Stan State’s own Luca Mitchell, a sophomore studying vocal performance within the Music Department, has been awarded 1st place in the age 16 to 19 category of Opera Modesto's Kristina Townsend Memorial Vocal Competition. The competition is designed to encourage and provide opportunities for young singers in the community.
Mitchell has been working in music for most of his life. He began singing while in middle school and continued to improve on it throughout high school. During his first two years at Stan State, he has done work with the Stan State Chamber Singers and Concert Choral ensembles.
“I honestly wasn’t even interested in vocals originally,” Mitchell said. “I was interested in the more performative aspects of stage plays."
Mitchell explained that this changed when he was in the 6th grade.
"I was in 6th grade, and my school had a performance program," said Mitchell. "They had two plays, twice a year. I got in, and I auditioned for the main acting role, didn’t get it, but did get the main singing role for some reason. Turns out I really liked it.”
For the Kristina Townsend Memorial Vocal Competition, Mitchell sang two pieces, “Every Valley Shall be Exalted” by Messiah Handel and an Italian piece called “Quanto E’bella, Quanto E’cara!” an aria from Elixir of Love.
“It’s kind of cool how they both are ‘operatic pieces,’ but one is almost like a messenger of God-ish [while] the other is like ‘I’m a really awkward dude and I like that girl,’” Mitchell joked.
A recording of his performance of “Quanto E’bella, Quanto E’cara!” can be seen in the video below, along with the list of winners from the other age categories:
Mitchell has worked with Opera Modesto in the past, playing the role of Mr. Rushworth in their orchestral premiere of “Mansfield Park.” He has also participated in their summer training program.
The organization, which aims to bring opera to the Stanislaus County community, also has quite a few connections with the Stan State Music Department, with Dr. Joseph Wiggett having previously worked as artistic director with them for several years.
Wiggett teaches many vocal performance classes on campus and directs the opera workshop. He has also worked directly with Mitchell in many of his classes.
“He’s a very strong student,” Wiggett said.
One of the greatest benefits of the Opera Modesto program is the opportunity it provides for many local performers. The Kristina Townsend Memorial Competition, which was created in honor of Kristina Townsend, daughter of Opera Modesto founder Erick Buck Townsend, provides winners with a cash prize and chances to perform at events over the course of the next year.
On top of providing opportunities for young performers, Opera Modesto also hosts many events for those interested in seeing more of the arts. If you want to find out more information about this program and events they are hosting, you can find their webpage here.
Alongside Opera Modesto's promotion of young talent, there is also an abundance of support coming from within the Music Department at Stan State. With the transition to online learning, it has been difficult for many students to work in the areas of the performing arts they enjoy.
“In a normal year, we present anywhere from 40 to 60 different performances in the [Snider Recital] Hall,” Wiggett explained. “We have guest artists, our faculty perform, our students perform student recitals, and more.”
Sadly, many of these events haven’t been able to occur with social distancing in place. That said, things like the student recitals can be accessed from recordings online at the Department of Music’s official YouTube Channel.
As things begin to re-open, Wiggett encourages other students to look at upcoming events and see what they can attend, which can be found on the Music Events page.
“There’s a huge amount of arts happening right in our backdoor,” he stated. “All they have to do is cross campus and walk in.”