Miguel Ángel Ortega Bañales, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music at Berea College, was awarded the Audience Choice Award in the seventh Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition of the Kentucky Bach Choir. Bañales, a student of Berea College music professor Mark R. Calkins, competed against eight student singers in the recent live vocal competition in Lexington. The Mexican-born tenor also received an Encouragement Award.
The singers competed for a $1,500 Grand Prize, a $700 Audience Choice Award and two $500 Encouragement Awards. The prize winners also are given the opportunity to return as paid guest soloists in future Kentucky Bach Choir concerts.
The grand prize winner was Australian-born soprano Nola Richardson, who is pursuing her doctorate of musical arts at Yale University. She performs frequently with orchestras, Baroque ensembles and choirs around the country.
Zimbabwe-born soprano Tanyaradzwa A. Tawengwa also earned an Encouragement Award. She just completed her master of music degree as a student of Dr. Everett McCorvey at the University of Kentucky.
Other finalists were Madeline Yelle Jentsch, soprano, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; Vidita Kanniks, soprano, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; Amanda Olea, soprano, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; William Ottow, tenor, Carnegie Mellon University; Emily Redden, soprano, University of Kentucky; and Lloyd White V, tenor, University of Kentucky.
The vocal competition was created to encourage exceptional student singers in the study of the solo repertoire of J. S. Bach and the sacred solo repertoire of Franz Joseph Haydn and W. A. Mozart. Singers are selected for the live competition by submitting recordings to Kentucky Bach Choir Artistic Director Marlon Hurst. From the recordings, Hurst and competition benefactor, Audrey Heyman Rooney, select up to 10 singers for the live competition in Lexington. The live competition was adjudicated by Hurst; Dr. Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, associate professor of voice and director of opera at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Dr. Zach Klobnak, director of music at the Presbyterian Church in Danville, Centre College organist and instructor of organ, harpsichord and piano and the accompanist for the Kentucky Bach Choir. Nan McSwain, vocal coach and lecturer in opera with the University of Kentucky Opera Theater, accompanied all singers.Rooney, a member of the Kentucky Bach Choir Board of Directors, began sponsoring the competition in 2013. She has been a longtime arts advocate, particularly encouraging young artists.