5 Cherokees selected for 2017-18 Tulsa Opera season

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
08/14/2017 08:15 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Tulsa Youth Opera participant and Cherokee Nation citizen Phillip Bruch sings “Caro Mio Ben” for Aaron Beck, Tulsa Opera’s music and education administrator, during vocal lessons in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Bruch is one of five CN citizens who have been selected to be a part of the Tulsa Youth Opera for its 2017-18 season. Also shown are CN citizens Megan Jacobs, Barbara McAlister and Katelyn Morton. Jacobs and Morton were also selected to be a part of the Tulsa Youth Opera. Bruch, Jacobs and Morton all study under McAlister, who is an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHEONIX
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Five Cherokee Nation citizens who are students of CN citizen and internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer Barbara McAlister were recently selected for the Tulsa Opera’s 2017-18 season.

Megan Jacobs, 17; Phillip Bruch, 16; Katelyn Morton, 17; and Haley Hitt, 14, were accepted into the Tulsa Youth Opera, while Steven Osborne, 47, was selected for the Tulsa Opera Chorus.

Aaron Beck, TO music and education administrator, said the TO is “proud” to have a revitalized relationship with the CN, and McAlister is the reason.

“Her long and storied career as a professional opera singer, combined with her love for her homeland and the Cherokee Nation is inspiring an entire new generation of Cherokees to love and respect music,” he said. “They all bring a remarkable work ethic, high level of respect and supreme talent to our organization, which speaks highly of the Cherokee Nation’s investment in the artistic training of its citizens.”

Each year the TYO selects singers ranging from grades third through 12th for a tuition-free training program estimated to cost $6,000 per student. Those selected learn the basics of singing and performing with the TO staff, and at the end of the training year they perform a full-length children’s opera at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

“We have about 100 kids audition, and we have about 50 to 60 spots, so it’s pretty competitive. A lot of the kids study privately with people like Barbara, while some don’t at all. But it’s just a lot of fun to work with all of them,” said Beck.

Bruch said he’s excited for the opportunity and grateful for the “push of confidence” McAlister gave him to audition for the TYO.

“Actually, I didn’t know I was signing up for opera. I thought it was vocal lessons. I listened to Megan sing and I thought ‘OK, maybe I should give this a try.’ I honestly didn’t think I could do it at first but Barbara told me ‘you can do it. You have potential, so don’t be nervous.’ She gave me that push of confidence I needed,” he said. “When I found out that I was accepted I was so excited, but I’m still really nervous because I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work. But I just have to push through it.”

In honor of the TO’s 70th anniversary and the TYO’s 20th anniversary, Beck said there are big plans and that the TO is close to revealing the upcoming performances that will include its singers as well as TYO performers.

Beck said Osborne would be with the TOC, which is part of the TO productions.

“The Tulsa Opera Chorus is for people who know how to sing and perform already,” he said. “If you ever seen an opera, its kind of like a musical. A lot of times you’ll have a chorus on stage that plays the townspeople or something. So we have a chorus that is a professional-level ensemble that does our main productions during the year, and so that is what he (Osborne) is going to be in this year.”

Osborne said he became interested in music in high school, but knew he enjoyed opera after his high school music class attended a TO dress rehearsal. He said it was like a “light bulb” turned on, and he knew opera is where he wanted to be.

“I kind of gave up on music at one point, got married, (had) children, and I began working as manager in food and beverage at the Hard Rock (Hotel & Casino Tulsa) for almost 10 years,” he said. “Then I got the opportunity to study with Barbara. Now I am going to be performing. It’s kind of a lifelong dream to be singing with an opera company and to also be signing with the Signature Symphony this year. So I am going to be singing quite a bit. Hopefully for me, this is a jumping off point, kind of a late start but a beginning to bigger things.”

McAlister said with her students’ acceptance into the opera programs, she’s excited and proud that her instructions are helping them reach their goals.

“We have such amazing talent within the Cherokee Nation. I have probably 20 to 22 students just from the Cherokee Nation. They learn to sing in German, Italian, French and Cherokee. They have to memorize all these songs in whatever language it is and know what they’re singing by the time they perform it,” she said. “This year, four auditioned and all four got into the Tulsa Youth Opera from the Cherokee Nation. And Steve is the only Cherokee to audition for the Tulsa Opera Chorus and be accepted, so it’s a great honor for all of them.”

Auditions for the 2018-19 seasons for the TYO and TOC are set for May and June. For more information, visit www.tulsaopera.com or email Beck at abeck@tulsaopera.com.

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