Sandford Studio Artist Program

The acclaimed Barbara & Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program at Kentucky Opera brings young professional opera singers to Louisville as apprentices to expand their performance experience. With over 400 singers auditioning for limited positions each year, the program features some of the most talented upcoming voices to be heard worldwide.

The Sandford Studio Artist Program provides tailored training experiences and career guidance for emerging opera singers at an important stage in their career. Studio Artists have typically completed their graduate studies in voice and are looking to cultivate their training through mainstage experiences. Studio Artists gain exclusive access to professional artists, conductors, directors, coaches, as well as other professional development opportunities. In addition, Studio Artists have the opportunity to sing in recitals, concerts, participate in master classes, and represent Kentucky Opera in various community and patron cultivation programs.

Previous projects have featured Studio Artists as principals in collaborative semi-staged concert operas with regional partner orchestras and arts partners; education and family audience programming; and the Composer Workshop, a composer in residence project with the University of Louisville School of Music. Composers in Residence in the Composer Workshop have included Jake Heggie, Ben Moore, Daron Hagen, and Paul Moravec. Professional development opportunities include coachings, lessons and masterclasses with industry professionals.

2022-2023 Barbara & Halsey Sandford Studio Artists

Catherine Goode, soprano

Praised for her “sparkling soprano” (Greater Lansing Ubiquitous Theatre) and “charming” and “delicious interpretation” (Arts Louisville), coloratura soprano Catherine Goode’s 2022-2023 season includes role/house debuts at Central City Opera and Salt Marsh Opera and a return to Kentucky Opera. Her 2021-2022 season included Merola Opera Program’s 2021 summer season, role debuts at Virginia Opera, and a role/house debut at Kentucky Opera. Previously, Catherine sang in concert with Opera in the Heights, has held a vocal fellowship with RISE Camp at Crested Butte Music Festival, and she appeared in young artist and training programs with Opera Columbus (2019-2020), Des Moines Metro Opera (2018, 2019), Virginia Opera (2018-2019), and Seagle Festival (2016, 2017).  Favorite roles performed include Controller (Flight), Lucia, (Lucia di Lammermoor), Königinder Nacht (Die Zauberflöte), Adina (L’elisir d’amore), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), and Cunegonde (Candide). As a soloist, Catherine has sung the soprano solo in Carmina Burana and Messiah, among others. She is an avid recitalist and frequently programs the works of living and female composers. She has had competition success in numerous states, including being named a 2020 Region Finalist for the MONC –Great Lakes Region.  Additionally, Catherine is a member of mirabai, a professional women’s ensemble. A native of Friendswood, Texas, she holds degrees from the University of Houston (BM – Performance/Education) and Michigan State University (MM -Performance).

Sankara Harouna, baritone

Baritone Sankara Harouna hails from the Southside of Chicago, Il, and studied music at Kentucky State University. He began his musical journey in the traditional arts of West African culture, music and drumming, and has had the opportunity to perform across the country singing different styles of music from jazz to gospel to classical. For the 2022-2023 season, Sankara makes his debut with Dayton Opera in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird as Dizzy Gillespie. In the summer 2022, he portrayed the role of Nelson in the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess with Des Moines Metro Opera. He also was a part of the Frank R. Brownell III Apprentice Artist Program with DMMO. He made his debut with The Atlanta Opera in The Pirates of Penzance as Samuel and the role of Fiorello in  The Barber of Seville. In 2021, he portrayed the role of The Officer in  The Barber of Seville with Cincinnati Opera where he was slated to be a 2020 Young Artist. Sankara also portrayed the role of Derrick Wheatt in Cincinnati Opera’s 2019 World Premiere of Blind Injustice. Sankara has also performed numerous times with Kentucky Opera, including performing The Page in Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, First Prison Guard in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, and a featured soloist in Holiday Celebration 2021.He was part of the 2018 inaugural class of Canto Vocal Programs singing the role of Antonio in The Marriage of Figaro, a lead jazz vocalist with the Avant-Garde Hip HOpera by David Boykin, and was a featured artist in the Six Degrees Women Composers Concert where he sang compositions by Regina Harris Baiocchi and Ann E. Ward. Sankara is excited to return to Kentucky Opera as part of the Barbara & Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program to perform the roles of Jim in David Conte’s The Gift of the Magi and cover the role of Dandini in Cinderella.

Georgia Jacobson, soprano

A native of Duluth, Minnesota, French-born, Greek-American mezzo-soprano Georgia Jacobson’s recent engagements in 2022 include covering the role Virginia Woolf in the world premiere/concert version of The Hours by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Gregory Pierce at the The Philadelphia Orchestra, covering the role of Hermia in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Des Moines Metro Opera, as well as her debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at the University of Cincinnati- CCM. In March 2022, Jacobson returned home to Minnesota to premiere two song cycles, both commissioned for her by The Schubert Club and composed by Carol Barnett (Young/Old Witches, Bat) and Linda Kachelmeier (Lake Superior Songs). In previous seasons, she covered Mary Johnson (Fellow Travelers) as an Apprentice Artist at Des Moines Metro Opera (2021), and premiered the role of Sage (Everything Comes to A Head) with Lyric Opera of the North (2021). In January of 2021, Jacobson was a Metropolitan National Council Encouragement Award winner in the South Carolina district. Additionally, Ms. Jacobson won 1st Place in the National Opera Association’s 2020 Carolyn Bailey and Dominick Argento Vocal Competition. Jacobson has a special affinity for French repertoire, and she was proud to make her professional debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in their production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges as Maman/Tasse/La libellule under the baton of Maestro Louis Langrée.  A consummate musician and lover of new music, she workshopped the roles of Virginia Woolf (The Hours), Ruth (Awakenings) and Vesta (Fierce) with Opera Fusion: New Works and Cincinnati Opera.  Her other recent roles include Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflote) and Endimione (La Calisto) with CCM Opera, as well as Giannetta (L’Elisir d’Amore) with Lyric Opera of the North. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Voice Performance from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and Master’s of Music (Voice) from University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music, where she has recently received an Artist Diploma (Opera Performance).  

David Mamedov, piano

David Mamedov is a multi-faceted pianist who regularly appears in concert as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral pianist, vocal pianist, and contemporary musician. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Mannes College of Music in New York City, and a Master’s in Piano Chamber Music from Rice University. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he is a first generation American in a family of immigrants from the Soviet Union, and studied locally at the Toedtman School of Music with Luba Fedorov until beginning his undergraduate studies at Mannes. He has performed in major American venues including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center and has toured several countries in Europe as a member of the Ovanima Piano Trio.  

Victoria Okafor, soprano

Victoria Okafor, soprano

Praised for her silvery-voiced soprano (Seen and Heard International), soprano Victoria Okafor has sung with opera companies such as Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Birmingham and Opera Columbus. Miss Okafor graduated from Shenandoah University where she received a Bachelor of Music in voice performance. Roles included Belinda; Dido and Aeneas, Ms. Wordsworth; Albert Herring, and Pamina; Die Zauberflöte. She received her master’s degree in voice performance and her artist diploma in opera performance at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she sang the role of Servilia in La clemenza di Tito, and was a soprano soloist for their semi-staged performance of Bach’s Johannes-Passion. Miss Okafor’s 2019 season included her debut with Cincinnati Opera as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro followed by the role of Alesha in the new opera Blind Injustice. The role of Alesha was created by Miss Okafor during the opera’s original workshop at Cincinnati Opera. She has also originated the roles of Wilhelmina in Gregory Spears’s Castor and Patience, Nyomi in William Menefield’s Fierce, and Laura in Kevin Puts’s The Hours. The Hours will premiere at The Metropolitan Opera and star singers Renee Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, and Kelli O’Hara. During the pandemic Miss Okafor enjoyed being a part of numerous projects like Angela Brown’s Opera From A Sistah’s Point Of View, Cincinnati Opera at 100 with Cincinnati Opera and the Mozart Requiem with the Kentucky Symphony as a featured soloist. Miss Okafor was an encouragement award recipient for the 2021 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, first place winner for Catapult Opera’s 2020 Accelerate Competition and a winner of the 2021 Lotte Lenya Competition through the Kurt Weill Foundation.

Marquita Richardson, soprano

Marquita Richardson is a full lyric soprano and voiceover artist from Pottstown, Pennsylvania, now based in Lexington, Kentucky. A proud alumna of Oakwood University, where she studied Biology, Marquita was also a longstanding member of the world-renowned Aeolian concert choir (with Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand). She changed career paths and went on to study vocal performance under the direction of Dr. Lloyd Mallory, Jr. as a member of the Lloyd Mallory Singers and as a student of Music at Delaware State University. 

In the spring of 2018, Marquita won an Alltech Scholarship and transferred to the University of Kentucky (UK) where she currently studies under the direction of Dr. Everett McCorvey. 

Marquita’s natural ardor and broad vocal range have afforded her an array of opportunities, including performing leading roles for the University of Kentucky’s Opera Theatre (Mimì in La Bohème, 2022; Abigail in The Crucible, 2021; Angelica in Suor Angelica, 2019), performing in shows for Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera, and the Louisville Orchestra, voicing audiobooks, commercials, and radio show characters, and singing in concert across the United States and abroad. She believes in creating a more empathetic world through art and great storytelling. 

Kyle White, baritone

Praised for his “commanding, polished” singing, the 2022/2023 sees American Baritone Kyle White as Nardo in a co-production of La finta giardiniera with Opera NEO and The Hungarian State Opera, as Schaunard in La bohème at Kentucky Opera, and at Virginia Opera to perform the role of Samuel and cover The Modern Major General in The Pirates of Penzance, perform the role of Tommy McIntyre and cover Hawkins Fuller in Fellow Travelers, and cover (with one sung performance) Giorgio Germont in La Traviata. Recent seasons have seen Mr. White at Palm Beach Opera as an Apprentice Artist, where he covered Le Dancaïre in Carmen, Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas, Schaunard in La bohème, and both Lorenzo and Capellio in I Capuleti e i Montecchi.  Other notable credits include Older Thompson in Glory Denied, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, John Sorel in The Consul, the Baritone in Hydrogen Jukebox, Le Geôlier in Dialogues des Carmélites, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, Harold Hill in The Music Man, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro and Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, and Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Mr. White was a winner of the Florida district in the 2022 Laffont competition, and encouragement award winner of the North Carolina district in 2021.

Mr. White holds a B.M. in Voice Performance from Michigan State University, and a M.M. in Opera Performance from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Jason Zacher

Jason Zacher, bass-baritone

American Bass-Baritone Jason Zacher is a native of New Jersey and is quickly gaining attention on a national level as a rising new talent and a versatile performer. In the summer of 2022, Mr. Zacher returned to Des Moines Metro Opera, singing the role of Jim in the Midwest premiere of American Apollo (Geter/Palmer), as well as covering Bottom and Theseus in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Some of Mr. Zacher’s notable opera performance credits to date include Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro), Raimondo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Prince Gremin (Eugene Onegin), Angelotti (Tosca), Oliver Jordan (Dinner at Eight), the title role in Don Pasquale, and William Jennings Bryan (The Ballad of Baby Doe). Mr. Zacher is also a much in demand interpreter of contemporary opera, and has created roles in several world premieres, notably: Male Admirer in Karim Al-Zand’s The Leader, Artie in Anthony Brandt’s Kassandra, and Sir Oliver in Robert Nelson’s The School for Scandal.  

Equally at home on the concert stage, Jason has performed the bass solos in Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Hercules at the Crossroads (BWV213), Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel

Jason Zacher holds degrees from both the University of Houston (M.M. Vocal Performance) and Montclair State University (B.M. Music Education).