Students of voice from across Kansas descended on Pittsburg during Spring Break to fill the Bicknell with music.
The PSU department of music hosted the Third Annual Barbara Rondelli Kansas Statewide Classical Voice Competition Saturday, March 9 in the Linda and Lee Scott Concert Hall at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. The competition was open to any undergraduate student enrolled in applied voice lessons at a four-year institution in Kansas, regardless of major or age. The competitors auditioned and performed in four categories, soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone/bass, based on their particular voice type and one winner from each of the categories was selected and received $1500 as a prize for winning, including PSU senior in music performance Nichole Kelly in the mezzo-soprano category.
“I don’t believe what just happened, but I’m also really happy and excited,” Kelly said. “I’m in shock.”
Kelly, in addition to performing in the Rondelli competition, also performed as a part of the PSU Opera Theatre’s production of “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss II.
“We had the opera which kind of threw a screw in things because I had a role in that,” she said. “… I had about three weeks to get this (repertoire) up to speed. It was all (repertoire) that I had solidly memorized and that I worked on for my (junior) recital. If I hadn’t, I had done it before… None of it was new (repertoire).”
Kelly and other winners gave a winner’s concert after the guest judges made their selection in which they and their collaborative pianists performed one song from their prepared repertoire one more time. Kelly also added that she required a “lot of focus” to perform in the competition.
“What happens for me is my heartbeat starts going crazy when I’m walking out there (the stage) …,” she said. “You center yourself and the piano starts playing and then, you’re like, ‘Oh crap. I (have to) sing…’ That’s when all your training goes into action. If you haven’t been practicing, then it’s all just going to fall apart.”
The Rondelli competition was open to the public and the department of music encouraged students to come support and listen to singers during the day. Kelly noted that the competition was a way to “showcase the talent that PSU has to offer.”
“I would say it’s important… because you get to see what’s happening in the undergrad world for classical music,” she said. “(You) get to experience exciting music without sitting through two hours of opera if you don’t like that particular opera. There’s something for everyone.”
Kelly is currently a student of Stella Hastings, professor of voice and one of the organizers of the Rondelli Competition.
“It makes me very proud,” Hastings said. “Some of the singers are coming from KU, Fort Hays, Wichita State and there are very good teachers statewide and the level of singing is high… To have our students be on par with what’s going on with some of the Division-I schools and also the beautiful liberal arts colleges that are smaller and more conservatory-like… It’s a good reminder to our students where they’re fitting in the scope of undergraduate preparation.”
Barbara Rondelli-Perry and her husband Richard Perry endowed the Rondelli Competition after a similar competition they endowed at the University of Toledo. Rondelli-Perry is an alumna of Pittsburg State and the Royal Academy of Music in London and had a career as a lyric soprano before accepting a teaching position at the University of Toledo.
“It’s a study of history and culture,” she said. “In our programs, we’re very careful to outline who the composer is and what the time periods are… Who wouldn’t want to spend a day listening to beautiful classical music.”