Published on January 14, 2020 by Ashley Smith  

Samford students won the Musical Theatre Division at the National Opera Association Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, last week. The university was one of only 11 schools in the country invited to compete in the 65th annual conference "Opera Rocks!" Collegiate Scene Competition.

Samford students have been invited to compete in the national competition for the past six years. This year, a team of five singers entered in the Musical Theatre Division. The trip was made possible for the students by the generous support of donors to the music program.

“We competed with a scene from Into the Woods with these students: Lydia Yates (Musical Theatre major), Grayson Johns (Musical Theatre major), Blake Mitchell (Vocal Performance), Madison Hablas (Music Education), and Savannah Bracewell (Graduate Vocal Performance),” Director of Samford Opera Kristin Kenning said. “Our students knocked it out of the park.  I am so proud of them.” She along with pianist Nicholas Robertson accompanied the group. 

Into the Woods will be performed this April at Samford as a joint production between opera and musical theatre students.

Additionally, The Ghosts of Gatsby, a new American opera commissioned and premiered by Samford Opera, was recognized and performed at the conference. The opera won the Dominic Argento Chamber Opera Competition last year, and as a result, Baldwin Wallace presented the opera at the national convention in Cleveland.

“This is a huge win for opera composer and librettist Evan Mack and Josh McGuire. It's pretty awesome that the opera itself headlined the conference,” Kenning said. “Samford has changed the conversation with a new American opera about our Alabama native!” 

Overall, Samford’s excellence was well-represented at this national forum. 

“The entire School of the Arts is exceedingly proud of our students and this achievement,” Joe Hopkins, dean of the School of the Arts, said. “We are glad that the National Opera Association has once again recognized the talents of our students and the high standards of our program.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.