VIDEO: A stolen opera audition leads student to Webster music program
Incoming Webster University student Lauren Honz didn’t think of herself as someone who liked opera. Her older sister, Rachel Honz, received an invitation to audition for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Artists-in-Training (AIT) program. Lauren Honz stole her sister’s invitation and auditioned on her birthday. She says it was one of the best decisions she ever made.
Lauren Honz didn’t listen to opera or even love it before her audition. She decided to sing for a living after she made it in to the Monsanto’s (AIT program. It was this program that led Lauren Honz to Webster University.
Video by Kristen Schubert
Webster’s Department of Music’s four hour-long audition includes a sight singing, ear-training, and music theory test. Piano diagnostics, observing how students interact as a group, and interviews with faculty are also part of the competitive audition.
Chair of the Department of Music Dr. Jeffrey Cartersays the University takes 2/3 of students who audition. It’s still in the audition process, but Carter says 75 students will try out for the department. The University will take about 35 of those students.
A vocal performance major like Honz is required to take three semesters of foreign language. Carter says the department encourages students to take a year each of Italian, German, and French. Honz, who’s fluent in French, prepared several songs with her voice teacher before her audition.
Music majors take four semesters of theory and sight-singing and ear-training courses right off the bat. Students will take music history classes in the second year. Applied lessons on a primary instrument, piano lessons, and ensemble is required every semester. Juniors and seniors take literature, diction, and pedagogy, or teaching courses.
“There’s a lot of singing,” Carter said.
Carter says that the individual attention students get sets Webster apart from other music schools.
Although there isn’t a national ranking for music departments, students who apply to Webster also apply at national named schools. This includes Millikin University, Belmont, Lawrence Conservatory, and the University of Michigan. Carter says Webster competes with these schools for students.
The smaller atmosphere, more personal attention, and a humane audition process attract students and parents to Webster’s music department.
Honz also decided to attend Webster for this reason.
“Everyone was so kind and so welcoming and they just acted like they really wanted me to go [to Webster],” Honz said. “I didn’t get that feeling from any other university.”
Honz said it was Webster that “hooked” her, even though she made it into the other schools.
Singer at seven
Lauren Honz began singing at seven. Her mom had her tryout for the St. Louis Children’s Choirs. Honz continued to sing with the organization throughout her childhood. She says her love for the art came from her time with the choir.
“I absolutely loved the magic that you got from singing with people and the bonds you have through musicianship.”
Honz was a freshman in high school when she sang her first solo. She tried out for state competitions and found she was successful. Honz moved on to voice lessons in the tenth grade and tried out for the AIT program her junior year.
The Monsanto AITprogram seeks students from high schools across the St. Louis area. Opera professionals coach the students with weekly voice lessons. The program also offers scholarships and master classes with visiting artists. AIT’s goal is to find students like Honz who will further their career in music or sing professionally.
Honz auditioned for the AIT program in front of ten Opera Theatre of St. Louis voice teachers and vocal coaches. She remembers how nervous the audition was, but Honz got the call she’d been waiting for. She made it into the program.
AIT assigned Honz a new voice teacher and vocal coach after the audition. She sang with them weekly and attended the master classes. Honz says she was awarded many experiences with the Opera Theatre. She went to Jazz at the Bistro and saw performances at the Sheldon Concert Hall. She even took a college trip to Chicago her junior year.
“I learned so much from all of them,” Honz said.
Honz co-won a scholarship from AIT her senior year. The program holds a recital at the end of the year. Honz was awarded the top $4,000 Monsanto scholarship with another student. The $2,000 goes towards singing travel plans, college tuition, or voice lessons.
Honz pays for her private voice lessons right now.
She practices every Sunday with her voice teacher Noel Prince. Prince is a full-time voice teacher at Washington University and a 1998 Webster graduate. Prince still teaches voice lessons through Webster University after 15 years.
Prince believes students are born with the ability to sing. She says Honz was born with an immense gift.
“She has a beautiful timbre to her voice and she also has a very significant ability to be able to express herself through music, which is absolutely essential to achieving the optimum ability of the voice.”
Singers have words with a meaning behind them. A singer must play a different character, sing to different people, or sing to another part of oneself. Prince is confident Honz has the ability to express any character when she sings.
Honz hopes to sing professionally and act in an opera. She would also love to teach. Honz says the best thing about music is the spirituality, whether she listens to it or sings.
“For me, I sing for the glory of God,” Honz said. “It’s just something magical that moves you.”