13 applicants hoping to receive scholarships from Opera Club of The Villages

Members of The Opera Club of The Villages will face tough decisions when it comes to selecting the latest recipients for their Harold Schwartz Music Scholarships.

For the first time in 23 years, the Opera Club was forced to cancel plans to hold live auditions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, applicants were asked to apply via cell phone videos, which resulted in applications being received from students at The Villages Charter School, Leesburg High School, Umatilla High School, Tavares High School, Lake Minneola High School, Mount Dora High School and Forest High School. In addition to two vocalists, musicians playing percussion, piano, bassoon, French horn, oboe, trumpet, tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, violin, flute and baritone also applied.

The applicants have been accepted at Stetson University, University of Central Florida, University of Miami, Vanderbilt University, Bethune-Cookman University, University of Florida, Florida State University, Rollins College and the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University.

A panel of five professional judges has been asked to review each recording and complete a summary scoring sheet by April 10. A preliminary ranking will then be the starting point of discussions in a judges’ Zoom meeting to develop the final rankings. Scholarships of $10,000, $8,000, $6,000 and $4,000 will be tentatively assigned for the winners, which will be approved by the club’s board of directors.

This year, for the safety of the students and their families, winners won’t be required to perform at the annual Showcase of Champions concert at the April Opera Club meeting. Each applicant will be notified of competition results by a letter sent to their home addresses.

At the April 22 Opera Club meeting at Laurel Manor Recreation Center – the first in-person meeting in more than a year – the group plans to play the audition recordings before announcing the scholarship winners, according to Opera Club President Gerri Piscitelli.

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