By Alyssa Naimoli
Westminster College of the Arts’ (WCA) recognition achieved new heights when Rexford Tester, a second year graduate student at Westminster Choir College, reached the finals in the 2013-14 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
The competition, held on April 6 on the Met’s New York City stage, netted him a $5,000 prize as well as an extraordinary opportunity.
“It was the most surreal experience and truly a dream come true,” Tester said.
Tester’s journey began in a district competition, when he defeated three other competitors and won the Washington D.C. district title. There are 38 districts in 13 regions.
“I chose to audition in the Washington D.C. district, in the Mid-Atlantic region,” said Tester, 24. “It was like any other audition at first. It was what I was used to, three judges and a small audience.”
From there, Tester, a tenor, advanced to the regional stage of the competition. The regional performances were held in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. in front of a sold-out audience.
“It was like a sporting event,” Tester said. “They call it the American Idol of opera, and that’s exactly what it felt like.”
The 20 regional winners won a trip to New York City, where they participated in the national semi-finals on March 23. Also on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, these auditions were done concert-style. The finalists did their first performances before taking an intermission and then performing their final songs.
From there, the field was narrowed to nine finalists, who competed in a public concert, the Grand Finals Concert, accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Each finalist was given his or her own dressing room, where they had the chance to doll themselves up for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Marshall Onofrio, the associate dean of WCA, said Westminster aims to give students training so they are able to take advantage of such opportunities and use their talents to the best of their abilities.
“Westminster prepares students first and foremost through individual applied music study with a master teacher from our faculty,” Onofrio said. “Competitions such as the Met Opera are sponsored by non-university organizations. We receive a great deal of contact from numerous competitions each year. News of these opportunities is shared with all students.”
Tester, who had seen a documentary covering the Met Opera’s National Council Competition, decided to audition this past year to see where he might rank among the nation’s young opera singers, ranging from ages 20-30. The entire experience he faced in the competition was new to him since this was his first major competition.
According to Onofrio, the WCA community commends Tester on his achievements in the opera world.
“The entire Westminster College of the Arts community is extremely proud of Mr. Tester,” said Onofrio. “His recognition as a finalist is testament to his artistry, the superior training he has received here at Westminster, and the high regard with which a distinguished panel of judges evaluated his performance.”
Tester enjoyed the opportunity to explore a new part of the professional opera world, and said he was blessed with the opportunity to perform at the Met.
“It was amazing to have the opportunity to sing on that stage — to stand there with an orchestra and sing,” said Tester. “It was a complete honor.”
Printed in the 4/9/14 edition