MOTE RANCH — Jessica Hollick may be petite, but there’s nothing small about her voice.
As the 22-year-old singer stood in the home of international opera singers Randolph Locke and Carol Sparrow, Hollick’s own vocal ambitions shined as she completed her aria, “Vilja,” from the opera, “The Merry Widow.”
She and six other aspiring opera singers attended the premiere season of Locke and Sparrow’s OASIS Young Artist Program, an opera training program benefiting the couple’s non-profit, Opera for Animals: Singing is Saving. The program, which ran June 14 to June 24, included daily voice, technique and acting lessons; a special master class with famed composer Thomas Pasatieri; and a final performance Saturday, June 23, at the Palm-Aire Golf & Country Club.
“(They chose) for us a repertoire that challenges all of us to grow as singers and (actors),” Hollick said. “Some of the music is definitely something we will do in the future.
“You can sing something just standing there, but it’s different when you have to put motion with it,” she said.
Participants began learning works by Giacomo Puccini, Vincenzo Bellini and Giuseppe Verdi, among others, three months ago in preparation for the training.
“When you go to school, the main thing you learn is vocal technique through a solo,” Sparrow said. “We’re taking their arias and putting them on their feet. You have to relate to people on stage. They don’t get that a lot in college.”
Student Lorena Vargas, who attends Florida Gulf Coast University, agreed, adding she had performed primarily as a recital singer.
“I haven’t been able to fully throw myself into a character (before this),” Vargas said. “I’ve learned a lot of character development and technique. It’s very important to have (that training).”
Fellow singer Ricky Marenda agreed, noting he came to the program in hopes of correcting challenges he’s had vocally.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “They helped me improve so much in a short time.”
Students said they were eager to glean every insight — whether performance- or business-related — they could from Locke and Sparrow, who have performed lead roles in operas all over the world.
“They know the roles and the music, but they also know the business,” Vargas said.
“They’ve had all the experience we’re all looking to have,” she said. “It’s nice to have that kind of information. They have an idea of almost everything we could go through at some point. You need to know how to think on your feet a little.”
Sparrow and Locke decided to launch the OASIS Young Artist Program as a way to provide opera training to young professionals while raising funds for their non-profit, which started more than 10 years ago. The non-profit donates money to area animal-welfare groups.
“It’s another way for us to give back to the next group of singers,” Sparrow said. “All of these (participants) are animal-lovers. They can learn their craft and know the money they are paying supports animal welfare. We were excited to do it.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].