Assistant Professor of Voice Steven Nanni

Foothills Opera Experience Returns to Hartwick College

July 2, 2018

The Foothills Opera Experience, an opera camp for graduate, undergraduate, and some gifted high school students going into opera performance, will return to Hartwick College for the second straight year. Taking place July 5 – 15 in Anderson Center for the Arts, 20 singers will go “from page to stage” via an intensive, personal curriculum that focuses on the creative process, diction, opera coaching, voice coaching, and movement/dance.

Like last summer, participants will train daily in various aspects of the craft, then have the opportunity to participate in evening master classes. The camp concludes with students performing in a fully staged opera scenes program, where students will have the opportunity to perform in an aria and/or art song recital.

The camp has grown in both attendance and curriculum this season. Along with doubled attendance – which allows the camp to present a wider variety of musical styles to teach – the master classes will be held nearly every night, each focusing on a specific topic, skill, or musical specialty.

Camp auditions were held in March and April in New York City, Binghamton, and Oneonta, though this year most students auditioned online. This summer, students are attending from all over the country, including three from California, and others from Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, D.C., as well as the northeast.

Foothills Opera Experience faculty include some of the top professionals and instructors in the field, including:

  • Conductor William Vendice – Vendice was head of music staff and chorus master at Los Angeles Opera from 1995-2007. He served as associate conductor of the Metropolitan Opera for eight years. Vendice was also music director of University of Southern California Opera from 1992-1995, and UCLA Opera from 1996-2004.
  • Creative Process Instructor and Stage Director Carol Castel – Castel is currently artistic director of the Delaware Valley Opera Company; on the faculty of Opera NUOVA in Edmonton, Alberta; and is founder of the New York Opera Studio in Manhattan.
  • Voice Coach Mary Burgess (Soprano) – Burgess is an associate professor of music at Binghamton University, and has appeared professionally with the New York City Opera and at Holland Festival. She has also performed as soprano soloist with more than two dozen U.S. orchestras including the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Cincinnati Symphony.
  • Voice Coach Steven Nanni (Tenor) – Nanni earned his bachelor of music degree at the Conservatorio di Milano, and has privately studied and performed with soprano Montserrat Caballe and under the baton of Placido Domingo. His professional appearances include the New York City Opera; Opera Company of Dublin, Ireland; Carnegie Hall; the La Lirica di Eneizia; and the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival of the United Kingdom. He is also an artist-in-residence and assistant professor of voice at Hartwick College.
  • Stage Director Wayne Line (Verdi Baritone) – Line is an international singer and director who has sung in China, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Canada, and the United States. A resident of Canada, he has sung with Burnaby (BC) Lyric Opera; Opera in the Ozarks (Ark.); the Natchez (Miss.) Festival of Music; the Summer Opera Lyric Theater in Toronto; the Societa dei concerti di Santa Margherita in Italy; the South Florida Opera; and Delaware Valley Opera in Philadelphia. He is currently stage directing at Delaware Valley Opera and Nickel City Opera in Buffalo.
  • Movement/Dance Instructor and Choreographer Stephanie A. Surowka-Sanders – Surowka-Sanders is an adjunct professor of dance in the theater department of Binghamton University, where she teaches technique of ballet, musical theater, and jazz. She has taught dance for more than 15 years, and is owner/director of the Conklin Dance Academy in Conklin, NY. She is a board member, a certified teacher, and member of Dance Masters of America.

Nanni is one of the program’s principal organizers.

“While an undergrad, I attended an opera program that changed and influenced my life so much that now I am committed to forming a program that will do the same for the next generation of students of opera,” Nanni said.

The master classes, which are also free and open to the public, will be held in Anderson Center for the Arts Theatre on the College campus, at 7:30 p.m. on the following evenings:

  • July 6 – Maestro Vendice presents “Italian Diction,” an exhibition and study of all-Italian works
  • July 7 – Maestro Vendice presents “French Diction,” an exhibition and study of all-French works
  • July 8 – Burgess and Nanni present “The Art of Singing”
  • July 9 – Maestro Vendice presents “German Diction,” an exhibition and study of all-German works
  • July 10 – Tenor Bruce Reed and wife Victoria Atwater, owners of Atwater Reed Artists Management Agency in New York City, will discuss “How to Cross From Student to Professional”
  • July 11 – Barbara Dever, mezzo soprano from New York City, will be offering vocal critiques for students, as well as providing tips, tricks, and insights into the art of singing.

Along with the master classes, “An Evening of Aria and Song” – a free concert open to the public – will be held on July 13 at 7:30 p.m.

The camp culminates on July 15 with the fully staged Opera Scenes Program at 3 p.m. in Anderson Theatre. This final performance is also free and open to the public and donations are welcome.

Last year’s small group was packed with talent, Nanni said, and several are returning. These include tenor/pianist Roubiung Zhang, a senior at Julliard School of Music in New York City, and Catherine Kondi ’18, who used last year’s experience as a springboard to a full scholarship for a master’s program at Ithaca College.

“One of the most important parts of being a musician is finding your artist,” Kondi said. “The Foothills Opera Experience program not only helped me to find my artist, but showed me how to embrace and love myself as both a musician and individual in society. The coaches and other performers helped to show me that the path I have always wanted to take and was accessible to me. Without this program, I would not be pursuing a master’s degree at Ithaca College in the fall for Vocal Performance. This program is one of the best decisions I have made in my career thus far.”

One of last summer’s attendees, Stephanie Shelburne of Peoria, IL was hired for a position abroad while at the camp; this summer she will be a resident artist performing in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at a prestigious program in Berlin, Germany.

Buoyed by the level of interest and talent the program is attracting, Nanni is already looking to the future and hoping to create a separate program for high school students next summer.

For additional information on the Foothills Opera Experience, visit or contact Nanni at (607) 725-9231.