2019 Guest Faculty


A well-respected artistic administrator, collaborative pianist and vocal coach, Michael Heaston has established himself as one of opera’s leading mentors and teachers of young singers and pianists. Artists he has developed currently enjoy major careers on the world’s most important stages. He became the Executive Director of the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera in August 2016 and subsequently assumed the additional role of Acting Artistic Director.  For three years he was the Director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative and served as Advisor to the Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


Prior to his position at The Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Heaston assumed numerous roles of increasing responsibility at The Glimmerglass Festival over 11 seasons, completing his tenure in the position of Associate Artistic Director, in which he was integrally involved with all matters of season planning and casting. He also oversaw the direction of the Young Artists Program and all matters of musical administration.  He spent six seasons at The Dallas Opera, where he was Head of Music Staff and Assistant Conductor for more than 25 productions. He also served as Score Consultant for The Metropolitan Opera’s Emmy and Peabody award-winning “Live in HD” movie theater transmission series for seven seasons


Mr. Heaston earned Bachelor of Music degrees in piano pedagogy and arts administration from Drake University in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, where he won the Outstanding Senior Award in the Department of Music. He received a Master of Music degree in accompanying and coaching in 2004 from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. His principal teachers have included Margo Garrett, Brian Zeger, Timothy Lovelace and Chiu-Ling Lin. He was named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year for 2015, and he won the Young Alumni Achievement Award from Drake in April 2017.


On the concert stage, Mr. Heaston is in high demand as a collaborator and has partnered with many of today’s most important artists, including Christine Goerke, Dolora Zajick and Eric Owens.  He has also collaborated with Ailyn Pérez, Stephen Costello, Noah Stewart, Rod Gilfry and Laura Claycomb. He was a founding member of The Prairie Song Project along with mezzo soprano Katharine Goeldner and flutist Amy Morris. The trio performed to great acclaim in Scotland, England, Austria and the United States.


A sought-after adjudicator, he has been a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and also served on the juries of the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, Jensen Vocal Competition, Young Patronesses of the Opera Competition, Giargiari Bel Canto Competition at the Academy of Vocal Arts, NATSAA Competition Finals, McCammon Vocal Competition, DC Vocal Arts Art Song Competition and many others. Mr. Heaston is also in demand as a clinician, having served as an artist-in-residence and/or presented master classes at The Juilliard School, University of Michigan, Florida Grand Opera, Southern Methodist University, University of North Texas, Drake University, Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, Miami Summer Music Festival, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Abilene Christian University and Boston Conservatory at Berklee, to name a few. An active member of OPERA America, he serves on the steering committee of the Singer Training Forum and is a regular participant in the New Works Forum. He is also a member of the Artistic Advisory Board of The Glimmerglass Festival.


In addition to his full-time role at Rice, Mr. Heaston is the Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.



Martin Katz was called “the gold standard of accompanists” by the New York Times.  His fifty year career has taken him to five continents, collaborating with the world's most celebrated singers in recital and recording. He has regularly shared the concert stage with Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Karita Mattila, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Lawrence Brownlee, David Daniels, and Piotr Beczala to name but a few.


Mr. Katz is also active as a conductor and editor. He has led opera productions for San Francisco's Merola program, the BBC, as well as innumerable performances at his school. His editions of baroque and bel canto operas have been performed in Houston, Ottawa, and at the Metropolitan Opera.


At the University of Michigan for more than three decades now, he has chaired the program in collaborative piano and coached vocal repertoire for singers and pianists alike.  His students are working in their chosen field all over the world.

U-M recently awarded him a Distinguished University Professorship.


Now an author too, Mr. Katz's first opus, "The Complete Collaborator," has been published by Oxford Univ. Press, and is considered the seminal work on the subject.


For over 25 years Beth Roberts has been a dedicated and accomplished voice teacher and music educator.  She has been on the faculty of Mannes College The New School for Music since 1996 and has served as Coordinator of the Vocal Department since 2001.  Her voice studio at Mannes has produced principal artists in many national and international professional venues, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Zurich Opera, Seattle Opera, Saint Louis Opera, Covent Garden and La Scala.  Students of Ms. Roberts have been finalists and winners of such major vocal competitions as the Metropolitan Opera National Finals, the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, the Giuseppe di Stefano Competition, the Jenny Lind Competition, the Gerda Lissner Competition, the Giulio Gari Competition and the Joy of Singing Competition.  Others have entered young artist programs at Merola, Wolf Trap, Glimmerglass, Santa Fe, Tanglewood and Chautauqua.


Through her affiliation with the Metropolitan Opera Guild Education Department, Ms. Roberts co- created a vocal pedagogy course and Professional Development Outreach for Mannes students in New York City public schools.  The success of this venture has been most evident over the past 10 years in the graduates now employed by the Metropolitan Opera Education Department, as teaching artists for the New York City Opera, and as music teachers at the United Nations International School and other New York City schools.  Ms. Roberts’ relationship with the Metropolitan Opera Education Department began in 1988, when she was a teaching artist and led master classes on vocal pedagogy for music educators.  She has recently been appointed to serve on the Education Committee of the Board of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.


Ms. Roberts has been a vocal instructor for the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, the Opera Theatre and Music Festival of Lucca (with the University of Cincinnati), a guest lecturer at the Classical Singer Convention, and an adjunct faculty member at the Westminster Choir College.  She has served as an adjudicator for numerous competitions, including the Fulbright Scholarship and the Finals of the Concours de Musique du Canada.  She is currently a faculty member of the International Vocal Arts Institute, and she gives frequent master classes at Yale University.


A lyric soprano, Ms. Roberts has sung with many opera companies throughout the United States, including the Santa Fe Opera and the Washington Opera, and performed numerous concerts at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall.  She was a Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Winner and a Liederkranz Foundation Competition Winner.  She has also recorded for radio and television.


Ms. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music.  She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Screen Actors Guild.



Praised for the elegance and intensity of his interpretations, French conductor Pierre Vallet is a frequent guest with the world’s great opera companies.


The New York Times selected his conducting of Persée et Andromède by Ibert at the Manhattan School of Music as one of the ten best classical performances in New York in 2016.


He has conducted Madama Butterfly and Faust at the Metropolitan Opera; Tannhäuserat L’Opéra National de Paris; Samson et Dalila at The Dallas Opera; Orfeo and Euridice (Glück) at Opera Theater St. Louis; Don Carlo at the Lithuanian National Opera Theater, Vilnius; La Juive at the Göteborg Opera Sweden; Faust at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona.


Elsewhere he has conducted Eugene Onegin, Tannhäuser, and Otello at Tokyo Opera Nomori; L'Enfant et les Sortilèges at the Manhattan School of Music in New York; Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Hänsel and Gretel at the Saito Kinen Festival; Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle in Shanghai and Beijing; Madama Butterfly at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan; and Massenet’s Manon at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.


Upcoming engagements include Carmen at the Dallas Opera, Carmen and Tales of Hoffmann at the Bastille Opera, and symphony concerts in Romania.

Maestro Vallet's symphonic work includes regular appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London; the Camerata Royal in Bucharest; the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra; the Spoleto Festival USA; the St. Hughes Concert Series in Miami and the Greenwich Village Orchestra in New York.

Next season, with the Royal Philharmonic and Elizabeth Sombart, he will conduct the complete piano concertos by Beethoven and the last ten symphonies by Mozart, at Cadogan Hall in London.


He has recorded two CDs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Elizabeth Sombart: the Chopin piano concertos, and a collection of Favorite Adagios of piano concertos released in the spring of 2017. For Albany Records, he recorded the opera Cendrillon by Nicolò Isouard that he helped restore to its original 1810 version.


Vallet is a long-serving member of the Metropolitan Opera, first as a pianist and coach and later joining the roster of staff conductors.

He has enjoyed a long-term musical partnership with Seiji Ozawa, working closely together on some forty operatic productions and concerts throughout Japan, the US and Europe, encompassing a large and diverse repertoire.


As chorus master, he has prepared the New York Choral Artists in Joan at the Stake by Honegger for the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert. He prepared the SKF Matsumoto Choir and the Ritsuyukai Choir for Britten’s War Requiem (Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra at Carnegie Hall), the Tokyo Opera Singers for La Damnation de Faust, and Beethoven's 9th Symphony conducted by Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival. He has also appeared as conductor and lecturer at the choral festival Tokyo Cantat.


As a pianist, he has performed in duo recitals in both the US and Europe with some of the world’s most renowned singers, including Natalie Dessay, Maria Guleghina, Ying Huang, Denyce Graves (at the White House) and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. More recently he appeared at the Vienna State Opera with Roberto Alagna, and with Joyce di Donato in a live stream concert for the release of her new album Stella Di Napoli.


A committed educator, Pierre Vallet is a sought-after lecturer and guest teacher at the world’s premier training institutions. In addition to his work with the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera, he has been a regular visitor to the Steans Music Institute at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the Houston Grand Opera Studio and Opera Hong Kong.

Vallet studied conducting and the theory of phenomenology in music with Sergiù Celibidache, piano with Louis Hilbrand in Geneva and Peter Feuchtwanger in London. He is a graduate of L’Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.


2019 Resident Faculty

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.
Brent Funderburk
Elena Kholodova
Matthew Umphreys
Art Williford


The William E. Schmidt Foundation

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.  The William E. Schmidt Foundation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, disability, or sexual orientation in any of its activities or operations.

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Schmidt Vocal Institute

c/o Linda McAlister, Director

501 South Patterson Avenue

Oxford, OH 45056


Telephone (513) 529-3046


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