{ YOUNG ARTIST PROGRAM }

Header image: ©Dave Jones, Empire West Photo

In 2018, Finger Lakes Opera established its Young Artist Program to feature up-and-coming musicians around the Finger Lakes region and beyond. In its first two seasons, the Young Artists performed in a scenes program and as chorus members for FLO's main-stage productions. Following the 2019 season, a local benefactor provided seed funding to facilitate the expansion of FLO’s Young Artist Program.


Today, FLO’s Young Artist Program has flourished into one of Finger Lakes Opera's greatest strengths with applications for the 4-week summer session increasing annually, representing an increase of nearly 500% from 2019. Young Artists now receive weekly stipends, travel allowances, and housing, as well as performance opportunities beyond the summer session.


This expansion has provided FLO the opportunity to bring more opera to more people through community engagement events (performances at nursing homes, in cafes, etc.) and an in-school presence. As the program continues to grow, Finger Lakes Opera is proud to be a launching point for these amazing musicians' careers.

Applications for the 2024 Summer Young Artist Program have now closed. FLO will be announcing its roster of 2024 Young Artists before the end of February.

Black Mexican-American soprano, Kristen Marie Gillis, opened her 23/24 season by making her professional debut with Central City Opera as a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Studio Artist and joined Opera Ithaca’s Apprentice Artist Program in the Fall, performing in Rusalka as the First Wood-sprite and Turnspit. Notable credits include Eliza (Dark Sisters), Countess Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte), and the title role of Suor Angelica. As an avid competitor, Ms. Gillis has received prizes from the Career Bridges Grant Awards, the Mario Lanza Scholarship Competition, and The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. Kristen is a Texas native and proud first-generation college graduate, holding degrees from Temple University and Abilene Christian University.

Kira Kaplan, soprano, hailed for her “youthful allure and charming tone” and “vocal power”, is a Global Talent Young Artist with the National Opera Studio of the United Kingdom working closely with opera companies across the UK. She has been the top grant recipient and winner of the prestigious Career Bridges Grant Competition, as well as three time Regional Finalist and District Winner of The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Council Auditions and First Place Winner of the Artist Division in the 2022 Camille Coloratura Competition. Her roles have included Violetta Valery (La Traviata), Alcina (Alcina), Emily Webb (Our Town), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), and Diana (If I Were You). Kira has worked with Brevard Music Center (Janiec Young Artist), and Ohio Light Opera. In Spring 2022 she made her Symphony Hall debut as the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem and Carmina Burana with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra.

Chicago-based mezzo-soprano Hailey Cohen joined Madison Opera as a Studio Artist for the 2023/2024 season, where she sang the roles of Dorthée in Anonymous Lover and Paquette and Old Lady (cover) in Candide. In 2023 Hailey joined Cedar Rapids Opera as a Smith Resident Artist, where she performed the roles of Hattie in American Gothical and Logan (cover) in Charlie and the Wolf. Additional role highlights throughout her career include K. in Would You Eat Me?, Sally in The Boy Who Wanted to be a Robot, Ember and Asintmah (cover) in Future Perfect, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, and Littler Daughter in Proving Up. Hailey graduated from University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance with her masters degree in 2021.

Revered by critics for his “strong clear tenor voice”, Nathan Schafer “sings with clarity and

warmth.” (KDHX). This season Mr. Schafer sang Rodolfo in La Bohème and Fernando in Cosi fan tutte at Shreveport Opera. Previously Mr. Schafer was a soloist for the 75th Anniversary Concert with the Shreveport Symphony. Last season, Mr. Schafer sang Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata and also made his professional debut at Winter Opera of St. Louis as Ruggero in Puccini’s La rondine. Mr. Schafer has performed with prominent opera houses such as The Dallas Opera, Central City Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Fort Worth Opera. Mr. Schafer’s other roles include Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Luigi (Il tabaro), Alfred (Die Fledermaus), Pirelli (Sweeny Todd), Hooker (Emmeline), and Beppe (Pagliacci).

Ethiopian-American baritone and Kansas City, MO native, Yonathan T. Astatke, is a rising interpreter of operatic and musical theater repertoire. Last summer he was a Festival Artist at Opera Saratoga. Yonathan has experienced success in his career at a number of voice competitions across America. At The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, he was an Arkansas District winner in 2024, and went on to take Second Prize at the Midwest Regional Competition. He also won an Encouragement Award from the Nebraska District of the competition in 2023. Some of his roles include Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Billy Bigelow (Carousel), Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), and Demitrius (Midsummer Night’s Dream). Yonathan studied at University of Missouri, Columbia for his undergraduate and is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Louisiana State University.

JOSE OLIVARES 

BASS-BARITONE


Meet jose - watch his introduction video!

Bass-Baritone Jose Olivares is a recent M.M graduate of the University of Oklahoma, he also holds an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University - Commerce in Music Education. He has been a young artist at the Seagle Festival and Des Moines Metro Opera, and seen as a soloist with The Norman Symphony. A few notable roles include: Simone (Gianna Schicchi), Dulcamara (The Elixir of Love), Coline (La Boheme), Uberto (La serva padrona), Germano (La scala di seta), Olin Blitch (Susannah) and Farfarllo (The Love for Three Oranges). In his current tenure as a resident artist at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Mr. Olivares will be covering Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana and Frere Laurent in Romeo et Juliette, as well as perform the role of Duke in Romeo et Juliette.

PAST YOUNG ARTIST ROSTERS

2023 YOUNG ARTISTS

Anna Donnelly, soprano

Goitsemang Lehobye, soprano

Ellen Robertson, soprano

Kaswanna Kanyinda, mezzo-soprano

Alexandra Sanchez, mezzo-soprano

Conor Brereton, tenor

Michael Celentano, tenor

Pedro Valdez, tenor

Steven M. Warnock, baritone

Casey Germain, bass

2022 TOMITA YOUNG ARTISTS

Danielle Beckvermit, soprano

Kayla Oderah, soprano

Erika Vasallo, mezzo-soprano

Robert Hartfield, tenor

Geoffrey Schmelzer, baritone

Jeremy Harr, bass

Jenny Choo Kirby, piano

2021 TOMITA YOUNG ARTISTS

Veena Akama-Makia, mezzo-soprano

Danielle Beckvermit, soprano

Nathaniel Catasca, tenor

Jongwon Choi, baritone

Imara Miles, mezzo-soprano

John Allen Nelson, baritone

Robert H. Riordan, baritone

David Soto Zambrana, tenor

Robin Steiz, soprano

Natasha Talukdar Elam, piano

Edward Forstman, piano

2020 TOMITA YOUNG ARTISTS

Sydney Anderson, soprano

Matthew Campisi, tenor

Nathaniel Catasca, tenor

Jongwon Choi, baritone

Nicholas Danker, baritone

Stephanie Doche, mezzo-soprano

Robert H. Riordan, baritone

David Soto Zambrana, tenor

Robin Steiz, soprano

Victoria Thomasch, mezzo-soprano

Brock Tjosvold, piano

2019 YOUNG ARTISTS

Rachel Abrams, mezzo-soprano

David Fournie, baritone

Julianna Grabowski, soprano

Rose Kearin, soprano

Anders Namestnik, tenor

Starletta Noll-Long, soprano

Evan Stenzel, tenor

2018 YOUNG ARTISTS

Jordan Bachmann, baritone

Caryn Crozier, soprano

Caroline Nielson, mezzo-soprano

Susannah Thornton, mezzo-soprano

Evan Stenzel, tenor

Alison Wahl, soprano