Young Artists Program

Professional Diploma in Opera Program
Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts
in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater 

The Professional Diploma in Opera Program offers singers and pianists of exceptional career promise two years of continued guidance in their development as artists. On a scholarship basis, participants receive weekly voice lessons, vocal and dramatic coaching, seminars, and performance classes concentrating on audition preparation with CCPA’s illustrious faculty. In addition to recital programs and further operatic and concert projects at CCPA, diplomatists are also Young Artists with Chicago Opera Theater, where they participate on a per production basis as ensemble members and soloists, engage with COT artists in master classes, and perform outreach. 

Graduates are now appearing as solo artists and on the music staffs of major international and American companies, as well as with regional companies and music festivals. Among these are Berlin’s Deutsche Opera, The Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Ireland’s Wexford Festival, the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Teatro Regio Torino, English National Opera, Muscat Royal Opera Oman, Jalisco Philharmonic in Guadalajara, Casalmaggiore International Music Festival, Astoria Music Festival, Music by the Lake, Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Central City Opera, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Kentucky Opera, Minnesota Opera, New Orleans Opera, Castleton Festival, Cincinnati Opera, Milwaukee Opera, Madison Opera, and Opera North. They are in residencies with companies such as Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Colorado, and attending apprentice programs including Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Des Moines Metro Opera, Green Mountain Opera, and the Sugar Creek Festival of Opera and Song. 

In recent years, Diplomatists have won the Opera Prize in the S’Hertogenbosch International Competition, first place in Chicago’s Union League Civic & Arts Foundation’s Classical Music Competition, Opera Birmingham Competition, Chicago’s Musician’s Club of Women, placed in the finals of the international Neue Stimmen Competition, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Center, and the national semi-finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Find more information about the COT/CCPA Diploma Program here.

Kira Dills-DeSurra

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Kira Dills-DeSurra, mezzo-soprano, was born in Petaluma, CA and received a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Arts from USC, followed by a Master’s in Vocal Performance from Roosevelt CCPA. Recently, she has sung Mary in Cabildo by Amy Beach (Chicago Premiere) with the COT Young Artists, Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette at the Castleton Fesitval, Chewy in Hand To Mouth (World Premiere) at First Look Sonoma, Sonja in The Circus Princess at Chicago Folks Operetta, and the Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte at Roosevelt CCPA. Previous roles at COT include La Ciesca, Gianni Schicchi; Cecilio (Cover), Chorus, Lucio Silla.

Alexandra Martinez

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Alexandra Martinez-Turano, soprano, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alexandra has performed the roles of Sandrina, Pamina, Adele, Anna, Julie Jordan, and Suor Genovieffa. She has performed with Opera Southwest, Landmark Musicals, University of New Mexico’s Opera Theatre and Symphony Orchestra, University of Southern California Opera Theater, and the La Mirada Symphony amongst others. She made her European debut in the summer of 2012 with the International Lyric Academy in Viterbo, Italy singing the role of Suor Geniovieffa in Suor Angelica. Alexandra recently graduated from University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music with a Masters of Music degree. She will be joining the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University’s Professional Diploma in Opera Studies program. Furthermore, Alexandra is thrilled to join Chicago Opera Theater as a Young Artist in the fall of 2016.

Quinn Middleman

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Quinn Middleman, mezzo-soprano, currently studies with Judith Haddon. Recent engagements include premiering works by Harold Meltzer and Yehudi Wyner as a Fellow at Tanglewood Music Center, in recital with the Musicians Club of Women as the Edith Newfield scholarship recipient, and as the third-place winner in the Ziering-Conlon Recovered Voices competition. Quinn completed her master's degree at Northwestern University, where roles included Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), Marcellina (Le nozze di Figaro), Ariodante (Handel's Ariodante), and Sister Helen (Heggie's Dead Man Walking, Chicago premiere). Quinn received degrees in both oboe and vocal performance from the University of Southern California, where performed the roles of Nerone (L'incoronazione di Poppea), Mother Marie (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Sesto (Giulio Cesare), and others. Quinn was last seen at Chicago Opera Theater in The Love Potion and The Fairy Queen.

Zacharias Niedzwiecki

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Zacharias Niedzwiecki, a Michigan native, attended Michigan State University for his undergraduate degree. He performed in numerous productions with Michigan State University Opera Theater, including the collegiate premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath as Connie Rivers, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance as The Pirate King, Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann as Schlémiel, Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel as Jimmy/Cypress Stark, and Puccini's La Bohème as Colline. He performed in two productions with Spiro Productions and The Other Mirror's partnership production of Claude-Michel Schönberg's Les Misérables as Javert, as well as appearing with Opera Grand Rapids in its Emerging Artist Program. Zacharias is in his first year as a member of the Professional Diploma in Opera Program at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts in conjunction with Chicago Opera Theater. He makes his debut this season with Chicago Opera Theater in Frank Martin’s The Love Potion as Duke Hoël, covers the role of Oberon in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen with Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera, and appears in the US premiere of Philip Glass’ The Perfect American. He studies with Judith Haddon.

Patrick Dean Shelton


Tenor Patrick Dean Shelton is currently a Professional Diploma candidate at the Chicago
College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He is a recent graduate of New England Conservatory where he was a student of soprano Jane Eaglen. In the summer of 2016, Patrick was a Fellow at the Music Academy of the West. He has also been a young artist at Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and The Brevard Music Center. He has performed the roles of Lola (“gender bent” Damn Yankees), Don Curzio (Le nozze di Figaro), L’Aumonier (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Monostatos (Die Zauberflote), Beadle (Sweeney Todd), Mayor Upfold (Albert Herring) and Dr. Caius (Falstaff).

Lani Stait

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Lani Stait, is an American soprano from Annandale, Virginia who calls Chicago her home. Recent appearances include the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica with Opera West, as a soloist in concert with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, and in the Cincinnati Opera Chorus. Lani performed the roles of Mademoiselle Silberklang in Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor, Denise in Offenbach’s Le mariage aux lanterns, Mrs. Patrick De Rocher in Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, La Princesse and Shephardess in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, as well as several opera scenes with UMich opera. Also at University of Michigan Lani performed as a soloist in the A Grand Night For Singing concert, and as a soloist with the Chamber Choir international choir tour to Australia and New Zealand. Elsewhere, she appeared in concert with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra and won the First United Methodist Church of Birmingham Young Artist Competition as well the Charlotte Ruppel Memorial Voice Award Scholarship Competition. 

Samuel J. Weiser

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Samuel J. Weiser, bass, is a current student of Bruce Hall at CCPA at Roosevelt University. Samuel graduated cum laude B.S. Ed in Music Education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Roles include Colline/La Bohème; Sarastro/Die Zauberflöte; Elder Ott/Susannah;Sicario/Macbeth; Dr. Caius/Falstaff; Dr. Caius/Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor; David/A Hand of Bridge; Il Commendatore/Don Giovanni and Jasper/L’Ivrogne Corrigé. In April of 2016 Samuel was  chosen as a 1st prize winner of the Monastero’s Bel Canto Contest, student division. In November of 2015, Samuel premiered Thunder, Perfect Mind by Chicago composer, Christopher Preissing. Recently, Samuel was chosen as a Gerdine Young Artist and will appear with Opera Theatre of St. Louis in the summer of 2016. In St. Louis Samuel will appear as the Valet in Macbeth, Sergeant in La Bohème, and as Clumsy God in the World Premier of Shalimar the Clown. Samuel will also cover Truffaldino in Ariadne auf Naxos and Banquo in Macbeth.

Jonathan Weyant

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Jonathan Weyant, tenor, hails from Scottsdale, AZ, Jonathan’s clarion tenor has been heard recently as tenor soloist in Orff’s Carmina Burana at Chicago’s Symphony Center, Lenny Small in Of Mice and Men at COI, Martin in The Tenderland Suite at Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, and the Commanding Officer in Amelia at Chicago College of Performing Arts, where he also received his Master’s degree. Recent COT credits include Lucio Silla (Cover), Chorus, Lucio Silla; Gherardo (Cover), Gianni Schicchi.

Scott Gilmore

Director of Musical Studies for the Young Artists Program

Scott Gilmore's operatic credits as coach, assistant conductor and chorus master include the San Francisco Opera, Salzburg Festival, Cologne Opera, Opéra de Lyon and Opera Australia. He has worked with major international conductors, including Daniel Barenboim, James Conlon, Charles Mackerras, Michelangelo Veltri, Carlo Felice Cillario and Kent Nagano. His work in the training and development of singers has taken him to positions with the Opéra national de Paris, London's Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the San Francisco Opera Center and the young artist programs of Cologne Opera, Opera Australia, and Florida Grand Opera. He is currently Head of Music Staff and Director of Musical Studies at Chicago Opera Theater, and Assistant Professor of Opera and Vocal Coaching at Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University, where he studied piano with Dr Ludmila Lazar. He is a guest coach at the Santa Fe Opera, an adjudicator for The Metropolitan Opera Competition, and a contributing editor to Boosey & Hawkes' series of operatic choral octavo editions. An active vocal recital accompanist, he has been heard live, on recording, and in both television and radio broadcasts. The San Francisco Chronicle dubbed him "a singer's colleague and best artistic friend."

Andreas Mitisek,
Stefan Edlis & Gael Neeson Artistic Director

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