through their annual vocal competition, which offers both an Artist Division for singers 25 to 40 years old and a Scholarship Division for younger singers between 18 and 24 years old. Competing in the Artist Division, Yeakley was asked to sing five opera arias, while DeYoung had to perform four opera arias in the Scholarship Division. Yeakley and DeYoung went above and beyond, each bringing home bronze in their respective divisions.

“Brian and Kate are both very talented people,” Ross says. “Their time here at the Moores School of Music was dedicated to honing their skills and becoming commercially viable.”

Still, as talented as he is, Yeakley did not expect to win. The UH alumnus was recuperating from laryngitis during the competition and instead decided to focus on the experience.  

“I wasn’t worried about winning. My brain was kind of hazy since I had just gotten off medication for my laryngitis and was still recovering,” Yeakley says. “Somehow, I was able to pull it together and sing. I had a lot of fun doing it, but I was 100 percent surprised to win.”

DeYoung’s competition experience was not as fuzzy as Yeakley’s, but just as enjoyable. “Competitions and other events put on by NOA have offered me the opportunity to learn more about my craft,” says DeYoung, whose experience at the 2016 NOA vocal competition pushed her to sign up again.

With the help of Moores School of Music professor Melanie Sonnenberg, her competition experience and love for opera, DeYoung came prepared and left fulfilled.

Ross describes opera as an art form that “engages every bit of your brain”. UH opera students are given the opportunity to become well-rounded artists and succeed in this demanding field through extensive acting classes and fully staged opera performances.

The thing that truly separates our program from other opera programs is that we give them a lot of stage experience. When our students leave here they have a large number of roles under their belts, making them much more dynamic performers,” Ross says.

DeYoung agrees, crediting her success and confidence to the UH professors who have encouraged her to grow as both a musician and artist. She will be starring in the upcoming UH performance of The Italian Girl in Algiers, which opens April 6 at the Moores Opera House.

Likewise, Yeakley voices his appreciation for the connections he made through the University.

“The connections and teachers help propel you to your career,” says Yeakley. “You don’t always notice it until you get the offers. My voice teacher mentioned my name to a number of opera companies and that’s how I got a majority of my offers.”

So far, Yeakley’s connections have paid off.

He is currently building Operativo Houston, a voice studio in Pearland, Texas for students. His goal is to create more Houston opera performance opportunities by giving students the chance to be a part of big productions. At the studio, four qualified singers will mentor the students as well as act alongside them in “Into the Woods” at Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH)