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March 2012

Music professor wins prestigious vocal competition

Listening to Suzanne Hendrix speak for a few seconds quickly tips the listener to the unique quality of her voice. It’s low and calm, yet forceful. It’s evident that, at any time of her choosing, she could unleash a power and range that could shatter glass … or, call for the heavens to sing.

It’s this voice that Hendrix, professional opera singer and adjunct voice instructor at Avila University the past three years, utilized to recently win a prestigious voice competition in New York City.

Hendrix was one of six winners of a $10,000 George London Award, one of the country’s most respected grant programs for young singers. According to a review of the competition in The New York Times, “contralto Suzanne Hendrix, 32, sang Erda’s monologue from Wagner’s ‘Rheingold’ with stark power.”

Hendrix, who teaches studio voice at Avila, said there were about 300 applicants for the London awards. That initial group was pared to 24 to perform in a final concert. All of those 24 received $500. Only six received the big prize.

“It’s really a neat deal,” she said. “It should help me in a lot of ways besides the money. I’m currently looking for an agent. Hopefully, that’ll help open doors there, too.”

Though just 32, Hendrix, who has a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is a veteran of the opera. She’s performed at the San Francisco Opera and performs frequently with the Wichita Grand Opera. In fact, she just finished up a string of shows in Wichita in February before competing in the London Awards at the end of that month. She’s scheduled to perform at the Santa Fe Opera in Santa Fe, N.M. this summer.

She also said she has another competition in late March. She said she competes about 5-6 times per year.

“Even if you don’t win, you’ve at least sung in front of people who could hire you in the future,” she said.

With all her travels, Hendrix said she’s found a nice “home base” in Avila.

“It’s been really helpful,” she said. “Amity (Bryson, music professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences) and all the students have been great, just working with my hectic schedule. And, the more you sing, the more it helps you as a teacher, so I think it’s been mutually beneficial.”

According to Bryson, the latter statement couldn’t be more true.

“The London Auditions are second only to the Metropolitan Auditions in prestige for opera singers,” Bryson said. “I could not be more proud or excited for Suzanne. She has a phenomenal instrument and has represented herself and Avila marvelously. But what may be more important is her understanding of the voice and her ability to translate her talent into teachable moments for our students at Avila.”

Hendrix said she’s also found inspiration for her own music in working with her students at Avila.

“I have a student here who, with age, could have a voice just like mine,” she said. “We have some really hard workers here. They really apply themselves.

“That’s really nice. I feel like I can get a lot out of them.” AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434