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2015 Winners of Marilyn Horne Song Competition Announced

Baritone Benjamin Dickerson and pianist Alden Gatt have been named winners of the 2015 Marilyn Horne Song Competition, which took place Saturday, July 18 at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall.

Mr. Dickerson and Mr. Gatt will each receive the Regina Roney Prize of $3,000 and will be presented in recital in Santa Barbara at Hahn Hall in a partnership with the Dallas Opera and in New York at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in partnership with WQXR, the city’s classical music radio station.

The 2015 Marilyn Horne Song Competition included 23 singers and 6 vocal pianists. All are attending the Music Academy’s Summer Festival on full scholarship.

The following joined world-renowned concert and opera singer Marilyn Horne as jurors this year: Academy faculty member and veteran artist manager Matthew Epstein, one of the most influential forces in the opera world and the former director of Columbia Artists Vocal; Barbara Hocher, former executive director of the Marilyn Horne Foundation and currently a consultant for the Marilyn Horne Legacy at Carnegie Hall; internationally renowned pianist Martin Katz, who has been dubbed "the gold standard of accompanists" by The New York Times; and Gayletha Nichols, executive director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, who auditions hundreds of singers across North America every year, and is a frequent adjudicator in national and international competitions, as well as a consultant for other young artist programs across the country.

Benjamin Dickerson

Founded in 2000 by the Marilyn Horne Foundation, the Marilyn Horne Song Competition for young opera singers and vocal pianists is one of the most prestigious and valuable singing competitions in the United States. Top awards, presented in memory of longtime Music Academy vocal accompaniment faculty member Gwendolyn Koldofsky, are given to the Academy singer and vocal pianist who demonstrate excellence in the performance of song repertoire as well as a unique gift for audience communication.

The competition regularly attracts industry insiders eager for a glimpse of up-and-coming talent and is a sold-out audience favorite each year. In addition to the all-expenses-covered recital tour, winners receive coaching with faculty artists, a career development session in New York with 21C Media Group and the opportunity to receive innovation funding to add artistic or creative programming to their recital programs.

The competition helps to launch the careers of young promising opera singers and collaborative pianists. Previous Marilyn Horne Song Competition winners are performing leading and featured roles and coaching in major opera houses around the globe.

In the United States, winners have performed at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera and Los Angeles Opera, among others.

Alden Gatt

Previous winners of the competition have included soprano Michelle Bradley and pianist Michael Gaertner (2014); baritone John Brancy and pianist Mario Antonio Marra (2013); soprano Tracy Coxand pianist Maureen Zoltek (2012); soprano Karen Vuong and pianist Saule Tlenchiyeva (2011); soprano Megan Hart and pianist Sun Ha “Sunny” Yoon (2010); mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller, tenor Jeffrey Hill, and pianist Lio Kuokman (2009); soprano Simone Osborne, baritone Edward Parks, and pianist In-Sun Suh (2008); soprano Nadine Sierra and pianist Karen Kyung-Eun Na (2007); Santa Barbara’s own Evan Hughes (2006); soprano Elaine Alvarez, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, and pianist Tamara Sanikidze (2005); mezzo-soprano Daniela Lehner and pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone (2004); mezzo-soprano Megan Latham and pianist Carol Wong (2003); mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski and pianist Jerome Tan (2002); tenor Ramon Diggs and pianist Nino Sanikidze (2001); baritone Nicolai Janitzky, mezzo-soprano Liesel Fedkenheuer, and pianists Ji Young Lee and Spencer Myer (2000).

Remaining highlights of the Music Academy’s 2015 season include the opera event of the summer, Rossini´s Cinderella on July 30 and August 1 at the Granada Theatre, as well as the New York Philharmonic’s long-awaited performance on August 3 at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

For tickets and information, please call 805.969.8787 or visit

About the Music Academy of the West

The Music Academy of the West is among the nation’s preeminent summer schools and festivals for gifted, young classical musicians. At its ocean-side campus in Santa Barbara, the Academy provides these musicians with the opportunity for advanced study and performance under the guidance of internationally renowned faculty artists, guest conductors and soloists. Admission to the Academy is strictly merit based, and fellows receive full scholarships including tuition, room and board.

The Academy’s distinguished teaching artists roster has included famed soprano Lotte Lehmann, composers Darius Milhaud and Arnold Schoenberg, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, pianist Jeremy Denk, and current Voice Program Director Marilyn Horne. Academy alumni are members of major symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, ensembles, opera companies and university and conservatory faculties throughout the world. Many enjoy careers as prominent solo artists. In 2014 the Music Academy entered into a four-year partnership with the New York Philharmonic, resulting in unprecedented training and performance opportunities for Academy fellows and Summer Festival residencies for Philharmonic musicians.

The Music Academy of the West cultivates discerning, appreciative and adventurous audiences, presenting more than 200 public events annually, nearly half of them free of charge. These include masterclasses, a fully staged opera, orchestra- and chamber-music concerts, and performances by faculty, visiting artists and fellows.

The 2015 Summer School and Festival takes place from June 15 to August 8 at the Academy’s scenic Miraflores campus and at venues throughout Santa Barbara. For more information, visit

About the Marilyn Horne Song Competition Winners

Benjamin Dickerson, 22, born in San Antonio, is an undergraduate at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studies with Ruth Golden. In 2015, Mr. Dickerson performed the title role of "Don Giovanni" under the baton of Kenneth Merrill at Manhattan School of Music, as well as the role of Gustl in Lehár’s "Das Land des Lächelns." Last season, Mr. Dickerson covered the role of Dandini at Green Mountain Opera Festival and performed as soloist in Francois Joseph Gossec’s rarely performed "Messa di Requiem" with the Burlington Choral Society. Recent roles include Ben from "The Telephone," Figaro from "Le Nozze di Figaro," Gaudenzio from "Il Signor Bruschino," Ottone from "L’Incoronazione di Poppea," and Papageno and Sprecher from "Die Zauberflöte." This is his first summer at Music Academy of the West.

Alden Gatt, 27, born in Naples, Florida, is a New York City-based pianist and conductor. Mr. Gatt appears on stage frequently as a soloist and collaborator and is a sought-after coach and accompanist, the Music Director of New York Opera Exchange, a vocal coach at New Jersey City University. He attended the Eastman School of Music, studying with Barry Snyder. Having lived in Beijing for a year during high school, he also minored in Chinese at the University of Rochester. Mr. Gatt began his musical training at age eight and won top awards in many local and regional piano competitions, including the Turiel Prize in the Naples Music Club. He won the Southwest Florida Concerto Competition in 2006 and performed Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto with the Southwest Florida Symphony. This is his first summer at the Music Academy of the West.

—Ana Papakhian is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Music Academy of the West


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