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Winners

The Wilkinson Young Singers Fund is pleased to announce the winners of its 2024 competition. The judges were impressed by the high caliber of the singers who applied and extend their gratitude to all applicants for their commitment to enriching the Boston-area vocal music scene and for their interest in sustaining the legacy of baritone Donald Wilkinson.

Music Sheets

2024 Winners

2024 Winners

First-prize winner:

Grace Heldridge

               
 

Grace Heldridge, a mezzo-soprano from Omaha, Nebraska, is an incoming member of the 2024/25 Internationales Opernstudio at Komische Oper Berlin. Heldridge makes her European debut as Windhexe/Gemüsefrau in Wittenbrink's Die Kleine Hexe later this fall. She performs as Amy Lawrence in Kurt Weill's Tom Sawyer next spring. She will spend the summer of 2024 as a studio artist with Opera Maine, performing the mezzo role in Ricky Ian Gordon and Mark Campbell's Rappahannock County. Last season marked multiple concert appearances, including Ravel's Shéhérazade with the Brookline Symphony Orchestra, Mozart's Requiem (alto soloist) with Glens Falls Symphony, and Bach's Cantata BWV 140 (soprano soloist) with Trinity Choir. Heldridge spent the summer of 2023 with Central City Opera as an Apprentice Artist, covering Lois Lane/Bianca in Kiss Me, Kate. She was awarded the Cady Young Artist Award. Her two previous summers were spent at the Seagle Festival performing in Hello, Dolly! (Dolly), The Fantasticks (Bellomy), and Cendrillon (Dorothée).

 

Heldridge is a graduate of Boston Conservatory at Berklee (M.M. Opera ’23), where she studied with Rebecca Folsom. Productions with BCB include L'Étoile (Lazuli), Le Nozze di Figaro (Cherubino), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Hermia), As One (Hannah Older), Albert Herring (Nancy), and La Clemenza di Tito (Annio). She was named the 2022/2023 Miles A. Fish III Scholar. Heldridge received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas (B.M. Voice ’21), studying with Joyce Castle. She won the Haven Preyer Award for Voice in 2021 and was a Met Opera Laffont Competition Encouragement Winner (Tulsa District) the same year.

 

Learn more at graceheldridge.com.

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Second-prize winner:

Alexandra Henderson

                

 

Alexandra Henderson is an award-winning soprano from Oneonta, New York, based in the Boston area. In 2024, she was named the third-prize winner in the Scholarship Division of the Carolyn Bailey Argento Vocal Competition sponsored by the National Opera Association, and previously won the third-place prize at the John Alexander National Vocal Competition and the second-place award in the NATS TEXOMA Classical Treble Category.

As an avid performer in Boston and beyond, Alexandra was recently a soloist in the New York Times-featured world premiere of Robert Patterson’s New York Stories. She regularly performs concert works and was a soloist with the Rivers Symphony Orchestra’s “Drama at the Symphony,” as well as in Vivaldi’s Gloria at the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul. Alexandra was a member of the Janiec Opera Company in 2023 with the Brevard Music Festival, where she performed the lead role of The Governess in Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw — a role she premiered at the New England Conservatory in 2022. Alexandra is on the chorus roster for the Boston Lyric Opera and performs as a member of the Schola at the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul.

Alexandra holds a Master’s Degree from the New England Conservatory of Music in Vocal Performance with academic honors and a B.M. in Vocal Performance from the Meadows School of Music at Southern Methodist University. Alexandra is passionate about sharing the joy of music as a teaching artist in the Boston community and beyond.

Learn more at alexandrahendersonsoprano.com.

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“Deh Vieni, Non Tardar” from

Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“I Don’t Need a Roof” from Big Fish 
by Andrew Lippa

2023 Winners
Music Sheets

2023 Winners

First-prize winner:

Emma Robertson

                


 

Originally from Marietta, Georgia, Emma Robertson is a lyric soprano living in Boston, having earned her master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the New England Conservatory in 2022. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from the University of Georgia, where she studied with mezzo-soprano Dr. Elizabeth Johnson-Knight. Emma currently studies with baritone Michael Meraw. In her short time living in New England, Emma has made her way into the Boston classical music scene. Recently, she was the soprano soloist for a performance of the Mozart Requiem with the Quincy Choral Society. She will be performing the role of  Cinderella in a production of Into the Woods with the Actors Company of Natick. In addition to her work as a stage performer, Emma is a frequent recitalist and has performed in Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire.

 

Learn more at erobertsonsoprano.com.

Second-prize winner:

Isabel Randall

               
 

Isabel Randall is a civic-engaged mezzo-soprano from Rota, Spain. She recently received her Graduate Performance Diploma in Voice from Longy School of Music of Bard College, and returns to Des Moines Metro Opera for summer 2023 as a second-year Apprentice Artist. Isabel’s most recent performances include Boston Lyric Opera’s production of Omar and Longy’s production of Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo. Isabel was also named a 2023 semi-finalist in Annapolis Opera’s 35th Annual Voice Competition. 

 

Isabel is passionate about increasing the accessibility of opera. She partners regularly with Opera unMet and Boston Opera Collaborative to bring opera to communities, organizations, and schools throughout the greater Boston area. In January 2023, she premiered the role of Mable in Boston Opera Collaborative’s world-premiere production of Mary D. Watkins and Anita Gonalez’s micro opera Courthouse Bells, centering around African American voting rights. Isabel is also an avid poet and writes under the name “The Inquisitive Typist.” She was awarded a 2023 Emerging Artist Award from St. Botolph Club Foundation for a staged song cycle titled “Five Short Pieces - The Inquisitive Typist,” composed by New England composer Ben Russman. This song cycle was written by Isabel and describes the impact of COVID-19. 

 

Learn more at isabelrandall.com.

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2022 Winners
Music Sheets

2022 Winners

First-prize winner:

Ryan Lustgarten

                


 

Born and raised in Kirkland, Washington, tenor Ryan Lustgarten concluded his tenure at the Boston University Opera Institute in May of 2022. He received his Bachelor of Music in Voice and Opera Performance from Washington State University in 2016 and his Master’s Degree in Voice & Opera from Northwestern University in 2020, during which he performed a wide variety of operatic roles. Ryan’s most recent season has consisted of performing opera with the Boston University Opera Institute, Central City Opera, Shreveport Opera, City Lyric Opera, and Des Moines Metro Opera; early music with Upper Valley Baroque in New Hampshire; and concert work with Symphony New Hampshire. Ryan spent two summers singing operatic roles for the Brancaleoni International Music Festival in Piobbico, Italy, and served as tenor section leader of the choir at Boston’s Saint Cecilia Parish. Away from the stage, he enjoys a quiet moment alone with a book, anything and everything Star Wars, and pickup soccer on the weekends.

 

Follow him on Instagram at @ryanlustgarten.

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Second-prize winner:

Omar Najmi

               
 

Praised for performances that “radiated joy” (Boston Globe) and “stole every scene” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), tenor Omar Najmi holds an M.M. from Boston University and a B.M. from Ithaca College. His upcoming engagements include his debut with Portland Opera as Shakur in Thumbprint, Rodolfo in La Bohème with Opera Steamboat, Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet with Boston Lyric Opera (in a free production on Boston Common), and the creation of the role of Bilal in the premiere of This Is Not That Dawn with Catalyst New Music, a Boston-based organization that he co-founded. Recent performances include tenor soloist in St. John Passion and San Giovanni in La Resurrezione with Emmanuel Music, the creation of the title role in Hamlet with State Opera Rousse, Alfredo in La Traviata with MassOpera, Tito in La Clemenza di Tito with Opera Steamboat, tenor soloist in BWV 61 with Upper Valley Baroque, and Sing Out Strong: Remembered Voices with White Snake Projects. Also active as a composer, Omar looks forward to the premieres of his motet The Last Invocation commissioned by Emmanuel Music — and his second opera This Is Not That Dawn.

 

Learn more at omarnajmi.com.

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2021 Winners
Music Sheets

2021 Winners

First-prize winner:

Kaileigh Riess

               
 

Massachusetts native Kaileigh Riess was honored to be the first-place recipient of the inaugural Wilkinson Young Singers Award in 2021. Hailed as “appealing and fresh-voiced” (Chicago Tribune) and “the standout…an engaging singer and actor” (The Daily Camera), Kaileigh can next be seen on the operatic stage in the roles of Lucy in Fellow Travelers and Violetta/Annina in La traviata at Virginia Opera and in concert in Stars and Stripes: a Musical Salute with Seaglass Theatre Company. Kaileigh is a proud alumna of the Boston University Opera Institute, where she was seen as Anne Trulove (The Rake’s Progress) and Maria Bertram (Mansfield Park). On the competition circuit, Kaileigh was named a Boston District winner and an LA District Encouragement Award winner in the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition, a Third Place Award winner of the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition, and an award-winning finalist in the Lotte Lenya Competition. Kaileigh completed her earlier education at Northwestern University (BM Voice, BA English), the University of Southern California (MM Opera), spending her summers as a fellow with Central City Opera, IVAI Tel Aviv, Music Academy of the West, and Des Moines Metro Opera. Kaileigh is represented by Encompass Arts.

Learn more at kaileighriess.com.

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Second-prize winner:

David Thomas Mather

                

 

Baritone David Thomas Mather is a versatile and adaptive vocalist, an avid early music practitioner, and a musical theater enthusiast. He thrives when performing in a variety of styles, most notably vocal chamber music, Lieder, and art song. A professional chorister, he sings primarily as a member of the Boston-based Carduus ensemble and works as a section leader and cantor. He recently debuted with The Boston Camerata in their production of Dido and Aeneas: An Opera for Distanced Lovers and their Play of Daniel project tour, and has appeared with the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, Lowell House Opera, the Utah Symphony Chorus, and the Grand Teton Music Festival Chorus. In May of 2021, he received his Master of Music degree in Historical Performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College.

Learn more at davidtmather.com.

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Winterreise, D. 911, No. XXIV:

“Der Leiermann” by Franz Schubert

“Falling Slowly” from Once: The Musical 

by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

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