OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University sophomore Kimberly Waite has won the international classical music equivalent of being a contestant on “American Idol.”
The 19-year-old Ogden native is one of only 30 vocalists worldwide to be invited to attend the University of Miami’s prestigious Summer Academy at Salzburg College in Austria. From July 12 to August 14, Waite will live in Mozart’s hometown and spend 15 hours a week learning German, two hours a week receiving voice lessons from world-class performers and professors, and participating in music-themed tours and field trips of Salzburg.
During her stay in Austria, Waite and the other vocalists in the program will have a crash course on Mozart, Schubert and German art songs and arias, which they will perform at public recitals that coincide with the annual Salzburg Music Festival. For Waite, who aspires to become an opera singer, it’s a life-changing opportunity.
Waite’s journey to Austria began more than a year ago, when she won a Classical Singer magazine competition held in Utah. At the magazine’s national competition in San Francisco, she met Esther Jane Hardenbergh, a judge at the event. Hardenbergh, a University of Miami music professor and director of the school’s summer academy in Salzburg, encouraged Waite to apply for the study abroad program.
Earlier this year, Waite submitted an audition disk of herself singing German art songs and arias. After initially declining Waite because she was too young, within a week the review board reconsidered and extended an invitation, even though the program typically accepts upperclassmen and graduate students.
Waite’s immediate focus is on raising the $9,000 she needs to cover tuition and expenses for her five-week trip to Austria. She held a benefit recital at WSU in late May for family and friends.
Waite’s musical ability should come as no surprise, given that her father and mother first met in a choir, and her extended family has a musical background. By ninth grade, Waite started taking voice lessons and envisioned a career in musical theater.
“You learn classical vocal first because it pushes the vocal cords and establishes strength,” Waite said. It was during this time that Waite had an epiphany. “I realized it was easier for me to do classical than pop/rock or Broadway. It fit my voice better.”
By her junior year at Bonneville High School, Waite had decided to perform classically oriented music. She credits Bonneville’s performing arts programs for supporting her by staging older Broadway musicals like “Carousel,” which were better suited to her singing style.
She has gone on to win vocalist honors at the Utah State Fair and to appear in Hale Center Theatre productions in West Valley City, including “A Christmas Carol” and “The Secret Garden.”
Waite enrolled at Weber State in fall 2007 and is majoring in vocal performance with an emphasis in opera. She recently began studying under WSU music professor Karen Brookens-Potter. Eventually, Waite plans to study at a conservatory, but she recognizes it’s a long, uncertain path to becoming an opera singer, considering her voice won’t develop enough to perform a full opera until she’s in her mid to late 20s.
“It takes talent, hard work and luck,” Waite said. “Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”
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