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October 4, 2013
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

Pittsburgh Opera selects SRU vocalists

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Four Slippery Rock University vocalists have sung their way to the professional stage and will perform as part of the Pittsburgh Opera - and with Pittsburgh Steelers' legend Franco Harris.

Three current SRU voice students and one SRU voice alumnus will join the chorus for the opera company's upcoming presentations of Verdi's "Aida," Oct. 12, 15, 18 and 20 at Pittsburgh's Benedum Center.

Selected to perform are Kevin Adamik and Eric Garber, music performance/voice majors from Tarentum and elle Vernon, J. Patrick McGill, a music education major from Washington, Pa., and Zachary Wood, a 2010 music performance/voice graduate from Pittsburgh.

Harris, the retired running back, is special guest Oct 18. He will play the ceremonial role of "Champion of Champions" in the Triumphal Scene.

"This is my foot in the door," Garber said. "I never thought I'd be performing on the Benedum stage, one of the largest in the country."

Garber and Wood are bass-baritones; Adamik a tenor and McGill sings bass.

The four-act opera, by Giuseppe Verdi, is set in Egypt during the age of the pharaohs. The Ethiopian princess Aida is torn between love for her country and love for the Egyptian general Radames. Against the backdrop of warring nations, the lovers try to defy the odds.

The production will include 160 people. Antony Walker is conductor, Crystal Manich is stage director.

Colleen Gray, SRU associate professor of music, teaches the students and was the one who suggested they participate in the company's open audition last May. They were called back for individual auditions with Mark Trawka, Pittsburgh Opera chorus master.

Gray said Trawka sent her an email praising the students' talent.

"I am very proud of them," Gray said. "Their voices are really high-caliber instruments. They will gain the experience of singing with bigger, more mature voices."

Garber said he is brushing up on his Italian and studying notes and rhythms of high difficulty as he rehearses at least twice a week for "Aida." The opera is sung in Italian with English translations above the stage.

Garber credited Gray, Stephen Barr and Christopher Scott, SRU assistant professors of music, with helping him develop his skills to break into the professional ranks.

"My study with Dr. Gray has successfully prepared me for this career," Garber said. "Hours of practice and learning from her, transferred the skills she knows to my technique in singing."

Garber said his "voice has developed a great deal" since he enrolled at SRU in 2010.

He said his career plans are to continue performing with the Pittsburgh Opera and hopefully moving on for graduate studies in vocal performance.

Adamik said making it to the professional level means a lot.

"It is something I want to do with my life, performing," he said. "This is a great start by singing in the chorus. You learn so much from the others around you, the ones leading rehearsals, and the leads of the show."

Adamik said he has been rehearsing three or four times a week.

"Dr. Gray and SRU have prepared me for so much in my upcoming life and career," Adamik said. "I have learned so much to help me further my career in performing. Dr. Gray helped me in my lessons and in opera scenes to teach me the factors of singing and helping me become a better performer. I have gained self-confidence in my time at SRU and that helped me have a successful audition and to get me on the stage of the Benedum with the Pittsburgh Opera."

After graduating in December, Adamik said he plans to attend graduate school to obtain a master's degree in vocal performance.

"Aida" tickets range from $12.75 to $179. Call 412.456.6666 for more information.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.