Ars Musica is proud support and train the next generation of choral artists with The Encore Young Artist Program, which provides opportunities to exceptional young musicians to gain important skills for a career in music. Meet this year’s class of Young Artists who will be featured on our May 30 performance of Mozart’s Splendid Finale.
Maxine Mencl, soprano, recently graduated cum laude from Kean University, with a B.A. in Music with a concentration in Vocal Performance. While there, she performed several of her favorite opera roles in the school’s Opera Workshop program, including Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème, Susannah in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, the Third Lady and Papagena in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and her personal favorite, Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. She was often a featured soloist with the Kean concert and chamber choirs, most notably singing Debussy at the Chappelle historique du bon-Pasteur in Montréal. Outside of Kean, Ms. Mencl has participated in the Manhattan Opera Repertory Ensemble (MORE) production of Puccini’s Tosca, and in the company’s opera master class, conducted by bass Richard Hobson. When she is not singing, Maxine enjoys theatrical makeup artistry, painting, and creative writing.
Mariana Santiago, mezzo-soprano, is a recent graduate of Kean University, with a B.A. in Music. She performed various roles with the university’s Opera Workshop program, including La Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Augusta Tabor in Moore’s Ballad of Baby Doe, Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and the title role in Bizet’s Carmen. She was also a featured soloist for Kean University’s Concert Choir and Chorale, which performed Mozart’s Requiem in 2010 and 2012. Ms. Santiago has studied abroad with the Italian Operatic Experience in Monticatini Terme, Italy, where she performed in Suor Angelica and Così, and sang Fidelma in Il matrimonio segreto by Cimarosa. She placed second in the competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing in 2008 and in 2013 was a quarter-finalist the National Classical Singers Competition. She is currently section leader in the Hispanic Choir of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.
Christopher Aleixo, tenor, is in his final semesters at Kean University, completing a B.M. in Vocal Performance with an emphasis in Pedagogy. He has participated in the production of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana with the Verismo Opera (NJAVO) in Englewood, NJ, and in Tosca with the Manhattan Opera Repertory Ensemble (MORE), where he was also a featured artist in the master class conducted by Richard Hobson. With the Kean University Opera Workshop Scenes program, he has sung Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and his favorite role, Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème. He was also selected to perform Marullo in the Kean University Concert Artists production of Verdi’s Rigoletto in concert. Christopher has been a featured soloist with the Kean University Concert Choir.
Michael Harris, baritone, is a senior at Kean University, completing a B.A. in Music with a concentration in Voice as a Bass-Baritone. Previously, he has performed in several productions with Verismo Opera (NJAVO) in Englewood, NJ; the Belleayre Festival Opera in Highmount, NY; the Manhattan Opera Repertory Ensemble (MORE), and community choirs across New Jersey. In Kean University’s Opera Workshop Scenes program, Michael has sung Don Giovanni in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Bartolo in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Mr. Kofner in Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul. He has been a featured soloist with Kean University’s Concert Choir, performing such selections as the “Qui sedes ad dexteram patris” aria of Vivaldi’s Gloria and the “Bestelle dein Haus” aria of Bach Cantata No. 106. Aside from singing classically, Michael is the baritone of the burgeoning barbershop quartet Garden State Sound.
Joshua Simka, conductor, joined The Encore Young Artists Program in November 2014. Last May, he graduated from The Juilliard School, where he studied voice with Marlena Malas. While at Juilliard, Mr. Simka sang the role of Antonio in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and in scenes presentations sang the roles of Tamino, Tonio, Nemorino, and Lurcanio. Mr. Simka also sang in opera choruses and gave shared and solo recitals. At Opera America, he sang the role of Rudi in a presentation of scenes from a new opera called Steal a Pencil for Me by Gerald Cohen. A writer as well, Mr. Simka is editorial assistant at The Juilliard Journal and has written a number of articles on opera and song. He has contributed to Musical America. For two years, Mr. Simka has sung tenor with the resident octet at the Church of Our Saviour on Park Avenue in New York City, where he is also the cantor.
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