Two vocal music students qualify for Tulsa Youth Opera

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Aug. 4—Two area vocal music students qualified for the Tulsa Youth Opera's 2022-2023 season.

The two are Leah Armstrong, 14, of Tahlequah and GiaVanna Hearlson, 12, of Warner. Both are vocal students of former opera mezzo-soprano Barbara McAlister.

Tulsa Youth Opera is a tuition-free training program for outstanding singers from third through 12th grade.

Most of the Muskogee area singers in Tulsa Youth Opera have come through McAlister's vocal music program, said Aaron Beck, Tulsa Youth Opera music director.

"We always love getting Barbara's kids, because they're always well prepared and great kids to be in the program," he said.

Beck said this year's group will have 44 participants, out of 80 who auditioned.

Leah said this is her second year to be part of the youth opera program. She said she was a cover for one of the main roles in Tulsa Youth Opera's "The Second Hurricane" earlier this year.

She said she sent a video audition of herself performing "How Could I Know" from "The Secret Garden," and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from "Phantom of the Opera."

GiaVanna said she auditioned in person with "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music."

"Trying to sing in front of somebody, it was a little bit nerve-wracking to sing it in front of people," she said, adding that she was happy to hear she qualified.

"It was a very big moment, because this is my very first year," she said.

Leah said she's excited to return this year.

"It's a really wonderful experience," she said.

Leah said participants go to rehearsals every Tuesdays.

"We rehearse music and we have to audition there for roles," she said. "We go over pronunciation, if necessary."

Beck said Tulsa Youth Opera students perform several times through the year.

"When Tulsa does its big main stage productions at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, sometimes we do a children's chorus," he said." And those singers will come from Tulsa Youth Opera."

In January, participants will perform in the annual "Amahl and the Night Visitors," which features an all-youth cast.

There also will be an all-youth cast in a June production, which has not been announced. Beck said the performance will mark the opera's American premiere.

"All the kids will get to sing in that, too, and that's with full orchestra, sets and costumes and the whole thing," he said. "So they really get as full of a professional experience as you can get."

Students also will sing the "Star Spangled Banner" at a Tulsa Drillers baseball game later this month, said Leah's mother, Tavia Armstrong.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Tulsa Youth Opera, as well as the 75th anniversary of Tulsa Opera, Beck said.