Freshman to Participate in Prestigious Opera Training Program in Italy

Created: May 9, 2014
Last Updated: December 16, 2019

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (April 4, 2014)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) freshman Jesse Keruskin is one of a dozen students from around the world selected to participate in the Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera’s (EPCASO) 2014 Summer Program in Oderzo, Italy.

Awarded a scholarship, Keruskin auditioned in February with an operatic repertoire prepared in her applied music courses at W&J—voice with Lara Cottrill, adjunct faculty, music, and vocal chamber music with Susan Woodard, professor of music.

The month-long program that runs throughout July provides concentrated study and training in voice, repertoire and language specifically designed for those singers whose abilities indicate the very real possibility of a career in opera.

Keruskin said she has long had a love for music, although much of her formal training has been on the piano, having studied with Washington, Pa.-area piano teacher Virginia Davis, who Woodard said has had a “tremendous influence on many musicians in our area over the years.” Keruskin has taken formal voice lessons for just over a year. Her former and first voice coach was Mona English, a voice and piano instructor who teaches in Rices Landing, Pa. She has been a music instructor for several years at various schools.

Woodard first noticed Keruskin’s singing talent last semester when Keruskin was a student in Woodard’s Mozart class. Keruskin also sang at the Student Recognition Recital in December, which featured selected performances from W&J’s applied music studios.

“I was aware of Jesse, and I listened to her sing and thought, ‘she really is quite good,’” Woodard said.

“Music has been a huge part of my life. I have always loved listening to Beethoven and Mozart. And I have loved opera for years,” Keruskin said, adding that when she was a child, her mom bought her a classic music cartridge for her LeapPad.

With encouragement from Cottrill, a two-time alumnus of EPCASO herself, Keruskin submitted an application and then was asked to audition in person at the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University. She sang her first song and was asked to perform two others.

While in Italy, Keruskin will receive technique on voice and technical repertoire training from Claudia Pinza, who founded EPASCO in 1981 to honor her father, the great operatic bass, Ezio Pinza. She will also receive coaching with Maestri Carlos De Aragon e Gianni Cappelletto and participate in master classes conducted by Maria Chiara, Italian lyric soprano, with emphasis on special coaching of specific opera roles, and Vivica Genaux, American coloratura mezzo-soprano. In addition to the concentrated program of study, the participants will perform concerts in Oderzo and surrounding areas.

Woodard said Keruskin is the first W&J music student to attend the EPCASO program. Oderzo is a town in the foothills of the Dolomites where the “Italian vocal institute is dedicated to preparation in opera. The Music Department is very proud of Jesse,” Woodard said.

Keruskin is a resident of Fredericktown, Pa., and a graduate of Bethlehem-Center High School. She will major in music but may add a second major in business or a foreign language.

“I am going to take this opportunity and run with it,” Keruskin said. “I love to sing and I want to share it with people.”

Woodard also acknowledged the value of a liberal arts education in fostering an interest in music.

“Music and the arts infect people at a very young age. It is a pursuit of a passion requiring careful nurturing and educating. A liberal arts college like W&J offers that plus the flexibility of breadth assuring students of options throughout their careers. More young musicians should consider schools like W&J for a strong undergraduate foundation,” Woodard added.

Keruskin has been abroad, but never to Italy.

“I have always wanted to go to Italy. There is a lot of operatic heritage there,” she said.

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