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Alumnus Interview – Beyond the Stage

Caleb Glickman, conductor

What is it like being in the Beyond the Stage program? Hear the stories straight from our alumni.

Caleb joined us this past summer as an apprentice conductor for Michael Ching’s opera Speed Dating Tonight! He’s back at Carnegie Mellon University for his final year of his Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance and Conducting.

What was your first experience with opera?

My first experience in opera was in the children’s chorus for LA Opera’s production of Verdi’s Otello in 2007, but for me the floodgates really opened after I sang the Third Spirit in Die Zauberflöte in 2008.

Who or what inspired you to start singing?

Growing up, I was a member of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, which supplied chorus members for any productions of operas that needed kids at any point. They were the focal point that showed me this whole world of music that I hadn’t experienced before. And since I was exposed to it at a fairly early age, I was lucky enough to grow up with it as a part of my life. At LA Opera, James Conlon was the conductor who inspired me to start thinking about pursuing conducting. When I was 13 or 14 I decided that I wanted to be a conductor, and there is nothing else in the world that I feel more fulfilled doing.

How does participating in a summer program differ from your school education?

Summer programs are starkly different from normal university training for a few reasons. For voice and conducting teachers, you only have a couple weeks to teach, as opposed to four years at a university, so you have to impart ideas and technique without being able to fully realize them to completion. Still, I consider it incredibly valuable to seek out these other professional opinions to broaden your potential as an artist. I have been able to reach out to a wider network of artists due to all of the talented people I meet at different summer programs. And these networks can help you as you apply to further study or to other young artist programs around the world.

What was your biggest takeaway from VOICExperience?

My biggest takeaway from VOICExperience was how to be ready for anything. The festival manages a daunting number of moving parts, and you always have to be prepared that something might change at the last minute. It will inevitably happen at any opera company or festival. But, if you can be someone who can jump in when it’s needed, it will take you far.

What was your favorite memory from VOICExperience?

One of my favorite memories will be of my incredible host family, the Andersons. They have a GE Electric Toaster Oven from the 70’s in their kitchen and swear by its superiority to any modern pop-up toaster. I was at first skeptical, but quickly found myself using it every morning. The best part was having the privilege to conduct Michael Ching’s “Speed Dating Tonight!” at the end of the festival and more specifically perform the “Toaster Duet” dedicated to Kathie and Les since Michael had also stayed with them in the past.

Why should artists participate in summer programs like VOICExperience?

Artists should participate in summer programs like VOICExperience because the contacts you meet here can serve you well far into the future. The opera world is small, and the incredible staff in Savannah want us to realize that potential as we transition into the professional world.

What are you working on right now? Any programs or performances coming up?

I have a few upcoming projects this semester! I will be singing Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro with CMU Opera alongside several previous participants of the Savannah Voice Festival. In November I will be conducting the premiere of a student written opera at the Composit-Opera Festival, and on part of the CMU All University Orchestra’s Fall Concert. And in December, I will be conducting a semi-staged version of Handel’s Judas Maccabeus and the All University Orchestra’s Chamber Ensembles Winter Concert.

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Alumna Interview – Beyond the Stage

Sarah Fall, Arts Administrator

What was your first experience with opera?

My first experience with Opera was in the fourth grade when my mother took me to see Madame Butterfly. I didn’t work with opera production until this past summer when I was a scheduler for the Magic Flute and the Marriage of Figaro in Prague. My Opera education continued until this summer when I stage managed the Marriage of Figaro at the Savannah Voice Festival.

Who or what inspired you to start a career in the arts?

I started working in arts administration in college where I began as an usher at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville, KY. Over my college years I was promoted to house manager at this theatre. After I graduated I wanted to pursue other opportunities within arts administration. This is how I found the Savannah Voice Festival.

How does participating in a summer program differ from your school education? Are there any resources/contacts you’ve had access to BECAUSE of a summer program?

The Festival experience differs from year round positions in many ways. While participating in festivals I ended up learning about many more sides of production than I thought I would. A summer program like the Savannah Voice Festival creates a high energy and fast paced environment that cannot be recreated in school. Experience has been essential for furthering my career as an arts administrator.

What was your biggest takeaway from VOICExperience?

My biggest take away from VOICExperience was the connections I made with the staff. There are so many opportunities provided by VOICExperience to grow and learn as a young person in arts administration. I feel better prepared for however my career continues in the arts.

What was your favorite memory from the Beyond the Stage program?

My favorite part of the Beyond the Stage program was being able to work closely with both the artists and other Beyond the Stage students. These connections with other passionate people continues to strengthen my love of the performing arts. Additionally, having other Beyond the Stage students gave me a community to learn from and support me with their positive energy.

Why should artists participate in summer programs like VOICExperience?

The Festival experience is unlike any other administration experience. Each day is full new energy, life, and a little chaos. Learning to work in this environment makes students interested in administration capable of working under stress.

What are you working on right now? Any programs or performances coming up?

I am now working with VOICExperience and the Savannah Voice Festival in Tampa, FL. After this I plan on continuing my career in arts administration in Lexington, KY.

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Alumnus Interview – Festival Artist Program

Chad Sonka, Baritone

The journey of a professional singer is different for each individual. Learn how Chad’s experience as a Festival Artist helped create opportunity for him in both performance and academia.

What was your first experience with opera?

I first encountered opera my senior year of high school when I started studying private voice lessons. My teacher then took me to see a production of Aida, and I was in awe with what the voice had the power to do, as well as the grandiose nature of the art. When I sang my first aria, I felt I found the clearest way to communicate to people and a potential career.

Who or what inspired you to start singing?

My middle school choir teacher called my mother at work to “force” me to audition for choir at school. I didn’t think I stood a chance because I sang so loudly. He nurtured my singing throughout high school, but my first voice teacher was the one who allowed me to express myself and be a true artist.

How does participating in a summer program differ from your school education? Are there any resources/contacts you’ve had access to BECAUSE of a summer program?

My experiences thus far have proven that the two compliment each other well. The skills you learn in school are applied at a summer program to help network and further one’s career. There are certainly doors that have been opened as a result of participating in summer programs and that’s a large part of why they exist in the first place. Schooling often becomes more effective as a result of participating in a summer program because planning what one wants to get out of their education becomes clearer.

What was your biggest takeaway from VOICExperience?

My biggest take away from VOICExperience thus far has been learning what how to be versatile, flexible, amicable, and efficient in all aspects of my career. Growing as an artist and developing my brand is encapsulated those skills.

What was your favorite memory from VOICExperience? Any funny moments or vocal epiphanies?

I’ve honestly had too many to pinpoint to just one. Realizing that I can apply so many different colors to my music making, “Wheels of a Dream” with Mikki Sodergren, Singing “Sunday” with the whole crew, all of Uncle Dan’s pearls of wisdom, becoming the outreach coordinator…

What are you working on right now? Any programs or performances coming up?

I’m working on preparing my students for their opera scenes program at Iowa State University. Regarding my own career, I’m preparing for the Metropolitan National Council Auditions and a couple of regional recitals in Iowa.


Chad serves as Education and Outreach Coordinator for VOICExperience, and we are so lucky to have him on our team. He came to us through the Festival Artist program, and remains an active performer, educator, and administrator.

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