Opera, Voice and Musical Theatre

More about Musical Theatre Program Here 

Degree Programs

  • Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre*
  • Master of Music in Opera or Vocal Performance

*School of Performing Arts; other degrees housed in the School of Music

About Vocal Performance

All Vocal Performance degrees meet NASM certification. They provide a high level of technical  assurance while also developing the acting, movement, language, auditioning, and business skills essential for those wishing to enter the contemporary performance market. In addition to performing in operas, choral concerts, recitals, and musicals, course work includes:

Theory Opera Lab (acting) Movement
Music History Keyboard Choir
Italian Audition Techniques Opera Styles
Opera History Aural Skills French
Coaching Private Voice Pedagogy
Vocal Literature German Acting for Singers
Diction Recital  



Wichita State University holds scholarship auditions in the Fall and Spring on  the WSU campus for the following programs: BFA in Musical Theatre, BM in Vocal Performance, and MM in Voice Performance or Opera. Auditions at other times of year can be arranged. DVD, CD or internet auditions may be considered in the event that a personal audition is impossible; however, no scholarships or fellowships will be awarded without a live audition.

Audition Requirements for Vocal Performance Majors (BM in Vocal Performance)
BM Vocal Performance: Applicants must present two selections one of which should be in English, one in Italian. Contact Dr. Michael Hanawalt for information: michael.hanawalt@wichita.edu.

MM in Vocal Performance or Opera: Applicants with interest in Opera should prepare four arias demonstrating a range of musical styles and languages, including one in English (translations and legit musical theatre selections are acceptable).  Students seeking the MM without opera emphasis may perform a selection of arias and art songs. An accompanist is provided.
Contact Alan Held, Associate Professor of Voice and Area Director for Opera,  for more information and an appointment alan.held@wichita.edu.

Scholarships & Assistantships
Undergraduate scholarships are awarded based on audition and GPA. All qualified Vocal Performance and Musical Theatre majors are eligible for departmental scholarships. It is highly recommended that students fill out FAFSA forms, as some awards are need-based. To be notified of scholarship awards, students must have applied to, and been accepted at Wichita State University. Undergraduate awards usually range from $1000 to $2500 yearly, and may include assistance with dormitory housing. Students with high GPA’s and SAT scores may also qualify for additional academic scholarships; contact financial aid for information www.financialaid.wichita.edu  Undergraduate auditions are scheduled through Dr. Hanawalt, michael.hanawalt@wichita.edu

Graduate Teaching Assistantships are awarded to graduate students majoring in Vocal Performance, Opera Performance or Music Education. Graduate Teaching Assistantships include tuition waivers plus a stipend (2017 rate is $7000). To be considered for a GTA/GSA, an on campus audition is required.  Application deadline is December 1 for pre-screening.  Graduate auditions are held on the WSU Campus on the following dates:  February 24 and March 43 2018. 

Endowed Opera Funds
Through the generosity of several individual donors, six endowed Opera Performance Scholarships and Fellowships are available each year to full time students displaying unusual promise. Awards vary depending on the interest generated by each fund. Scholarships and Fellowships are awarded by audition. All are merit based, require a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and continued satisfactory performance in the degree program. In-state tuition is awarded to Graduate Service Assistants in Opera.

Samuel Ramey Opera Fellowship
Awarded annually to a WSU graduate student enrolled in the College of Fine Arts MM in Opera Performance. The award is based upon audition, with consultation and advice of Samuel Ramey. The Fellowship is renewable annually until completion of the Master’s degree (two years). Application for renewal is required.

Carolyn and Arthur Skaer Opera and Operetta Fund
Awarded annually to a WSU graduate student enrolled in the College of Fine Arts MM in Opera Performance. The Fellowship is renewable for two years on completion of the Master’s degree.  Application for renewal is required.

Sarah Shirkey Gietzen Endowed Scholarship Fund
This Scholarship is awarded annually to one WSU School of Music undergraduate student enrolled in Vocal Performance, who performs in WSU Opera and Musical Theatre productions, and has the goal of an operatic career. The award may be renewed up to four years.

George Gibson Opera Fellowship
Awarded annually to a WSU student enrolled in the MM in Opera Performance. The Fellowship is renewable for two years.  Application for renewal is required.

George and Brenda Farha Scholarship in Opera
Awarded annually to a student enrolled in the WSU College of Fine Arts MM in Opera Performance. The award is based on audition and can be renewed only on the basis of audition.

Feiertag Endowed Fellowship for Vocal Performance Majors
Awarded annually to a student enrolled in the WSU School of Music, by determination of the faculty to one graduate student with a goal of an operatic career.

BFA in Musical Theatre
The BFA in Musical Theatre is housed in the School of Performing Arts; substantial course work is in collaboration with the School of Music. The BFA is an intensive, interdisciplinary, performance-oriented major, offering equal emphasis in singing, acting and dance techniques. Students interested in musical theatre as a profession will gain the training and skills they need to succeed in this demanding and competitive career.

Audition requirements for the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre

  • A dance combination taught by WSU faculty.
  • Two memorized songs, one ballad and one up-tempo.
  • A memorized contemporary monologue limited to 2 minutes.

Upon arrival there is a general meeting to fill out audition forms. Please bring a picture and resume if available. All students learn and perform a short dance combination. Please wear appropriate shoes and clothing. The dance portion of the audition lasts about 20-30 minutes. Students have time to change, if they wish, and present their memorized songs and monologues individually by appointment.  Please bring your own sheet music in the correct key. No recorded accompaniment is permitted; an accompanist is provided. Contact Linda Starkey for an appointment linda.starkey@wichita.edu.

Students with high GPA and SAT scores may also be eligible for academic scholarships; please contact the financial aid office for information.

Opera & Musical Theatre Faculty

Opera & Musical Theatre
Alan Held, Area Director of Opera, 316-978-6473 alan.held@wichita.edu
Amy Baker Schwiethale, Director of Musical Theatre 316-978-3056 amy.baker@wichita.edu
Linda Starkey, Director of School of Performing Arts 316-978-3368 linda.starkey@wichita.edu

Dr. Cristina Castaldi, Voice
Alan Held, Voice; Area Director of Opera
Dr. Pina Mozzani, Voice; Area Director of Voice
Lindsey Ramey, Lecturer in Voice
Samuel Ramey, Distinguished Faculty of Opera
Michael Sylvester, Voice
Michele Sylvester, Lecturer in Voice

Amy Baker Schwiethale – Jazz, Tap, Music Theatre Dance
Denise Celestin - Ballet
Cheyla Clawson - Modern
C. Nicholas Johnson – Mime, Jazz, Modern
Sabrina Vasquez – Ballet, Modern, Jazz

Danette Baker
Bret Jones
Karen Robu

Dr. Michael Hanawalt - Choral/Opera Preparation
Dr. Mark Laycock - Director of Orchestra
Dr. Thomas Wine - Choral/Education

Performing Opportunities

WSU Productions
WSU produces two main stage operas and two main stage musicals per year, fully staged with orchestra. Operas are performed in the original language with titles. Repertory is selected to expose students to a broad range of styles, from standard works to lesser-known fare (see productions list below), and to showcase those students currently enrolled. Other performance opportunities include Second Stage productions of musicals, Acting for Singers, Opera Lab, Musical Theatre Scene Study, and numerous master classes, recitals, and concerts. Vocal Performance majors and Musical Theatre majors are encouraged to audition for roles in all productions.

During the summer, WSU offers a four week study abroad program in Lucca, Italy, Canta in Italia www.cantainitalia.wichita.edu  After a month of immersive study in voice and language, students perform two concerts of opera scenes and arias.

2017-2018 Repertory
L'Elisir D'Amore by Gaetano Donizetti - November 10-11 (semi-stage concert performances)
Opera Scenes - February 3-4
Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - April 19-22

Musical Theatre
Little Shop of Horrors - October 26-29
Music by Alan Menken, Book & Lyrics by howard Ashman
Little Women - March 1-4 (concert version)
Music by Jason Howard, Lyrics by Mindi Dickson, Book by Allan Knee

Recent Guest Artists, Master classes & Seminars
Samuel Ramey (currently in residence) played Olin Blitch; the Commendatore.
Warren Jones Master Class
Wayne Bryan Directed Spitfire Grill
Joyce Di Donato Master Class
Alan Held (current faculty) Master Class and Recital
Zeffin Quinn Hollis Directed Die Zauberfloete; played Frank Maurrant
Stephen Kopel Master Class; Directed Chicago and Violet
Andrew Palermo Choreography for Dance and Music Theatre; Directed Hair
Myrna Paris Master Class and played The Fairy Queen in Iolanthe

Regional Performing Opportunities
Students are encouraged to audition for paid roles and internships at the many professional and community theatres that flourish in Wichita and the region. The regions’ premiere Equity theatre, Music Theatre Wichita, directed by Wayne Bryan, performs during the summer months and features Broadway talent. WSU musical theatre students perform frequently with Wichita’s numerous non-Equity companies, including Crown Uptown and Mosley Street. Most WSU vocal performance majors earn extra income by working as church soloists, and many also perform with Opera Kansas and Wichita Grand Opera. In addition to producing an annual holiday production, Opera Kansas sponsors in-school performances, and chamber opera in English. WGO mounts a season of grand opera and ballet.

Opera Department Productions since 2003

Beatrice et Benedict
La Clemenza di Tito
The Light in the Piazza
Les Indes Galantes
Don  Giovanni (with Samuel Ramey as the Commendatore)
Cold Sassy Tree
Susannah (with Samuel Ramey as Blitch)
Die Fledermaus
Suor Angelica/Il Campanello di notte
Il viaggio a Reims
L’incoronazione di Poppea
Albert Herring
Die Zauberflöte
Hin und Zurück
L’Enfant et les Sortilèges
Così fan tutte
Street Scene
Little Women
Les Dialogues des Carmelites
Eve’s Odds
La Calisto
The Marriage of Figaro
Les Contes d’Hoffmann
Central Park
The Nightingale and the Rose (World Premiere)
Hansel and Gretel
The Vampyr
Cosi fan tutte
Die Zauberflöte
The Gondoliers
Amahl and the Night Visitors

Distinguished WSU Opera Alumni
Samuel Ramey - Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Covent Garden
Joyce DiDonato - Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera
Alan Held - Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Covent Garden
Myrna Paris - New York City Opera, St. Louis Opera Theatre
Beverly Hoch - Aldeburgh, Glyndebourne, Santa Fe, many recordings
Richard Markedly - Berlin Stadtsoper, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand Opera
James Billings - New York City Opera, Glimmerglass
Stephen Tharp - Metroolitan Opera, Glimmerglass Opera
Catherine Cook - San Francisco Opera, Tulsa Opera
Howard Haskin - Théatre du Chatelet, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Opéra National de Lyon

Musical Productions since 2003
Sister Act
Crazy for You
She Loves Me
Good News!
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Lady Be Good
Waltzing in Heaven (world premiere)
The Wild Party (KCACTF Finalist; Kennedy Center special honoree)
Children of Eden
Tick, Tick…Boom!
The Apple Tree
A New Brain
1940’s Radio Hour
Pippin (KCACTF Finalist; Kennedy Center alternate)
Anything Goes
Into the Woods
The Secret Garden
The Threepenny Opera

Notable Alumni of the School of Performing Arts
Julius Thomas III Broadway: Scottsboro Boys; Porgy and Bess; Motown, the Musical
Karla Burns –Broadway: Showboat (Tony nominee)
Suann Pollack – Production Stage Manager Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
Hal Davis – Broadway: Titanic
Ray Wills – Broadway: The Rothschilds
Virginia Creamer – Director: Universal Studios, Orlando FL
Stephen Kopel - Jim Carnahan Casting, NYC
Larry Pressgrove - Composer of Tony & the Soprano; music director/arranger of the Broadway musical [title of show]

Performance Facilities

  • Miller Concert Hall fully equipped 530 seat proscenium theatre with hydraulic orchestra pit, fly system and full stage lighting. Used for productions of operas, operettas and orchestral, band and dance events.
  • Wilner Auditorium, 800 seat proscenium theatre with balcony. Fly system, full stage lighting. Used for production of musicals and plays.
  • Wiedemann Recital Hall, 425 seat recital hall with world-class organ. Concert lighting. Used for vocal and instrumental recitals.
  • Welsbacher Theatre, black box space; approximately 100 seats. Used for Second Stage, cabaret and senior concert performances.
  • Litwin Theatre, seats approximately 200. Proscenium space, limited lighting, doubles as dance studio. Used for Dance, cabaret and senior choreography projects.

What people are saying about WSU Opera and Musical Theatre

“If you missed Wichita State University’s production of Hair, then it is quite possible that you missed one of the best theatrical productions Wichita has ever seen.”

“Alex Stoll’s work as Burrs in your production of The Wild Party was regarded as the outstanding single performance of the eight KCACTF regional festivals.”

“We had three of your students in our program [Des Moines Metro Opera] this summer, and we were very pleased with the professionalism, musicality and level of preparedness with which they arrived and continued to conduct themselves throughout the season.”

“What made WSU’s La Calisto most interesting was the bold staging. The student singers, dressed in colorful (and slightly risqué) Greek costumes by Rebecca Maholland, clearly relished their roles.”

“The orchestra work came off as fleet and accomplished.”

“What a wonderful performance, and as completely realized a production [of Pippin] as I’ve ever seen.”