GVSU Opera Theatre promotes student performer’s artistic growth through virtual workshops


Courtesy / GVSU Opera Theatre

Allison Rafferty

For Grand Valley State University students involved in the GVSU Opera Theatre, it has become tradition for seniors in the program to take a trip to New York City to visit Actors’ Connection to demonstrate their talents and make professional connections. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it the cancellation of this annual trip. In response, the GVSU Opera Theatre has created a set of virtual workshops with professional musicians and performers for students involved to still get that experience. 

GVSU Artistic Director of Opera Theatre and professor of music Dale Schriemer created two virtual workshops once the trip to NYC was canceled.

These workshops were designed to give GVSU student performers direct contact with professionals in the world of music and theatre bridging the gap between the university and the professional world,” said Schriemer.

The first workshop is a Music Theatre Workshop and has been taking place since Aug. 30, with the week of Sept. 28 being its last. Seven GVSU students are involved, and husband and wife Joe Carroll and Alex Finke are guest artists at these workshops. Carroll is a Grand Rapids native and a singer, dancer, actor and musician. Finke is a singer, actor and dancer.

Carroll studied voice with Schriemer, and he asked her if she wanted to be involved, he said Carroll was “thrilled and excited by the opportunity.”

The first virtual meet for this workshop was a meet and greet, followed by three weeks of online coaching. The fourth and final week will involve Carroll and Finke traveling to Grand Rapids to do one on one mentor sessions. 

On Saturday, Oct., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Peter Martin Wege Theatre at the Grand Rapids Ballet there will be a mock audition for students in the workshop in which Schriemer, Carroll and Finke will all be in attendance. Social distancing guidelines will be followed and everyone is required to wear masks. 

Schriemer said that his goal for these workshops is to “bring as much practical, real-life experience to GVSU performers, giving them the most potent education GVSU can provide.”

The second workshop series is an Italian Baroque Opera Workshop that will be focused on Antonio Cesti’s opera Orontea. The guest artist for this workshop will be Sherezade Panthaki and 12 GVSU students are signed up to attend.

Panthaki is a professional singer and has international success with Baroque music.

“I am so grateful she is able to share her artistry and knowledge with us,” said Schriemer. 

This workshop will also take place over the span of four weeks and be done through Zoom lectures and demonstrations. The first workshop in this series will be on Tuesday, Oct. 13, and the final one will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3. 

Schriemer said he is very excited that students have these opportunities.

“The practical knowledge and expertise that they bring are vital to the artistic growth of these young performers,” said Schriemer.