Tri-State College Vocal Competition

Christopher Humbert Jr.Christopher Humbert Jr.

Raven S. McMillonRaven S. McMillon

Katherine Lerner LeeKatherine Lerner Lee

2019 Tri-State College Vocal Competition

The Opera Guild of Dayton held its annual Tri-State College Vocal Competition at the Kettering Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Sunday, April 9, beginning at 1:30 p.m. It was a plethora of young singing talent. The winner was Christopher Humbert Jr., a bass-baritone from Capital University. Click here to hear a snippet of his winning vocals. Second place was earned by soprano Raven S. McMillon from College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. Raven was also presented The Fran Michael Audience Favorite Award. Third place was awarded to soprano Katherine Lerner Lee of Oberlin Conservatory and College. Congratulations to all.

Jerry Reaper and Jeffrey Powell returned as preliminary judges for 2019. They selected six finalists for the event on April 9. Judges for the finals were: voice professor Jamie Cordes of Wright State University, voice professor Dr. Mark Spencer of Cedarville University and Tom Bankston, artistic director of the Dayton Opera. The Guild is grateful to Jeffrey Powell who acted as pianist for the Competition.


Any student age 18-23 who attends college in Ohio, Indiana, or
Kentucky, or is a resident of Ohio, Indiana, or Kentucky and
attends college elsewhere may apply.

Preliminary Competition Requirements

• A recent 8×10 photo (non-returnable)
• A good quality recording of three
contrasting arias, each performed in its
original language (non-returnable). Recording
media may be: an audio CD or MP3 files on a
data CD or flash drive
• Two letters of recommendation from
music professionals
• A $25 non-refundable application fee

Additional Information

• Up to six finalists will be selected by preliminary judges
• All entrants will be notified via mail by late March
• Finalists will compete before a panel of judges on April 7, 2019
• Winners may be asked to perform at an Opera Guild of Dayton event


First Place………………………………..$3,500
Second Place……………………………$2,000
Third Place……………………………..$1,000
Audience Favorite……………………….$400
All Other Finalists…between $150 and $200

Co-chairs of the 2019 Competition are Jerry and Martha Ann Reaper. They can be contacted for any questions at or 937/232-3625. An printable application is available online by clicking here.

2018 Tri-State College Vocal Competition

The Guild held its 30th Annual Tri-State College Vocal Competition on Sunday, April 8, at the Kettering Seventh-Day Adventist Church at 1:30 p.m. This 30th Anniversary milestone underscores the significance that competitions have for young artists attempting to complete their studies and launch their careers. Many of the Guild Competition winners have gone on to enjoy renown in the United States and abroad.

Six outstanding young performers from throughout the region took to the stage to show their talents. There was a tie for first place between sopranos Lisa Marie Rogali and Elena Villalon both from the University of Cincinnati. Second place went to Elana Bell, a mezzo-soprano who recently graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory. The Fran Michael Audience Favorite Award went to Lisa Marie Rogali.  Other finalists included: baritone Alex Kapp from the University of Louisville, soprano Madelaine Matej from Case Western Reserve University and soprano Virginia Mims from Indiana University.

Lisa Marie Rogali, Elena Villalon, Elana Bell

Elana Bell, Elena Villalon, Lisa Marie Rogali

Samples of the selections can be viewed on Youtube. Click here for Lisa Marie. Click here for Elena.

While the judges deliberated, Dr. David Sievers of the University of Dayton introduced the winners of the March 24 High School Vocal Competition. They each sang a delightful selection and were awarded their prizes and certificates.

Lauren Maynus, Reed Gneeper, Alaya Hinesmon

Alaya Hinesmon, Reed Gneeper, Lauren Maynus, Dr. David Sievers


Preliminary judges for the 2018 Competition were Jerry Reaper and Jeffrey Powell. These judges review the application forms and vocal samples that are submitted. They narrow the Competition to the six finalists who perform in the finals on April 8.

Jerry Reaper has sung with the Dayton Opera Chorus since 1997.  He is an alumnus of the Dayton Philharmonic Chorus and the Bach Society of Dayton.  Jerry studied 5 years with  Kay Griffel,  international operatic Spinto Soprano. Ms. Griffel is a retired principal from the Cologne Opera, followed by seven seasons as principal at the Metropolitan Opera.  Mr. Reaper sang the role of bass cockney in the Dayton Philharmonic Pops presentation of My Fair Lady, Sam in Un Ballo in Maschera from Charles Wendelken-Wilson’s Operatic Selections Concert,  the Lawyer in Gianni Schicchi and understudied the role for Poobah in The Mikado with the Dayton Opera Funatics.  Jerry has served as a trustee of both the Dayton Opera and the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.

Maestro Powell’s career began in Kansas City when he stepped in on short notice to The Barber of Seville for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Soon after, he secured posts as Assistant Conductor for both The Lyric Opera of Kansas City and The Kansas City Symphony. He served as Assistant Conductor for San Francisco Opera’s Western Opera Theater and won the Metzgar Family Award for excellence in vocal coaching. He joined Dayton Opera in 1991 to serve as Resident Conductor, Music Director for the Artists-in-Residence program and Director of the Dayton Opera Chorus, a post he has held ever since. Maestro Powell has served arts organizations including the Bay View Music Festival, Des Moines Metro Opera, the Ohio Light Opera, The Cincinnati Opera, The Human Race Theater Company, and The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Maestro Powell’s repertoire includes La fille du Régiment, Madama Butterfly, and Cosi fan tutte. He has also conducted opera and music theater productions at Wright State University.

The judges for the finals of the Competition were:

Tom Bankston

Tom Bankston is the current Artistic Director of Dayton Opera.  He is in his 21st year with the Dayton Opera and has guided the company through the many changes brought on by the past recession and the company’s 2012 merger with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance.  Before coming to Dayton, he served as Production Manager, Director of Education and Outreach, Director of Operations, and Artistic Administrator during his nineteen years on the staff of Cincinnati Opera.  A trained operatic baritone, he appeared with companies including Pittsburgh Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Pittsburgh Chamber Opera Theater and Whitewater Opera before his professional move into the world of arts administration.

Doctor Denise Ritter Bernardini, currently  with the University of Toledo Department of Music as an associate professor of voice, was previously with the voice faculty of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma. She received a Bachelor’s degree from East Central University, a Master of Music from Texas Christian University and her DMA from the University of Oklahoma, where she studied with Dolores Leffingwell and the great Marilyn Horne. Denise has performed throughout the United States with recent performances including Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Pergolesi’s Magnificat, Bach’s Missa in A Major, Dvorak’s Te Deum, and Mozart’s Requiem, Mother in Amahl and The Night Visitors, Violetta in La Traviata, and Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. She has performed with orchestras which include Fort Worth Symphony, Tulsa Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Symphony of Bartlesville (Oklahoma), Oklahoma City Symphony, and International University of Global Theater in Leibnitz, Austria. She is the recipient of numerous awards including ones from the Metropolitan Opera, American Traditions Competition, Benton- Schmidtt Contest, and the National Federation of Music Clubs.

Myra Merritt is currently with Bowling Green State University on the faculty and staff in the College of Musical Arts.  She received her bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and master’s degree from the Catholic University of America. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1982 as the Shepherd Boy in Wagner’s Tannhauser and sang other roles at the Met including Musetta in La Boheme, Bess in Porgy and Bess and Zerlina in Don Giovanni. She was featured on the 1983 Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala performance; has performed with the Houston Grand Opera, Summer Opera Theater Company in Washington, D.C., National Opera of Finland, Theatre des Westens in Berlin, and Budapest National Opera. Myra has sung in Moscow, Ekaterinburg and Italy; performed at Wolf Trap Farm, Ford’s Theater and the Smithsonian Museum Concert Series; presented her debut recital at the Kennedy Center with the Washington Performing Arts Society; can be heard on the Grammy Award-winning RCA recording of Porgy and Bess and Deutsche Grammaphon’s live from the Metropolitan Opera video recording of Carmen. Her awards include grants from the National Opera Institute, Sullivan Foundation and the D.C. Commission of the Arts and Humanities; winner in the Beethoven Society Competition for Opera Singers and the Catholic University of America’s Alumni Achievement Award in Music. She has been featured in publications such as Glamour Magazine, Washington View Magazine, Famous African American’s Encyclopedia and Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia.

Martha Ann Cardosco-Reaper  and Jamie Cordes acted as co-chairs to plan this wonder event. Thanks go to them for their hard work. Thanks are extended to Susan Herman for planning the reception that followed the Competition, to pianist Jeffrey Powell and all the others who assisted in making the day a success.


2017 Tri-State College Vocal Competition

Opera Guild of Dayton held  the 29th annual Tri-State College Vocal Competition April 2, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. It was an extraordinary array of six very talented young singers who performed. Over 30 entrants vied for the honor of winning the Competition and the Preliminary Judges were challenged to narrow the field to these six entrants.

Preliminary judges for this year’s Competition were Dr. Minnita Daniel-Cox from the University of Dayton and Dr. Nolan Long from Sinclair Community College. Judges for the finals on April 2 were: Tom Bankston, general and artistic director of Dayton Opera; Kara Shay Thomson, renowned American soprano; and Jeffrey Powell, Dayton Opera conductor and chorus master. Melody Wallace will serve as pianist for the competitors. The Guild is extremely pleased that many past competitors have gone on to fulfill very successful operatic careers.

Jeffrey Powell, Kara Shay Thomson and Tom Bankston

The Judges–Jeffrey Powell, Kara Shay Thomson and Tom Bankston

The First Place Winner of this year’s Competition was baritone De’Ron McDaniel from the University of Cincinnati. There was a tie for Second Place between mezzo soprano Marie Engle from Prayner Conservatory in Vienna and soprano Caitlin Gotimer from the University of Cincinnati. Caitlin was also selected by the attendees as the Audience Favorite.

De'Ron McDaniel Marie Engle Caitlin Gotimer

Click on De’Ron’s, Maria’s or Caitlin’s photos above to hear snippets of their arias.

Tammy Schaff served as chair of this year’s Competition. Jamie Cordes acted as Master of Ceremonies. Both of them were previous winners of the Guild’s High School Vocal Competition.