|Funded by the William E. Schmidt Foundation, the Schmidt Vocal Competition is an annual event for U.S. high school students that sees 400+ singers compete each year – this season for more than $625K in cash awards and scholarships – just at the critical point in their early careers when they begin to look toward training on a professional level. The final regional competitions in the 2021-22 season will be held in Tacoma, Chicago, and Boston. These and the other regional locations are selected with the goal of providing a central location for as many corners of the country as possible. Past competitors have been known to travel up to eight hours by car or take a short flight to get to the regional competitions, but SVA’s introduction of a virtual cohort – as well as the fact that the entire competition moved online last season because of the pandemic – has also opened up possibilities for singers from more rural areas, including some of the first singers from Alaska and Montana.|
The milestone of SVA’s first national competition will take place over a long weekend, beginning with the Friday arrival of the semi-finalists in Sarasota and rehearsals with pianists. On Saturday are the semi-finals, heard by a panel of five judges. At an alumni concert that evening featuring SVA alumni Virginia Mims and Aaron Crouch with pianist Brent Funderburk, up to sixteen finalists will be announced for the finals on Sunday, and four encouragement awards ($300) will be given to non-finalists, three of whom will also be invited to participate in a Sunday master class with soprano Judith Haddon, soprano Dr. Katherine Jolly, and tenor Stanford Olsen. Owens, Russell, and Wilson will judge the finals and decide upon the First Place ($10,000), Second Place ($7,500), Third Place ($5,000), and Finalist ($650) Awards. A reception and awards ceremony wraps up the weekend on Sunday evening. Information on some of the young contestants can be found here.
SVA’s support and resources continue long after the competition. The award winners are eligible for need-based scholarships to support their continued study at the university level, and SVA continues to have relationships with many alumni throughout their careers, providing educational, mentoring, and networking opportunities as well as grants for summer study. SVA recently launched an Undergraduate Awards initiative, building on the programs designed for high school students to create opportunities for college-level singers as well. Also under the SVA umbrella are the Schmidt Vocal Institute (SVI), a two-week summer intensive training program established by McAlister in 2016, and its Vocal Artists Network, a roster of vocalists and vocal pianists/coaches boasting celebrated performers who are also dedicated teachers. The network includes such luminaries as Margo Garrett, Christine Goerke, Denyce Graves, Nathan Gunn, Craig Terry, Russell Thomas, Tamara Wilson, and many more, and from its ranks come competition judges, master clinicians, and guest faculty.