Featured Artists

Jessica Ann Best, sponsored by Julia and Wesley Krulic

Jessica Ann Best is a versatile artist, known for her dramatic interpretation and an easy, beautiful sound that crosses the operatic, musical theater, and concert stage. Ms. Best debuts Gordon Getty’s The Canterville Ghost and Usher House with LA OPERA in June 2018. Best has recorded the new opera, Jane Eyre, on the Naxos label by composer Louis Karchin anddebuted International Carol Suites by Mark Hayes, a DCINY production at Carnegie Hall. Best premiered the role of Alice Ryley, by Michael Ching, with the Savannah Voice Festival. Best is a returning artist, teacher, and director at the Savannah Voice Festival Recently, Ms. Best is touring with Velvet Caravan; an award-winning, cross-discipline gypsy-jazz ensemble. Best has been a featured artist with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Florida Orchestra, and The Rochester Oratorio Society. She has performed with The Santa Fe Opera, Opera Tampa, The Center for Contemporary Opera, Gotham Chamber Opera, Nickel City Opera, and Finger Lakes Opera. For more information, please visit: www.jessicaannbest.com.

Emily Yocum Black, sponsored by Daniel C. Cohen

American Traditions Competition Milnes Opera Award winner EmilyYocum Black has found success in multiple genres of vocal music. In the operatic realm, she has performed roles such as Pamina in The Magic Flute(2016), Laetitia in The Old Maid and the Thief (2015), and Silverpeal in The Impresario (2015). She was an Apprentice Studio Artist of Kentucky Opera (2016-2017) where she participated in outreach events and sang in the chorus of main stage performances. She has also enjoyed success in oratorio including annual performances of Handel’s Messiah and attending the Bach Cantata Institute at SongFest as a featured soloist under the direction of John Harbison (2017). Competitions include First Prize at the University of Louisville Aria Competition (2016) and Grand Prize at the Kentucky Bach Choir Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition (2016). Emily currently resides in Paducah, KY with her husband and maintains her private voice studio, Atomic City Voice Studio, as well as teaching voice lessons in area public schools.

Michael Ching

Michael Ching (Composer and Librettist, ALICE RYLEY) is a composer, songwriter, conductor, and former arts administrator. His most recent opera, SPEED DATING TONIGHT! was commissioned and premiered by the Janiec Opera Company of the Brevard Music Center. Since its premiere in July 2013, SPEED DATING TONIGHT! has been produced fifteen times, including professional productions at Tri-Cities Opera, Amarillo Opera, and Microscopic Opera (Pittsburgh), and universities such as UT-Austin, the University of Memphis, Ithaca College, and the University of Central Florida. His 1996 opera BUOSO’S GHOST is a sequel to GIANNI SCHICCHI. It has proved lasting, with recent performances at Texas State University and the UNC-Chapel Hill. It will be performed at University of Central Florida next season. His 2010 opera, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, opera a cappella was premiered by Opera Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, and DeltaCappella. A CD featuring the original cast was released on Albany Records in 2014.

Read More
Other works include CORPS OF DISCOVERY, commissioned by the University of Missouri to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Expedition and several one act operas. From 1993-2010, Michael was Artistic Director of Opera Memphis, where he was also General Director for much of the period. While at Opera Memphis, he participated in the seven million dollar campaign to build the Clark Opera Memphis Center, a headquarters and rehearsal studio for the company. He is currently Music Director of Nickel City Opera in Western New York, where he recently conducted their production of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO. This fall he will conduct his new orchestral reduction of Douglas Moore’s THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE at Amarillo Opera. Other guest conducting engagements have included companies in Honolulu, Nashville, Fargo, and New Jersey. Michael has served on the artistic staffs of the opera companies of Miami, Virginia, and Chautauqua, and was trained at the Houston Opera Studio, where he studied opera composition with Carlisle Floyd. Michael attended Duke University where his composition teacher was Robert Ward. Michael lives with family in Ames, Iowa and is happy to hear your comments about ALICE RYLEY at MrBillow@juno.com. 

Justin Havard

Justin Havard is an accomplished director, pianist, and singer who has spent the last 13 years making music in the Tampa Bay area.  Originally from Mobile, Alabama, he received his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Choral Music Education from Florida State University with an emphasis on Piano. He was the collaborative pianist for the Florida All-State Men’s Choir in 2017 and 2018, and he has played for many national tours including The Book of Mormon, Wicked, and Spamalot.  He also regularly performs as a pianist with the St. Petersburg Opera and the V.O.I.C.Experience program, led by Sherrill Milnes.

During his 13 years as the choral director at Palm Harbor University High School, they gained recognition and honors both statewide and nationally.  Mr. Havard is particularly known for his work with Acapella Groups and Musical Theatre, and he has presented at both the Florida Music Educators’ Association Conference and the Florida State Thespian Conference.  He has worked as a music director for theatrical productions both equity and amateur, and his theatrical work at the high school level is well-known in the state.

Dr. Christopher E. Hendricks

Having previously worked museum settings such as Old Salem, Inc. and Historic Bethabara Park in North Carolina and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, three museums which specialize in interpreting the eighteenth century, Dr. Christopher E. Hendricks has delved deep into public history. While he mostly works with more hands-on aspects of public history, he has been involved in one extremely exciting digital history project, the Virtual Historic Savannah Project as a social history content supervisor. The site “documents the evolution of urban form by combining architectural and social history research with 3D computer and database technology.” (http://vsav.scad.edu) Begun in 1997 and funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Georgia Humanities Council, Virtual Historic Savannah allows researchers to travel virtually through Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District at any year since its founding in 1733, seeing 3D models of extant structures, lists of building owners and occupants, and contemporary and historic photos of 2,200 buildings. It serves as just one example of the type of database that can be developed to address social history questions involving issues such as race, gender, the environment, and trade.

Carlton Moe

Carlton Moe, tenor, debuted at Carnegie Hall with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as the Brother in Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins and has performed as soloist in major works such as Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem, and Handel’s The Messiah with such orchestras as the Oregon Symphony, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Walla Walla Symphony, and the Charlottesville Symphony Society.

Heralded by the New York Times as an “ardent tenor” his previous opera credits include Lakmé (Gerald), I Capuletti e I Montecchi (Tebaldo), The Mother of Us All (John Adams), Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth (Malcolm), with Manhattan School of Music Opera Studio, Roméo et Juliette (Tybalt) with Aspen Music Festival, Albert Herring (Albert) with Napa Music Festival, and The Elixir of Love (Nemorino) with the Student Opera Association of PSU. For his portrayal of Chevalier de la Force in Portland State University Opera’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites, Mr. Moe “made a lasting impression that drew an additional helping of bravos at the end of the performance” (oregonmusicnews.com). Carlton also sang the role of Sparky in the premiere recording of Kenneth Froelich’s opera Valentine with Heretic Opera.

Read More
He completed his B.M. in voice at Portland State University and his M.M. in classical voice at The Manhattan School of Music.

Chad Sonka

Chad Sonka is quickly becoming a sought after American baritone. His most recent accomplishment is his First-Place win during the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In the Summer of 2016, he joined Central City Opera as an Apprentice Artist, covering Scarpia in Tosca. Previous performing credits: Gianni Schicchi (Marco) with Savannah Music Festival; Man of La Mancha (Don Quixote) and Carmen (Dancïro) with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre; The Mother of Us All (Virgil T.), The Rape of Lucretia (Junius), Faust (Wagner), Elijah (Elijah) with Manhattan School of Music, and Amahl and the Night Visitors (King Melchior) with Nevada Opera. Mr. Sonka has been a chosen participant of Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, as well as Sherrill Milnes’ VOICE Programs for six years. He was also a featured bass soloist with the Cedar Rapids Concert Chorale and Oneota Valley Community Orchestra. Chad is also an active voice teacher and currently serves on faculty at Iowa State University.