Alumnus Interview – Festival Artist Program

Oct 20, 2017

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.