Ouachita Baptist University senior Bethany Swiontek received an Encouragement Award at this year’s Arkansas District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions held recently at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Swiontek, a musical theatre major from Colorado Springs, Colo., along with two other participants, received the award and a financial stipend from the Opera Club of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas District Auditions program, the purpose of the award is to “provide encouragement to those singers who show great potential but were not chosen to move to the regional auditions.”

When it was announced that Swiontek had received the award, she said she was “so incredibly shocked that I kind of stood there for a second before I realized, ‘Oh, it wasn’t a mistake!’”

“Bethany came to OBU with a solid foundation in singing and an already shimmering stage presence,” said Dr. Margaret Garrett, assistant professor of music and Swiontek’s voice teacher. “She has a rare aptitude for singing. … I was thrilled when I found out that she had been given an Encouragement Award.”

Swiontek was one of 18 competitors at the event, including Ouachita student Caitlin Secrest, a junior vocal performance major from Arkadelphia, Ark., and OBU alumna Grace Johnson. Singers were required to prepare five opera arias of different styles and languages, including English, French, German and Italian.

Swiontek sang “Oh, Robert, Robert” from Robert le diable by Giacomo Meyerbeer for her first piece. The judges chose her second piece, “Ach, ich, fühl’s” from Die Zauberflöte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, from the list she submitted. Her vocal coach, Louis Menendez, accompanied her.

Opera singers and directors Dean Anthony, Caroll Freeman and Eric Halfvarson judged the auditions. They were “incredibly kind and gave me some very valuable advice to apply, not only to my singing right now, but to my future singing as well,” Swiontek said. “There is nothing more encouraging than hearing you’re doing and learning things correctly from directors and performers who are doing that very thing with their lives right now.”

“She is very confident in her abilities as a musical theater performer, and I think receiving this award has given her a much-needed confidence boost in her capabilities as a performer of classical music as well,” Garrett said. “Being able to sing in a wide variety of styles can help open doors to performing opportunities for her in the future.”

While at Ouachita, Swiontek has performed the roles of Third Lady in The Magic Flute, Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel and will play Dolly in the upcoming Hello, Dolly!, as well as several nonmusical roles. She is a two-time nominee for the Irene Ryan Musical Theater Award, participated in the “Broadway Comes to Denver” summer program and was a first place winner in the 2011 Mid-South Regional National Association of Teachers of Singing Auditions.

For more information, contact Dr. Margaret Garrett at garrettm@obu.edu or (870) 245-5271.

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