A! Magazine for the Arts

Hillary Ginther portraying the title role in <em>Carmen</em>.

Hillary Ginther portraying the title role in Carmen.

Young Bristol Woman plans to Study Opera in Italy

September 10, 2007

Hilary Ginther, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Ginther of Bristol, is completing a degree in Music at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) as a voice performance major, and is well on her way to starting a career as a young opera singer. At the young age of 22, Hilary has studied extensively with world renowned teachers and coaches from all over the globe.

Her journey to becoming a singer began right here in Bristol when she became a cantor and soloist at her home parish, St. Anne's Catholic Church, at age nine. For four years she was also a member of the East Tennessee Children's Choir under the direction of Beth P. McCoy of Abingdon, Va. Hilary began taking private voice lessons from McCoy, at which point her classical singing training began. At the young age of 13, she entered the Bland Memorial Music Scholarship Competition hosted by the Bristol Host Lion's Club. The competition was open only to high school students, but as an eager 8th grader, she convinced the board to let her compete just to experience her first vocal competition. Hilary won first place in the competition, and her musical talent was realized.

Throughout high school, Hilary continued studying private voice and, following her sophomore year, she was accepted into the North Carolina School of the Arts Summer Voice Program. Following that program, she began studying with Mark Owen Davis, now of Kingsport, Tenn. Hilary describes this time in her study as "my years of most significant growth as a young singer. Mark was and still is a tremendous influence in my life as an extremely passionate teacher, and a wonderful bass-baritone as well."

When asked about Hilary's talent, Davis says, "Hilary is one of the few I've ever met who literally seems born to sing professionally. With her, there is a passion, an inner fire in the marrow of her bones to bring the larger than life drama and beauty of opera alive through her whole being as an instrument. To that end, she possesses the rarest trait of all-a ferocious commitment and work ethic which will tie all of her prodigious talents and instincts together through countless hours and years of hard work. That is what the great artists are made of."

Continuing through high school, Hilary swept all of the local competitions and was eager to take the next step. She then met Dr. Maryann Kyle, who was teaching at East Tennessee State University, and began studying with both Dr. Kyle and Davis. As she approached graduation, a wonderful opportunity arose. Dr. Kyle was offered a position on the voice faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi where the performance opportunities for undergraduates is unparalleled. All opera performances at the university are sung with the school's own symphony orchestra, which is world class. The Southern Mississippi Symphony Orchestra has performed with such musical celebrities as Denyce Graves, Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Sir James Galway, Patty La Belle, Dionne Warwick, Ana Maria Martinez, and world famous tenor Placido Domingo.

Hilary enrolled at USM in the fall of 2003 with the highest vocal scholarship offered, and hit the ground running. Her freshman year, she performed her first operatic role as the Second Lady in Mozart's Die Zauberflote. She was also an active competitor that year, winning first place in the Mississippi Music Teachers Association Vocal Competition where one of the judges said that Hilary's singing reminded her of "a young Maria Callas." She went on to also win the state level of the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. Her sophomore year at USM was no less exciting when she performed in her first musical, Rogers and Hammerstein's A Grand Night for Singing. She then performed in her second opera as Mrs. McLean in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah.

Hilary was eager to continue her studies in the summer so she auditioned for the Daniel Ferro Vocal Program in Greve in Chianti, Italy. She was accepted into the prestigious program under The Juilliard School professor, Daniel Ferro, who has trained many successful singers, including Kathleen Battle. In this intensive program, Hilary studied with coaches and teachers from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, and the U.S. She still holds a coaching relationship with one of the faculty from the program, Robert Kopelson, who teaches at The Manhattan School of Music.

After returning from Italy, Hilary was more inspired than ever to keep performing. By this time, the University's Southern Opera and Musical Theatre program had developed a partnership with the Mississippi Opera Company, and Hilary was cast as Annina in Verdi's La Traviata, and performed the role under Mississippi Opera director Alan Mann. That spring, Hilary performed her first lead role as Maria in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story at USM with full orchestra.

In the fall of 2006, Hilary broke into performing opportunities outside of the University, and was cast in her first professional opera as Mrs. Jaffett in Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde with the Mississippi Opera. During that time, she also traveled to Greensboro, N.C. to participate in the Charles A. Lynam Vocal Competition, and was one of six finalists from the U.S., Canada and Korea. Following that competition she went on to win first place at the southern regional and Mississippi state levels of the NATS competition.

Continuing the partnership between USM and the Mississippi Opera, Hilary was cast as the title role in Bizet's Carmen. She performed the role at USM and in Jackson alongside professionals Daniel Holmes (Don Jose) and Oziel Garza-Ornelas (Escamillo).

Just this May, Hilary was selected as a semi-finalist in the Birmingham Opera Competition, and was the youngest competitor. In December, Hilary traveled to New York City to audition for several young artist programs, and she was accepted into the Lake George Opera Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York. She is one of only 12 artists who were chosen for the program out of more than 560 applicants.

This summer she sang the role of Leonie in Offenbach's La Vie Parisienne while studying with directors Curtis Tucker and John Douglass of the Lake George Opera. This is Hilary's last year at USM, and she will be singing the role of Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro in the spring with the Mississippi Opera.

When she graduates in May, her journey as an opera singer will continue. In the spring of 2009, Hilary will spend six months studying, singing, and immersing herself in the opera world in Rome, Italy. Hilary says, "Italy is where opera was born, and if I am going to justly sing opera, I want to study it in its homeland."

Hilary's current voice teacher has worked with her now for more than four years. Dr. Maryann Kyle says, "Hilary is a gifted singer. Of that there is no doubt. However, Hilary possesses something much more special than just a beautiful voice. She is a consummate artist and performer who can successfully communicate each and every nuance in her music. Because of her voice, drive and desire to share her music with the world, she is a favorite of teachers, coaches, conductors and, most importantly audiences. I rarely encounter students that have the 'total package' of brains, drive, talent and beauty in teaching. Hilary has that 'total package,' and will no doubt have the career of her dreams."