Schmidt Vocal Institute

An instructor stands near the piano and offers advice to a vocalist

Schmidt Vocal Institute

The Schmidt Vocal Institute (SVI) is a program developed and funded by the William E. Schmidt Foundation and directed by Miami University alumna Linda McAlister (MM '01). The Schmidt Foundation has strong roots in the Miami University arts programs, supporting the William E. Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition and contributing to scholarships for students in the Miami University College of Creative Arts. 


About the William E. Schmidt Foundation

As part of its mission the William E. Schmidt Foundation provides support and encouragement to youth in the arts. Annually the Foundation provides scholarships and support to over one hundred and fifty students in the arts.

Previous Years

SVI 2017

June 20-July 2, 2017
Miami University


2017 Guest Faculty
(additional faculty to be announced)

Lisa Saffer

Lisa SafferSoprano Lisa Saffer has graced opera and concert stages worldwide with her versatility, intelligence, and musicality in a range of repertoire. Ms. Saffer is recognized for her skill as an interpreter of contemporary scores and of the music of Handel. She has been particularly associated with the music of Oliver Knussen and was a participant in a landmark series of Handel recordings and performances with conductor Nicholas McGegan. She has worked with opera companies all over the world including the Metropolitan Opera, the Liceu in Barcelona, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera National de Paris, English National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, the Netherlands Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera, and has had particularly close relationships with New York City Opera and Glimmerglass Opera.

Ms. Saffer has appeared with major symphony orchestras including those of New York, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, and Philadelphia. She has also sung with the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Sinfonietta , the Orchestra of St Luke’s and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. She loves chamber music and has worked with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Schoenberg Ensemble and the New York Festival of Song among others. She has recordings on DGG, Harmonia Mundi, New World, Telarc and Virgin Classics. For her portrayal of Berg’s Lulu at the English National Opera, she was honored to receive the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for best vocal performance and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award.

A native of Ann Arbor, she now makes her home in Maine, where she has built a house in Brownfield with her husband, Andy Buck, a timber framer. She teaches voice and coaches at her alma mater, the New England Conservatory. She is a voracious reader, loves to cook and is very happy to be gardening at last. 

Ricky Ian Gordon

Ricky Ian GordonComposer Ricky Ian Gordon's songs have been performed and/or recorded by such renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Frederica Von Stade. His opera The Grapes Of Wrath debuted at Minnesota Opera and was seen in New York at Carnegie Hall. A revised version will be presented this season at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Other works include Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera; 27 at Opera Theatre of St. Louis; A Coffin in Egypt with Frederica Von Stade, seen at Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Chicago Opera Theatre and LA Opera. Orpheus and Euridice at Lincoln Center (OBIE Award); Sycamore Trees at The Signature Theatre; Green Sneakers at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival; My Life with Albertine at Playwrights Horizons; and Dream True at The Vineyard.

Mr. Gordon was a recipient of a Lincoln Center/ American Songbook Series concert devoted to his music entitled Bright Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon. It was written in the New York Times, “If the music of Ricky Ian Gordon had to be defined by a single quality, it would be the bursting effervescence infusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim…It’s caviar for a world gorging on pizza.”

Mr. Gordon has been the guest of many festivals, universities and conferences and received numerous honors including The Stephen Sondheim Award, The Helen Hayes Award, An Alumni Merit Award from Carnegie-Mellon University and The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award. He studied composition at Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently writing operas for The Met, Houston Grand Opera and Goodman Theater. www.rickyiangordon.com

2017 Resident Faculty

Alison Acord - Miami University
Christina Haan - Miami University
Liza Kelly - Western Kentucky University
Audrey B Luna - Miami University
Linda McAlister - Miami University
Mari Opatz-Muni - Miami University
Benjamin Smolder - Miami University

SVI 2016

Miami University was pleased to host the inaugural Schmidt Vocal Institute (SVI) in June, 2016. Participants spent 12 days on campus and received instruction from the Miami University Voice Faculty as well as guest faculty from across the country. SVI helped participants develop and hone their vocal technique, diction, and stage deportment with the program culminating in two performances of solo repertoire and Musical Theater/Opera scenes.

2016 Guest Faculty

Margo Garrett

Pianist Margo Garrett is well known to audiences for her frequent performances in chamber, sonata and vocal recitals. The large roster of internationally-known artists with whom she has long performing relationships include sopranos Kathleen Battle, Barbara Bonney, the late Judith Raskin, Lucy Shelton, Dawn Upshaw, Benita Valente, mezzo Shirley Close, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, flutist, Julia Bogorad-Kogan, violinists Jaime Laredo and Daniel Phillips, violist Paul Neubauer, and cellists Sharon Robinson, Matt Haimowitz, and the late Stephen Kates. Her recordings can be found on Albany, CRI, Delos, Deutsche Grammophon (1992 Grammy for Best Vocal Recital), Dorian, Musical Heritage Society, Nonesuch, Sony Classical and Ten Thousand Lakes. Ms. Garrett has premiered over 30 works, won an ASCAP Most Creative Programming Award (1989), headed collaborative piano programs at the University of Minnesota, The Juilliard School and New England Conservatory as well as traveled the globe giving master classes in leading schools of music and adjudicating international competitions.

Mary Ann Hart

Mezzo Soprano Mary Ann Hart is Professor of Music and Chair of the Voice Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where she teaches voice and song literature. Previously she taught voice at Vassar College, and repertoire classes at the Mannes School of Music. During two decades of professional singing in New York City, Miss Hart established an exceptional reputation as a concert performer. She made her New York Philharmonic debut under the baton of Kurt Masur in his premier season as Musical Director, and has also appeared with numerous other orchestras in the United States and Canada. She toured the United States with Philip Glass’s opera Hydrogen Jukebox, and recorded that work for Nonesuch. One of four singers who recorded the complete songs of Charles Ives for Albany Records, she also has a solo recording of American songs, Permit Me Voyage, on Albany. With Robert Craft she recorded the Stravinsky Mass and Cantata for two Music Masterworks releases. A champion of song repertoire, Mary Ann Hart has been featured on the Great Singers Series in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y’s Schubertiade, and the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago. Recital appearances have taken her to 26 American states, Austria, Germany, Rumania, Canada, and the Virgin Islands. Out of sight (but still within earshot) Mary Ann Hart sang six roles in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges for the Netherlands Ballet Theatre production at the Metropolitan Opera, and did voice characterizations for the Disney animated films Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas.

Stanford Olsen

Since his professional operatic debut there in 1986, opposite Dame Joan Sutherland in Bellini’s I Puritani, Stanford Olsen has performed more than 160 times with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Acclaimed for his performances of the leading tenor roles in the operas of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Olsen enjoys an international reputation as a Mozartean of style and elegance, cited by The New York Times in 1990 in an article entitled “A Golden Age of Mozart Tenors.” Highly regarded for his interpretations of the bel canto roles of Nemorino, Almaviva, and Arturo, Olsen has been heard in this repertoire throughout the world at venues such as San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Miami Opera, La Scala di Milano, Landestheater Stuttgart, Theatre du Chatelet, Teatro Bellini di Catania, Theatre La Monnaie, Australian Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Nederlandse Oper, Tokyo Opera City, and most other significant opera companies in the USA and Europe. His recording of the fiendishly difficult role of Argirio in Rossini’s Tancredi (Naxos/Alberto Zedda) netted a Grammy nomination. In addition to the 1989 Walter W. Naumburg Award, Olsen won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1986, was a Richard Tucker Foundation Career Grant winner in 1989, and also has received awards from Opera America and Opera Index. He is a four-time Grammy nominee, and winner of an Emmy for the PBS broadcast of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic, featuring George Hearn and Patti Lupone. Olsen is currently Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan.

2016 Resident Faculty

Alison Acord - Miami University
Christina Haan - Miami University
Liza Kelly - Western Kentucky University
Audrey B Luna - Miami University
Linda McAlister - Miami University
Mari Opatz-Muni - Miami University
Benjamin Smolder - Miami University

Schmidt Vocal Competition

A group of SVC students receive prizes for their performancesNow in its thirtieth year, the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition is open to talented young singers who are currently in their sophomore, junior or senior year in high school. The competition occurs in 15 locations throughout the United States—including Miami University—awarding over $150,000 in prizes and scholarships.