Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program


Training Tomorrow's Stars Today!

The acclaimed Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program at Kentucky Opera brings young professional opera singers to Louisville to train and expand their experience as they prepare for their careers. With nearly 400 young singers auditioning for 9 positions, the Kentucky Opera Studio Artists offers some of the most talented upcoming voices to be heard in North America.

2016/17 Studio Artists

Rachel Blaustein, soprano, is thrilled to be making her company debut at Kentucky Opera as Peep-Bo in The Mikado and the resident soprano in the school touring program.  Ms. Blaustein recently returned to Des Moines Metro Opera for their 2016, covering the role of Eurydice in Gluck’s Orfée et Eurydice. She was a 2016 Mosher Studio Artist with Opera Santa Barbara where she performed the role of Giannetta and covered Adina in L’elisir d’amore as well as covered Lauretta and performed First Alm Sister in their double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Suor Angelica.  She made her professional debut with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2015 as Barena in Jenůfa and was a Studio Artist with Chautauqua Opera in 2013 covering the role of Nannetta in Falstaff.  Rachel made her Kennedy Center debut in 2015 and received an Encouragement Award from the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  A native of Olney, Maryland, Rachel holds a Master of Music in Voice from The Peabody Institute and a Bachelor’s degree in Voice and a minor in drama from Hofstra University.

Arthur Bosarge is thrilled to join the Studio Artist Program at Kentucky Opera for the 2016/17 season. Mr. Bosarge is a pianist and coach whose experience spans a variety of styles, including opera, recital, sacred, ballet, and music theater. Mr. Bosarge recently finished the 2015-2016 season as a Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist at Virginia Opera, where he served as pianist and music director for the fall and spring Education Tours. Other recent collaborations include Natchez Festival of Music, Opera North, 92Y Harkness Dance Center, American Ballet Theater Summer Workshop, Mannes Opera, Opera Birmingham, Theatre Tuscaloosa, and the University of Alabama Opera Theatre. Mr. Bosarge holds degrees from Mannes School of Music and The University of Alabama. 





Ryan C. Connelly, tenor, is thrilled to be cast for Nanki-poo in The Mikado, Pedrillo in Die Entührung and Goro in Madame Butterfly for the 2016/17 Kentucky Opera Season. Ryan has performed in numerous English, French, Latin, German and Italian operas. Some of his past performances include: Four Hymns (Vaughan Williams), The Land of Lost Content (John Ireland), In Native Worth (Haydn, Creation), Then Shall the Righteous (Mendelssohn, Elijah), If with all your hearts (Mendelssohn, Elijah), Messiah (Handel, tenor role), Waft her, angels (Handel, Jephte), The Seven Last Words of Christ (Dubois, tenor role). Ryan was a Kentucky Opera Young Artist in 2011 and named a Virginia Opera Emerging Artist in 2013. His training programs also include the Des Moines Metro Opera Young Artist program in 2015 and most recently, the Des Moines Metro Opera Ensemble Artist program in 2016. Ryan is a graduate of Temple University and received his M.M. in Vocal Performance from the University of Cincinnati.

Conor McDonald, baritone, is pleased to be making his company debut with Kentucky Opera for the 2016/17 season. His experience includes: Cardinal 3/Oracle 3 in Galileo Galilei, Dandini in La Cenerentola, Junius in The Rape of Lucretia, Spencer in Meet John Doe, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Tommy McIntyre in Fellow Travelers and many more. His oratorio, ensemble and music theater experience includes the ensemble in Jeanne d’Arc au bucher for the New York Philharmonic, Jesus in Johannespassion for the CCM, Ensemble for Curlew River at the Tanglewood Music Center and more. Conor has participated in the Castleton Artists in Training Seminar, the Tanglewood Music Center Vocal Fellowship and the Des Moines Metro Opera. Conor received his BM, BA from Northwestern University in 2012 and his MM at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2014.

Ashly Neumann, soprano, is thrilled to be making her company debut with Kentucky Opera, which includes performances as Kate Pinkerton (Madame Butterfly) and Blonde (The Abduction from the Seraglio). Her additional upcoming engagements include a return to Des Moines Metro Opera in summer 2016 as Poussette (Manon) and Marie Celeste (Galileo Galilei), a return to Opera Columbus as Blondchen (Mission: Seraglio), and her debut with Anchorage Opera as Young Alyce (Glory Denied). Ms. Neumann recently performed Young Alyce (Glory Denied) with Opera Idaho and was the First Place Winner of the 2016 Harold Haugh Light Opera Vocal Competition. In 2015, she performed Young Alyce (Glory Denied) with Syracuse Opera, the title role in Semele with Detroit’s Opera MODO, and was also an Apprentice Artist at Opera Saratoga, where she was praised by for her “wonderfully characterized and sung” Clorinda (La Cenerentola). Previously, Ms. Neumann was a featured soloist in Twisted with Opera Columbus, BalletMet Columbus and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Frasquita (Carmen) at Opera Grand Rapids, and has participated in prestigious programs across the country, including Apprentice Artist at Des Moines Metro Opera, The Song Continues at Carnegie Hall, and Voice Fellow at Music Academy of the West. She was Gold Medal and Audience Choice winner of the Young Texas Artists Competition and first place winner of the Mid-Texas Symphony Competition, with whom she has sung twice as featured soloist. Ms. Neumann holds a Master of Music from the University of Houston, where she performed leading roles, including Gilda (Rigoletto) and Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier).

Clara Nieman, praised for her “full mezzo” and her “tone, expression, and comic timing,” is thrilled to appear with Kentucky Opera this season as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado. In recent seasons Clara has sung Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro (Opera Saratoga), Olga in Eugene Onegin (Chautauqua Opera), Flora in La Traviata (Fort Worth Opera, Opera Birmingham, Opera Naples), The Contralto in The Four Note Opera (Opera Naples), the Mother in Hansel and Gretel (Performance Santa Fe), Meg in The Ballad of Baby Doe (Chautauqua Opera), Madeleine Audebert in Silent Night (Fort Worth Opera), and Sor Rosa in With Blood, With Ink (Fort Worth Opera). Other favorite roles performed include Angelina in La Cenerentola, Vera Boronel in The Consul, Clarina in Il Cambiale di matrimonio, and Grace Ansley in Roman Fever. Clara is an avid proponent of new music, and her performance in the professional premiere of With Blood, With Ink was recorded for Albany Records. She has also workshopped a number of new pieces, including the role of Mrs Which in Libby Larsen’s A Wrinkle in Time and as a frequent soloist for Fort Worth Opera’s annual “Frontiers” showcase of new works. Clara was recently awarded Fifth Prize in Opera Birmingham’s Vocal Competition and an Encouragement Award from the Tulsa district of the Met auditions. A frequent concert performer, in past seasons she has performed with the Saratoga Orchestra, the Chautauqua Symphony, the Fifth Avenue Chamber Orchestra, the Las Colinas Symphony, the Hall Ensemble, and the Cliburn Foundation. Clara has been a young artist with Opera Saratoga, Opera Naples, Fort Worth Opera, Chautauqua Opera, the Caramoor Festival, Opera New Jersey, the Baldwin-Wallace Art Song Festival, and Seagle Music Colony. She is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Indiana University.

Emily Yocum Black, Soprano is completing her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Louisville with plans to graduate May 2017. Emily is the Apprentice Studio Artist at Kentucky Opera and is performing in the chorus for the 2016-2017 season as well as working with the outreach and education program. Last year, she served as the School of Music Graduate Teaching Assistant in Voice where she maintained a full voice studio and taught courses in voice to non-majors. Recently, Emily won First Prize in the University of Louisville Aria Competition and the 2016 Grand Prize in the Kentucky Bach Choir Audrey Rooney Vocal Competition. Last year, Emily had the pleasure of performing as a soloist in Bernstein’s Mass with the Louisville Orchestra. Upcoming engagements include performing with the University Symphony Orchestra, presenting her Graduate Voice Recital and performing the role of Laurie in The Tenderland with U of L Opera Theatre. Previous roles with the U of L Opera program are Pamina in The Magic Flute (2016), Laetitia in The Old Maid and the Thief (2015) and Silverpeal in The Impresario (2015). She is also a three-year member of the Louisville Chamber Choir.