Elisabeth Kinghorn, a senior at Ironwood Ridge High School, found a singing voice she never knew she had. Her piano teacher had her sing for a recital and just a few years later, she won the Schmidt Vocal Competition.
“It was kind of one of those things where they announced my name and I kind of sat there for a second and it took me a second to really respond and realize I had actually won that,” Kinghorn said.
During middle school, Kinghorn sang in multiple choirs, including the advanced jazz choir. Her love for advanced choral music and jazz music was rooted from her time singing with her middle school choir. Once Kinghorn entered high school, she was paired with voice teacher Stephanie Fox, who’s been training Kinghorn to sing classically for the past four years. Kinghorn also sings in the A Capella group at Ironwood Ridge, led by AJ Lepore. Kinghorn has been under his tutelage for six years strong.
Kinghorn found out about the Schmidt Vocal Competition from Fox, who encouraged her to compete as both a boost of confidence and to show off her skills.
She competed in the contest once before as a sophomore but did not win. Now a senior with higher goals set for herself and years of hard work and dedication, Kinghorn came back to win it all.
The Schmidt Vocal Competition is a singing contest for young vocalists in their sophomore, junior or senior year of high school. The Schmidt Foundation was founded over 20 years ago by William Magee Schmidt. He was able to start a foundation with the help of classical singer Anna-Lee Hamilton.
“[Hamilton] really encouraged [Schmidt] to help young singers in their pursuit of attaining a career in vocal performance and education,” said Linda McAlister, executive director of Schmidt Vocal Arts.
A flagship program stemming from the Schmidt Foundation, the competition has grown from just one competition in Indiana to 16 regional competitions across the country.
The competition is designed for young vocalists to grow and learn as singers as well as place them in a very professional singing environment to prepare them for a real-world experience with a vocal career. Awards, scholarships and educational experiences for more than 150 students annually are given out every year.
“They submit an application with us, they have to prepare three memorized selections,” McAlister said. “We have up to 35 singers at each location, and about six to 10 of those make the final round.”
While the Schmidt competition hosts events across the country, Kinghorn competed at the University of Las Vegas on March 30. The competition was all day, with two rounds of singing in front of the judges and a live audience as well as a master class in the middle of the day for the vocalists.
Kinghorn prepared three songs for her performance: “Paper Wings” by Jake Heggie, “Il Bacio” by Luigi Arditi, and “Er Ist’s” by Hugo Wolf.
“There are two categories that I look for that I feel like need to be developed in singers simultaneously but can be difficult to balance,” Liza Kelly, one of the judicators for the Las Vegas competition said.
Kelly thought Kinghorn demonstrated a perfect balance of technique and art. They named Kinghorn the first-place winner.
“It was a really, really great feeling that my hard work had been paying off and that I was being rewarded for doing something that I really love to do,” Kinghorn said.
After winning the Schmidt Vocal Competition, Kinghorn thought of attending a conservatory, a school that is designed for artists, but she decided against it because she wanted to experience a campus life that she wouldn’t find at a conservatory school. Kinghorn finally decided to attend Utah State University, where she will be studying vocal performance.
Kinghorn feels very grateful and blessed to have been a part of the competition and for all of her friends and family who have supported her vocal ambitions, and especially all of the long hours in training with her vocal teachers Fox and Lepore.
“I absolutely would not be where I am today without them,” she said.
Briannon Wilfong is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.