2017 Guest Faculty

Soprano Lisa Saffer has graced opera and concert stages worldwide with her versatility, intelligence, and musicality in a range of repertoire. Ms. Saffer is recognized for her skill as an interpreter of contemporary scores and of the music of Handel. She has been particularly associated with the music of Oliver Knussen and was a participant in a landmark series of Handel recordings and performances with conductor Nicholas McGegan. She has worked with opera companies all over the world including the Metropolitan Opera, the Liceu in Barcelona, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera National de Paris, English National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, the Netherlands Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera, and has had particularly close relationships with New York City Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. Ms. Saffer has appeared with major symphony orchestras including those of New York, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, and Philadelphia. She has also sung with the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta , the Orchestra of St Luke’s and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. She loves chamber music and has worked with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Schoenberg Ensemble and the New York Festival of Song among others. She has recordings on DGG, Harmonia Mundi, New World, Telarc and Virgin Classics. For her portrayal of Berg’s Lulu at the English National Opera, she was honored to receive the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for best vocal performance and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. A native of Ann Arbor, she now makes her home in Maine, where she has built a house in Brownfield with her husband, Andy Buck, a timber framer. She teaches voice and coaches at her alma mater, the New England Conservatory. She is a voracious reader, loves to cook and is very happy to be gardening at last.


Composer Ricky Ian Gordon's songs have been performed and/or recorded by such renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Frederica Von Stade. His opera The Grapes Of Wrath debuted at Minnesota Opera and was seen in New York at Carnegie Hall. A revised version will be presented this season at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Other works include Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera; 27 at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; A Coffin in Egypt with Frederica Von Stade was seen at Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Chicago Opera Theatre and LA Opera. Orpheus and Euridice at Lincoln Center (OBIE Award); Sycamore Trees at The Signature Theatre; Green Sneakers at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival; My Life with Albertine at Playwrights Horizons and Dream True at The Vineyard. He was a recipient of a Lincoln Center/ American Songbook Series concert devoted to his music entitled “Bright Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon,” It was written in the New York Times, “If the music of Ricky Ian Gordon had to be defined by a single quality, it would be the bursting effervescence infusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim…It’s caviar for a world gorging on pizza.” He has been the guest of many festivals, universities and conferences and received numerous honors including The Stephen Sondheim Award, The Helen Hayes Award, An Alumni Merit Award from Carnegie-Mellon University and The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award.  He studied composition at Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently writing operas for The Met, Houston Grand Opera and Goodman Theater. www.rickyiangordon.com


Lauded for his “sensitive and stylish” (The New York Times) and “superb” (Opera News) playing, pianist Craig Terry has launched an international career regularly performing with some of the world’s leading singers and instrumentalists. Currently Mr. Terry serves as Music Director of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago after having spent eleven seasons at Lyric as Assistant Conductor. Previously, he served as Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera after joining its Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Mr. Terry has performed with such esteemed vocalists as Jamie Barton, Stephanie Blythe, Christine Brewer, Nicole Cabell, Sasha Cooke, Eric Cutler, Danielle de Niese, Joyce DiDonato, Giuseppe Filianoti, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves, Bryan Hymel, Brian Jagde, Joseph Kaiser, Quinn Kelsey, Kate Lindsey, Ana María Martínez, Susanna Phillips, Luca Pisaroni, Patricia Racette, Hugh Russell, Bo Skovhus, Garrett Sorenson, Heidi Stober, Amber Wagner, and Catherine Wyn-Rogers. He has collaborated as a chamber musician with members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchester, and the Pro Arte String Quartet.


Mr. Terry made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2000 and has also performed at Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This past spring he performed with Joyce DiDonato on a recital tour of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, and Portugal. Recent performances include recitals with Heidi Stober at Carnegie (Weill) Hall, Brian Jagde at the Mondavi Center, Stephanie Blythe at both the American Songbook series at “Jazz at Lincoln Center” and the Ravinia Festival, Ana María Martínez at The Kennedy Center, Joyce DiDonato in Princeton and Santa Fe, Patricia Racette at the Ravinia Festival, 54Below in New York, and the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, Christine Brewer for the Celebrity Series of Boston and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, Giuseppe Filianoti in his American Recital Debut on the Harriman-Jewell Series in Kansas City, Susanna Phillips and Dimitri Pittas at the Tokyo City Opera House under the auspices of the Metropolitan Opera, Nicole Cabell in St. Petersburg, Russia, Kate Lindsey at both Rockefeller University and Smith College, and Ms. Phillips at Alice Tully Hall. In 2008, he was twice featured as soloist with the Chicago Philharmonic, performing piano concertos of Chopin and Mendelssohn. In March 2010, he made his conducting debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago, leading student matinee performances of L’elisir d’amore, and in 2012 made his LOC stage debut as “Jake” in Show Boat. Mr. Terry was also featured in a “Live from Lincoln Center” national broadcast on PBS with Stephanie Blythe in April 2013. Mr. Terry’s 2016-17 performance schedule includes concerts with Stephanie Blythe, Christine Brewer, Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Perez, Patricia Racette, Hugh Russell, Christian Van Horn, and Laura Wilde. He is Artistic Director of “Beyond the Aria,” a concert series presented by the Harris Theater in collaboration with the Ryan Opera Center and Lyric Unlimited. The third 2016-17 season of five concerts includes performances with Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Eric Owens, Piotr Beczala, Christiane Karg, Adam Plachetka, Russell Thomas, Elizabeth DeShong, and members of the Ryan Opera Center. His discography includes three recently released recordings: “Diva on Detour” with Patricia Racette, “As Long As There Are Songs” with Stephanie Blythe, and “Chanson d’Avril” with Nicole Cabell.  Mr. Terry hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee, received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Tennessee Technological University, continued his studies at Florida State University and received a Masters of Music in Piano Performance/Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of pianist Warren Jones.


Guest Artists from Cincinnati Opera

Nicole Cabell, the 2005 Winner of the BBC Singer of the World Competion in Cardiff and Decca recording artist, is one of the most sought-after lyric sopranos of today. Her solo debut album, “Soprano”, was named “Editor’s Choice” by Gramophone and has received an incredible amount of critical acclaim and several prestigious awards: the 2007 Georg Solti Orphée d’Or from the French Académie du Disque Lyrique and an Echo Klassik Award in Germany.


Nicole Cabell’s current season includes some exciting role debuts: first as Violetta in La Traviata with Michigan Opera Theatre, then as Medora in Il Corsaro with Washington Concert Opera. She will reprise the role of her triumphant San Francisco Opera debut: Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. In concert, Ms. Cabell will make her Paris debut in Poulenc’s Stabat Mater, will appear several times in Spain, first with the Orquesta de Galicia in a Barber/Mahler program, then on tour with the RPO and Charles Dutoit in Poulenc’s Gloria. In London, she will be heard with the RPO in the same Poulenc piece as well as with the BBC Orchestra in Elgar’s The Apostles with Sir Andrew Davis. Further concert appearances include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Boston Symphony and Bernard Haitink at Tanglewood, the Dallas Symphony and Jaap van Zweeden in Vail, CO and the Baltimore Symphony and Marin Alsop, a Barber/Brahms program in Nashville with GianCarlo Guerrero and an evening of French Opera Arias and Duets with Stephen Costello and the Lyric Opera of Baltimore. Nicole Cabell will appear in recital in Chicago. Future projects include a debut with the Paris Opera and returns to the Cincinnati Opera and Michigan Opera Theatre.


Awards include first place in both the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition and the Women's Board of Chicago Vocal Competition. Nicole Cabell was a semi-finalist in the 2005 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and earned first place in the American Opera Society competition in Chicago. She is the 2002 winner of the Union League's Rose M. Grundman Scholarship, and the 2002 Farwell Award with the Woman's Board of Chicago. Nicole Cabell holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the Eastman School of Music.

Lyric mezzo soprano, Emma Sorenson, currently splits her time between Chicago and Boston. She made her Chicago debut this fall as Isabelle Eberhardt in Chicago Fringe Opera's  production of Missy Mazzoli's acclaimed new opera Song from the Uproar: the Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt. Critics praised Emma as a "striking and graceful presence, [she] sang with an attractive, flexible voice and brought strong dramatic engagement throughout, from Isabelle’s joy at discovering Islam, to her pain and anger at a lover’s betrayal, and solace and resignation at her death." Emma is excited to tackle her next project, singing the role of Starla in Philip Thompson's The Final Battle for Love with Thompson Street Opera this Winter.


Ms. Sorenson is returning to the East Coast in the Spring for her second year as an Emerging Artist with the Boston Lyric Opera. She debuted with the company as a featured artist in their Art in Bloom series at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and has since appeared in their production of La Boheme, and as Frou Frou in their production of The Merry Widow. She will be returning to Boston this Spring for their productions of The Rake's Progress and Le Nozze di Figaro. This past summer, Ms. Sorenson was engaged as a returning Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera where she sang the role of Javotte in Massenet's Manon. Last season she was featured in the part of a Flower in La Hija de Rappaccini by Catan. While in Boston, she has also performed several mainstage roles with The Boston Conservatory including the role of Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten, Dritte Dame in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Zulma (and Isabella cover) in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri, and most recently Baba the Turk in The Rake's Progress by Igor Stravinsky.


Ms. Sorenson is the recipient of the 2016 Encouragement Award winner at the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in the St Louis district, and previously won the Ileana Ingraham Encouragement Award at the  auditions in the Kansas City district. Previously, Ms. Sorenson also won first place for the second consecutive year in her age group in the tri-state midwest National Association of Teachers of Singing competition, and is the two-time recipient of the James Moroney Nigh Opera Scholarship. Emma graduated with a Master of Music performance degree from The Boston Conservatory under the tutelage of Dr. Rebecca Folsom.


2017 Resident Faculty

Benjamin Lee, described as a "tenore di grazia with effortless high notes and flawless fioriture," (http://seenandheard-international.com) is a first year Artist Diploma student at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music under the instruction of Tom Baresel. In 2015, he received the John Alexander Award at the Conservatory's annual Corbett Opera Competition. He recently made his debut as a Gaddes Festival Artist in Opera Theatre of St. Louis's production of Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos as Brighella under the baton of maestro Rory Macdonald and director Sean Curran. Benjamin is looking forward to the 2017 summer season with Cincinnati Opera in their production of Frida, and with CCM Opera as #5 in Transformations and Arbace in Idomeneo.


​Past engagements affiliated with the Conservatory include Florville in Rossini's Il signor Bruschino, Lucano in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, and Gopinath in the CCM Opera Fusion workshop of Jack Perla's Shalimar the Clown. Additionally, Benjamin sang the role in the workshop of Albert in Laura Kaminsky's Some Light Emerges, which he went on to revisit at Houston Grand Opera's HGOco. Benjamin has also sung in the New Orleans' premiere of Jukebox Castle's production of Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins as the role of Father.


A Los Angeles native, Benjamin received his Bachelor's degree in Vocal Arts at the University of Southern California, studying under Gary Glaze. His engagements at the university included Lucano in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, First Commissioner in Poulenc's Dialogue of the Carmelites, and Il conte Libenskof in Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims. In 2013 he also performed the role of Ferrando in Mozart's Così fan tutte at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.


Soprano Alison Acord has performed more than 40 operatic roles in the United States and abroad. She has received critical acclaim as the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos. Her operatic repertoire encompasses other roles such as Lady Billows in Albert Herring, the Mother in Hänsel und Gretel, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Mimì in La Bohème, Micaëla in Carmen, La Contessa di Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow, and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte. Miss Acord has been heard as soloist in orchestra concerts both in the United States and Europe in Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Ravel’s Shehèrazade and in Fikret Amirov's A Thousand and One Nights. Alison has received prestigious grant awards in the United States and Europe for championing the work of living composers. The International School of Performing Arts, The Recording Industries' Music Performance Trust Fund, Grismer Fine Arts Fund, Havighurst Center for Russian and Post Studies and Doblinger Publishers Wien have all afforded her opportunities to perform and lecture on composers living and writing art song in America, Moldova, Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Russia, Great Britain, and Austria.

Christina Haan has coached opera productions for some 35 years, working in Europe and America for organizations such as Kentucky Opera, Dayton Opera, Whitewater-Sorg Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Theatre of Lucca, Italy, Bel Canto Northwest in Portland, Oregon, and Rising Star Singers Audition Network in Indiana. Dr. Haan has also coached opera productions at numerous universities, including Portland State University, University of Kentucky, Xavier University, Miami University, University of Cincinnati, and The Ohio State University. She has played both collaborative and solo concerts in England, France, Italy, Austria, and all over the United States. Dr. Haan is currently employed at Miami University of Ohio and The Ohio State University, where she has also taught Diction, Oratorio Literature, Vocal Chamber Music, and Collaborative Piano. She has worked for AIMS in Graz since 2009.  Dr. Haan is a member of the faculty at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Liza Kelly, mezzo soprano, is Assistant Professor of Music at Western Kentucky University where she teaches voice and language diction. Dr. Kelly actively performs opera, musical theater, oratorio, concert works and recitals. She has been a featured performer with Cincinnati Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Theater and Festival of Lucca, Teatro Nacional Sucre, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Dayton Philharmonic, Bowling Green Western Symphony Orchestra, and Dayton Bach Society. As an avid recitalist of art song and chamber works, Dr. Kelly has collaborated in recitals with the prestigious New York Festival of Song, Caramoor Festival, New York University, Mercer University, Peru State University, Murray State University and Western Kentucky University. She has taught classical voice and musical theater technique at both high school and university levels at Loveland Music Academy and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Dr. Kelly can also be heard on Telarc's world premiere recording of Liszt's St. Stanislaus and Hal Leonard Publication's Opera Anthology of Gian Carlo Menotti. She holds a D.M.A and M.M. in Voice Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she studied with Mr. William McGraw. Her undergraduate degree was attained from Georgia State University where she studied with Mrs. Betty T. Boone.

The career of soprano Audrey Luna in opera, oratorio, recital and chamber music has taken her to many of the most prestigious international festivals and concert halls: included are the Salzburger Festspiel, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the Ludwigsburg Schlossfestspiel, Mettlach Chamber Music Festival, Jerusalem Festival, Lexington Bach Festival, Konzerthaus Wien, Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Queens Hall, the Louvre, St. John the Divine and the Kennedy Center to name a few. She has been heard on radio on 5 continents and been seen nation wide on PBS as one of the soloists for Ms. Luna’s love of chamber music has led to collaborations with not only the Hagen Quartet, but also the Artis Quartet, Baseler Quartet, Ciompi Quartet, Amernet Quartet and the Bennewitz Quartet. She works regularly with renowned percussionist Allen Otte in recital and experimental theater and recently performed at the Lucerne Festival with Walter Levin (of the legendary LaSalle Quartet) in his lecture recitals. Ms. Luna has sung dozens of operatic roles in Europe and the U.S. including Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Rosina (Il Barbiere di Seviglia) Gilda (Rigoletto), Adina (L’Elisir D’Amore), Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Zdenka (Arabella), Norina (Don Pasquale), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Despina (Cosi fan Tutte), among others. Ms. Luna has sung for some of the worlds most renowned conductors including Niklaus Harnoncourt, Marcello Viotti, Anthony Pappano, Jesús López-Cobos, Helmut Rilling, José-Luis Novo, Stephen Cleobury and Stephanie Gonley. She has performed with the English Chamber Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, Orquestra Sinfonica de Sevilla, Bremer Philharmonie. Recent performances include the Annapolis Philharmonic, Binghamton Philharmonic, Ridgefield Symphony, and Opera Theater Pittsburgh. Ms. Luna maintains an active recital schedule performing throughout the US with pianist Brad Caldwell.
Recent national finalist in the National Association for Teachers of Singing Artist Awards (NATSAA), soprano Linda McAlister is equally at home singing opera, oratorio, and art song. Lauded for her stage presence and ability to connect with her audiences, she has impressed German audiences and critics in roles such as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus (Strauss), Venus in Dardanus (Rameau), and Belinda in Dido and Aeneas (Purcell) as well as in concert engagements of works by Mendelssohn, Haydn, Fauré, and Mozart, among others. A native of Minnesota, Ms. McAlister studied International Business and Vocal Performance at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and continued her education at Miami University (Master of Music) and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music (doctoral studies). After singing at the Steans Music Institute at the Ravinia Festival, Ms. McAlister furthered her study of German Lieder at the Hochschule für Musik, Nürnberg-Augsburg (Meisterklasse). After transitioning into arts administration and education, Ms. McAlister acted as the first-ever Executive Director of SongFest at Colburn (Los Angeles) and the Artistic Coordinator for the Steans Music Institute Vocal Program at the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ms. McAlister is currently faculty at Miami University of Ohio, where she is the Director of the Schmidt Summer Vocal Institute, Coordinator of the William E. Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition, and Instructor of Voice. In the summer, she travels to Germany as is the Artistic Coordinator of the Internationale Meistersinger Akademie in Neumarkt.

Mari Opatz-Muni, mezzo-soprano, has appeared with numerous opera companies in the United States and Europe including Houston Opera, where she was in the original cast of the world premiere of Nixon in China by John Adams. The audio recording won a Grammy Award and the opera's national PBS television broadcast was honored with an Emmy. Ms. Opatz-Muni reprised the role of Nancy T'ang in performances at Washington's Kennedy Center, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Netherlands Opera and at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. In addition, Ms. Opatz-Muni has appeared with New York City Opera, Atlanta Opera, Tulsa Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Portland Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Toledo Opera, Des Moines Opera and Mobile Opera. Along with the Emmy and Grammy, Ms. Opatz-Muni is the recipient of other prestigious awards including grants from the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation, the National Institute for Music Theatre, the National Federation of Music Clubs and the Beethoven Club. She was a semifinalist in the Metropolitan Opera auditions in both New York City and in her home state of Iowa. Ms. Opatz-Muni currently serves on the faculty of Miami University (Ohio) as Associate Professor in Music and former Director of the Opera Program.

Benjamin Smolder, bass-baritone, is Associate Professor of Voice, Director of Miami University Opera and the National Director for the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition.  He has enjoyed a varied career as a singer, conductor and producer of opera, musical theater and cabaret programs of the Great American Songbook.   As a soloist he has performed with such notable organizations as the Spoleto Festival, Festival Internacional de Música Pau Casals, Festival de Mao, Teatro Municipal of San Feliú de Guixols Festival, Almudena Cathedral, Teatre Principal de Mao, Festival de Moiá de Valles, Voces Para la Liturgia, Castell de Belver, and at El Escorial.  Smolder has sung principal operatic roles internationally with opera companies in Prague, Vienna, Cairo and Rome. In this country he has performed in concert with the Detroit Symphony, The National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Cincinnati Symphony, Cincinnati Opera, Nevada Opera, Des Moines Opera, Central City, Columbus Opera and Dayton Opera.  He has also performed as soloist at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, in the Detroit Institute of Art Artist Series, with the Cincinnati May Festival and for the National Association of Choral Directors Conference.  Smolder can be heard on a number of recordings including The Tenderland released by Albany Records, American Tapestry with the Vocal Arts Ensemble and in two albums with The American Spiritual Ensemble.  As conductor and producer of Miami Opera, Smolder has conducted operas that have received two awards from the National Opera Association for Best Collegiate Production.  During the summers, he serves as a conductor and faculty member for the Festival of International Opera of the Americas in San Paulo Brazil.  As an advocate for the Great American Songbook, Smolder has commissioned new arrangements and founded an ensemble and jazz orchestra that presents  concerts.  He is the co-founder of S&L Productions whose mission is to produce American-style variety shows to support non-profit arts organizations.  Smolder studied music performance with a cognate in opera directing at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (Doctoral Work), voice performance at the University of Kentucky (masters) and voice performance and music education at Alderson-Broaddus University.  His teachers were Barbara Honn, Steven King, Dale Moore, Ken Shaw and Lillian Long.   Many of his students have performed in young artist programs, such as the Music Academy of the West, Aspen Music Festival, Des Moines Opera, Seattle Opera, French Academy of Vocal Arts, Cincinnati Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Opera North, and others.  Many of his students are now performing with opera companies in the US, Europe and on Broadway.


As part of its mission the William E. Schmidt Foundation provides support and encouragement to youth in the arts.  Annually the Foundation provides scholarships and support to over one hundred and fifty students in the arts.



Schmidt Vocal Institute

c/o Linda McAlister, Director

501 South Patterson Avenue

Oxford, OH 45056


Telephone (513) 529-3046

Fax (513) 529-3027