Columbia to host Chicago Voices, Lyric Opera master classes


Jaclyn Simpson

Chicago Voices and the Lyric Opera of Chicago will be hosting master classes for aspiring vocalists at Columbia Feb. 2–4.

By Marisa Sobotka

Columbia will be hosting a weekend of music events reflecting the diversity of Chicago’s communities and produced by Chicago Voices, a collaborative initiative of the Lyric Opera of Chicago for students and music lovers.

Chicago Voices “celebrates the vocal traditions of the city by engaging and interacting with residents around Chicago,” according to the group’s website.

The event, which will be held Feb. 2–4 in the 1014 S. Michigan Ave. Building, includes a Chicago Voices concert as well as expert panel discussions and master classes for attendees.

Celebrity guests will include renowned opera singer Renée Fleming, Broadway star Jessie Mueller and former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams, according to the press release.

The opera worked with Chicago Voices to take advantage of Columbia’s educational setting, said Mark Riggleman, director of education for Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Bobbi Wilsyn, lecturer in the Music Department and Voice Studies Coordinator, helped plan the master classes and will be one of the panel moderators. She said the events program is going to be extensive with topics that include vocal performance and how to achieve success in the music industry.

Riggleman said the weekend-long event will bring together people from many music genres to educate students.

The classes will also have varied topics, including promoting your career through social media and taking care of your voice when singing for long periods of time, he added.

“It provides an opportunity for people to learn from insiders what is going on, how it works, and if they want to be a part of it,” Riggleman said.

A few of the artists will not only be teaching the master classes and panels but also performing in the closing concert at the Civic Opera House of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive, on Feb. 4. In addition to the guest stars, several Columbia faculty and students are included in the panels and master classes.

While the event was mostly the “brainchild” of the Lyric Opera, the organizers collaborated with the Music Department so much that it has become more of a partnership, said Joseph Cerqua, creative director of Production for the Music Department, who assisted in the event planning.

“It is all about Chicago vocalists making a home and a living in Chicago, so it just makes sense for the Music Department to be centrally involved,” Cerqua said.

Wilsyn said she was glad to have the college be such a big part of the upcoming event and have the opportunity to work with the city’s Lyric Opera and Chicago Voices.

“This is what we love about Columbia,” Wilsyn said. “Besides what is being taught in the classroom, these students get to rub elbows with people who are actually in the business, so it’s good for us, and it’s a wonderful association I feel with Lyric Opera.”