Voice competition serves as a pursuit of perfection

Offstage, Julia Lamon is a teacher of voice lessons, an assistant show choir director and a gregarious new mom.

Onstage, she might be anyone.

Lamon, of Bemidji, Minn., was one of 10 entrants in early rounds of the 11th Czech and Slovak International Voice Competition of Montréal, held Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 21-22 at UW-Green Bay. And like her fellow competitors, Lamon transformed the moment she took to the stage.

Performing, especially arias, lets Lamon take on a completely different character, she said. That, plus plenty of preparation, eases rattled nerves when the time comes to sing.

“Nervousness goes away with practice,” Lamon said Tuesday, fresh off her three-song performance at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. “… You can’t disappoint yourself by not doing your best.”

That pursuit of perfection is what it’s all about for entrants in the prestigious international competition, which is held every two years and for which UW-Green Bay was the first and remains the only U.S. site for preliminary and semifinal rounds. Qualifying vocalists advance to the Czech and Slovak voice competition finals, held in Montréal, Canada Nov. 25-26.

UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Sarah Meredith Livingston and community patron Sharon Resch (presented with flowers and posing with finalists in the photo gallery) helped bring the competition to campus in 2003, pairing with Alain Nonat, general and artistic director of Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20 in Montréal. The competition was created in 1991 to commemorate the 150th celebration of renowned composer Antonin Dvorak’s birth. Today, the event continues to promote the Czech and Slovak vocal repertoire for young singers, while fostering exchanges of young musicians and specialists between North America and the Czech Republic, as well as Slovakia.

“The Czech and Slovak competition has a rich history of hosting incredible singers from all over the world,” said Meredith Livingston, one of six adjudicators from across the globe who judged the competition. “We are pleased and honored to be a part of this amazing tradition, and we thank all of our community sponsors for their enduring and steadfast support.”

Campus and community members alike gathered to watch performances Monday and Tuesday afternoon in the Jean Weidner Theatre of the Weidner Center. Accompanied by accomplished pianist and vocal coach Tim Cheek, entrants performed works by Dvorak, Georges Bizet and other renowned composers. Without the benefit of common language, the singers conveyed emotions from sorrow to joy and passion through their vocals, facial expressions and style of performance.

It was the second Czech and Slovak competition for Lamon, who also took part in 2007, at the suggestion of Meredith Livingston and fellow adjudicator Gildo Dinunzio. After her performance Wednesday, Lamon said she’s so glad she did.

“It’s really helped me to explore Czech music,” she said. “… It’s all beautiful.”

Three singers were chosen as winners of the UW-Green Bay semifinal round and will advance to the finals in Montréal. They are Kristen Bigham of Chicago, Ill.; Kristin Goodkin of New York, New York; and Kylie Toomer of Madison, Wis.

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Photos by Lindsey Przybelski, student intern, Marketing and University Communication