Meet the Singers - District Auditions 17/18

Jacob Scharfman is a second-year Master’s candidate at the Juilliard school, studying with Dr. Robert White. He began singing with a children’s opera company in a church basement in his native Boston, mostly because he was rubbish at soccer. His dream roles for the near future include lots of Mozart, Britten, Heggie, and maybe crossover rep / musical theater. His dream roles further on include lots of Verdi, Donizetti, Bellini, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, contemporary English works, and maybe a Pelleas. If he’s traveling the world singing for his supper—with his beloved partner and their someday dog, Barkley—, he’ll be very content indeed. Retiring around 60 sounds nice, to focus on teaching and enjoying life. Find him at!
— Baritone Jacob Scharfman
A few years ago I had developed some vocal problems that stemmed from misuse and abuse at my college, which is why I did not graduate and why my career has been stunted the last few years. I have been working on my technique and finally feel like my voice is healthy again! It has been my dream, since I was 13, to sing opera and I can’t imagine my life without pursuing this dream.
My family was very poor as I was growing up and we didn’t have money for lessons; but, I listened to singers like Maria Callas, Edita Gruberova, and Natalie Dessay and tried my best to create the same sounds as they were singing.
When I was about 14 I started reading books on vocal technique and tried my best to master it without the aid of a teacher. Thankfully my high school choir director took an interest and helped me with some exercises. After I graduated I felt like there really wasn’t hope for me to go to college, because of my family’s income; however, I had entered a Christian singing contest that year and one of the colleges attending called me and offered me a merit based full tuition scholarship. I was finally able to take lessons with Ms. Sandra Carney, who became such a wonderful mentor to me.
All throughout college she kept telling me to start my career, but I allowed other professors to push me into different directions vocally that ended up causing muscular confusion, swelling, and injury. I left college and went on vocal rest for 6 months. This was a very difficult time in my life in which I became depressed and almost gave up singing completely.
Since college I have worked to make my voice healthy again with the techniques I learned from Ms Carney. I have recently competed in a few Internet vocal contests, but have not been able to continue my opera career due to my work schedule.
A few months ago, with the encouragement of my instructor, I have worked to become ready to start my life and, what I hope to be, a lasting opera career again.
— Soprano Stephanie Rhodes
My favorite opera currently is The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky. Before focusing my artistic training on classical singing, I very seriously studied fine art, art history and specifically, mixed media painting and sculpture. When I first made the transition from fine art to voice, I would frequent the art museum treasures of NYC and imagine the artwork as an opera; which is exactly what Stravinsky did (and thankfully dictated!) so that we all can participate in his imagination. I sing because I believe in connection, generosity, self reflection/growth and love. I love history, literature, language, music, design and all of these joys in my life (and more) are married in Opera. When I started viewing singing as sculpting with air, I feel in love and haven’t been able to shake my obsession since!
— Soprano Amanda Rose Austin
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Favorite Opera: It’s really hard to choose, but I am a sucker for La boheme. It was the first opera I ever saw and it holds a special place in my heart.
Why I Started Singing: Before I got into singing, I was training for the Olympics in competitive swimming. When I finally reached qualifying times in the 50 freestyle, 50 backstroke and the 100 backstroke I suffered a back injury. Unsure what to do with my life after; my choral director suggested I start taking vocal lessons. In those lessons is where I was introduced into the world of opera and fell in love.
Why I like opera: I am drawn to opera because of its parallels with that of the sports world; both worlds hold a unique physical passion for perfection which can only be obtained through dedication and determination of a single goal to be the best athlete or artist you can be.
Dream Role: Salome from Strauss’ Salome. I want to make out with a dead head.
— Soprano Samantha Nahra
I’ve identified as a singer for as far back as I can remember, but started voice lessons officially when I was 15 years old. I’ve always gotten a kick out of performing. I used to make a stage out of my costume boxes right in the doorway between the foyer and the living room, and put on “concerts” for my family. I even attached a sheet to the ceiling for a curtain. Musical Theatre was my first love, and as I continued my studies into college and grad school I began to fall in love with opera as well. In opera, nothing is toodramatic or too emotional to be considered. Its job is to take you on a journey and tell an amazing story through music. It was through opera that I realized my true potential as a performer.
BM: Penn State University
MM: Peabody Conservatory
Favorite Opera: La Bohème
Dream Roles: Amy (Little Women), Juliette (Romeo et Juliette) and Adina (L’elisir d’amore)
— Soprano Sarah Baumgarten