Students sing to impress at vocal competition

On Saturday, five finalists competed in the annual Rosalind Phillips Vocal Excellence Competition at Trinity University for a grand prize of $800 and a chance to sing with the Trinity Symphony Orchestra in the spring.

Kristin Burnam, a San Antonio native and music education major, won the competition. Kevin Culver, a music and economics double major from Houston, was the runner-up of this esteemed event.

Rosalind Phillips, the competition’s namesake, was a musical mastermind and a beloved Trinity professor from 1961 until 1989.

In 1942, Phillips received a bachelor’s degree from the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. She later earned her master’s from Columbia University in New York City and went on to attend the famed Juilliard School. Phillips was a touring songstress in France in the 1940s in addition to performing professionally with the Metropolitan Opera and NBC Opera. She made appearances in a variety of Broadway shows and even performed at Radio City Music Hall.

Amy Becker, a 1989 Trinity graduate and student of Rosalind Phillips, created the vocal competition in honor of her respected instructor. The competition consists of two rounds: preliminaries and finals. Any Trinity junior or senior involved in private voice lessons is eligible to participate in the preliminary round of competition. Music faculty from the Trinity music department judge the first round, and participants are only required to perform one song.

“It was a fun process, and I look forward to competing again next year,” said junior contender David Reeves.

The top five competitors from the preliminary round moved onto the final round where they were required to perform one aria, one art song and one foreign language piece.

The judges for the final round were John Thornton, interim director of the Trinity Symphony Orchestra, Kathy McNiel, associate professor of voice at Baylor University, and Julie Keim, a professional soprano performer.

Burnam sang “Worlds of Light” by John Duke as her opening piece and followed with “Le Dauphin” from “Le Bestiaire” by Francis Poulenc and “O Mio Fernando” from “La Favorita” by Gaetano Donizetti.

“I really enjoyed getting to do my aria because it was a little more out of my realm getting to do the acting with it and the drama. It was fun to see how the audience reacted to it,” Burnam said.

In addition to receiving an $800 scholarship, Burnam’s name will be added to the Rosalind Phillips plaque, and she will perform “O Mio Fernando” with the Trinity Symphony Orchestra in the spring.

Burnam is currently in the Chamber Singers choir at Trinity. She has performed with church choirs all her life and has been taking private voice lessons for many years. Last year she performed Verdi’s “Requiem” with the Trinity choir and San Antonio Symphony in the Majestic Theatre downtown. This December, Burnam will perform as a member of the chorus in the “Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” concert.

As president of Phi Delta Kappa sorority, she is actively involved with many events on campus. In addition, she is in Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity, and Mu Phi Epsilon, the professional music fraternity.

Runner-up Kevin Culver has been involved with choir ever since he accidentally signed up for it his freshman year of high school. He performed “Cherry Ripe” by Roger Quilter, “Questo Amor” from “Edgar” by Puccini and “Voilà Donc la Terrible Cité” from “Thaïs” by Massenet.

Culver is currently a member of the Trinitones and Trinity Chamber Singers. He takes voice lessons from esteemed vocal instructor Chia-Wei Lee. Culver will be performing in the upcoming Trinity musical “Pippin” as the King, one of the main characters.

“The excitement before going onstage was the most exciting part of the competition. Once I was on stage, everything went by in a blur,” Culver said.