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Schmidt Vocal Arts (SVA) Names Award-Winners of Third Annual High School National Competition

June 7, 2024 | By Linda McAlister
Executive Director

For immediate release

Contact Linda McAlister (513) 783-2583



Schmidt Vocal Arts (SVA) Names Award-Winners of Third Annual High School National Competition


(June 2024)—Schmidt Vocal Arts (SVA) is delighted to announce that soprano Lilliana Mindel (17) has won the top prize of $10,000 in the third annual Schmidt Vocal Competition Nationals. Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, Mindel has just graduated from the Orange County School of the Arts. Second prize of $7,500 went to bass Owen Kilgore (18) of Toddville, Iowa, and third prize of $5,000 to tenor Henry Drangel (16) of Kew Gardens, New York. These winners were selected from more than 350 U.S. high-school students who took part in regional competitions over the course of the 2023-24 season, 16 of them then going on to compete in the final round. That took place this past weekend in Sarasota, Florida, where SVA’s distinguished judges were opera stars soprano Ana María Martínez (Rice University) and tenor Barry Banks (Peabody Institute) as well as the Dallas Opera General Director Ian Derrer


Ian Derrer said:

“I was truly impressed with the level of singing at the Schmidt Vocal Competition this year. These young singers are the future of opera, and the future looks quite bright.”

Barry Banks commented:

“Coming into the competition I had no idea what sort of standard that I would be hearing. I can honestly say that I am astounded at the level of both vocal ability and musical maturity. If this is the standard of 16-18 year old young singers across the country then the classical vocal future is in very bright hands.”


Funded by the William E. Schmidt Foundation, the Schmidt Vocal Competition is an annual event for U.S. high-school students who compete – this season for more than $650K in cash awards and scholarships – at the critical point in their early careers when they start looking towards professional training. Designed to be accessible to singers from as many corners of the country as possible, this season’s final regional competitions were held in 14 different cities including Tacoma, Chicago, and Boston, and a virtual cohort attracted singers from 17 different states. Held this past weekend in Sarasota Opera’s William E. Schmidt Opera Theatre, the semi-final round hosted 45 singers, representing the top three winners from each of 14 regional competitions and from the virtual cohort as well as two “wild card” singers chosen by SVA Executive Director, Linda McAlister. 

SVA’s support and resources continue long after the competition. The award-winners are eligible for need-based scholarships and grants to support their continued study at the university level, and SVA maintains relationships with many alumni throughout their careers, providing educational, mentoring, and networking opportunities as well as grants for summer study. The SVA network includes such luminaries as William Burden, Margo Garrett, Christine Goerke, Denyce Graves, Ana María Martínez, Craig Terry, and Russell Thomas, and from its ranks come competition judges, master class clinicians, and guest faculty.

Ana María Martínez noted:

“I congratulate each singer who participated in the Schmidt Vocal Arts National Finals Competition! The vocal level, encompassing technical ability and beauty of sound along with their overall performances, was outstanding. The future of opera is, and will be, in great hands thanks to the abundance of talent we all witnessed this past weekend. Now more than ever, the help and support that the Schmidt Foundation so generously offers to so many young singers is vital in order for them to continue to grow and develop as singers and artists.”


About Lilliana Mindel, First Place

Lilliana Mindel (17) is a senior at The Orange County School of the Arts in the Classical Voice Conservatory. She studies private voice with Maria Maxfield and attended the Schmidt Vocal Institute in the summer of 2023. Some awards include: The Music Center’s Spotlight Competition, Grand Prize Finalist; Opera Buffs Artists of the Future Competition, 4th Place; Opera Focus/ Pacific Symphony Vocal Competition, 2nd Place; Schmidt CA Regionals, 3rd Place (2023); and OC Register Artist of the Year Competition, Classical Voice Finalist (2023). She performed a Youth Principal role in LA Opera’s Las Tres Mujeres de Jerusalem (2022) and is an ambassador of the LA Opera Connects 90012 program. Next fall, she will begin her vocal studies with Juliana Gondek at UCLA, where she was named a Regents Scholar with a full scholarship. 


About Owen Kilgore, Second Place

Owen Kilgore (18) is a graduating senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While at Kennedy he has been involved in the Concert, Chamber, Jazz, and Show Choir programs, along with the varsity men's Swim Team and the JV men's Soccer Team. Owen Kilgore is an alumnus of the 2023 Schmidt Vocal Institute. After graduation, Owen plans to attend The Juilliard School in New York City and study vocal arts with Professor Kevin Short. 


About Henry Drangel, Third Place

Henry Drangel (16) attends Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and will graduate in the class of 2025. He recently played Marco in The Gondoliers with LaGuardia High School’s Opera Studio program. He has performed many lead roles with Queens College Theatre camp from 2017 to 2019. He performed Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof with Manhattan School of Music Summer Theatre camp in 2022. Henry is a student in the Juilliard Pre-College program where he has found his passion for classical music.  


About Schmidt Vocal Arts

Funded by the William E. Schmidt Foundation, Schmidt Vocal Arts is committed to fostering a passion for classical singing and to creating opportunities for young singers. Led by Executive Director Linda McAlister, Schmidt Vocal Arts boasts many accomplished alumni who have gone on to pursue music degrees and enjoy successful careers in the arts. The Schmidt Vocal Competitions – the oldest of the Foundation’s programs – have touched the lives of more than 5,000 developing high school and undergraduate singers, awarding a total of over $2 million in cash awards and scholarships since its debut in 1997. Other Schmidt Vocal Arts programs include:

  • Schmidt Vocal Institute, a two-week intensive summer residential program where singers learn from world-renowned artists, participate in workshops and master classes, and perform with other talented musicians;
  • Schmidt Vocal Education, offering regional and online programs for singers and teachers to learn, challenge themselves, and participate in performance experiences; and
  • Schmidt Vocal Scholarships, a program that provides need-based support for talented singers continuing their professional vocal education. 

About Sarasota Opera

Sarasota Opera recently completed its 65th Season of bringing world-class opera to Florida’s Gulf Coast. The company was launched in 1960 in the historic 320-seat Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art. In 1984 the company moved into the former A.B. Edwards Theater—now the Sarasota Opera House. Since then, the company has gained an international reputation as one of the leading regional opera companies in the U.S. through initiatives such as the Masterworks Revival Series and the Verdi Cycle. The company’s Sarasota Youth Opera is the most comprehensive Youth Program in the U.S. The Sarasota Opera House, called “one of America’s finest venues for opera” by Musical America, underwent a $20 million renovation in 2007, when the auditorium was named the William E. Schmidt Opera Theatre, in recognition of his leadership gift. Since 1983, the company has been under the artistic leadership of Victor DeRenzi and administrative leadership of General Director Richard Russell since 2012.  Sarasota Opera is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs are paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues.

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