2020 Judges

Utah District Finals Judges and Accompanist

Michael Heaston – Professor of Opera/Director of Opera Studies at Rice University and Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera Studio


A well-respected artistic administrator, collaborative pianist and vocal coach, Michael Heaston has established himself as one of opera’s most important leaders, visionaries, and mentors. Artists he has developed currently enjoy major careers on the world’s most important stages. He has recently assumed dual posts: Professor of Opera/Director of Opera Studies at Rice University and Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Prior to these appointments he was the Executive Director and Acting Artistic Director of the prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera. He was also the Director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative and served as Advisor to the Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Mr. Heaston assumed numerous roles of increasing responsibility at The Glimmerglass Festival over 11 seasons, completing his tenure in the position of Associate Artistic Director, in which he was integrally involved with all matters of season planning and casting. He also oversaw the direction of the Young Artists Program and all matters of musical administration.  He spent six seasons at The Dallas Opera as Head of Music Staff and Assistant Conductor for more than 25 productions. A sought-after adjudicator, he has been a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and also served on the juries of the Marilyn Horne Song Competition at Music Academy of the West, Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, Jensen Vocal Competition, Young Patronesses of the Opera Competition, Giargiari Bel Canto Competition at the Academy of Vocal Arts, NATSAA Competition Finals, McCammon Vocal Competition, DC Vocal Arts Art Song Competition and many others. Mr. Heaston is also in demand as a clinician, having served as an artist-in-residence and/or presented master classes at The Juilliard School, University of Michigan, Florida Grand Opera, Southern Methodist University, University of North Texas, Drake University, Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, Miami Summer Music Festival,  University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Abilene Christian University and Boston Conservatory at Berklee, to name a few. An active member of OPERA America, he serves on the steering committee of the Singer Training Forum and is a regular participant in the New Works Forum. He is also a member of the Artistic Advisory Board of The Glimmerglass Festival.

Claire Burovac – Director of Artistic Operations, Portland Opera

In 2008, Clare Burovac was appointed director of artistic operations at Portland Opera, where she oversees casting, the Portland Opera Resident Artist Program and all community engagement programs, including the company’s new ‘Opera a la Cart’ initiative which debuted in 2016. She also serves as the primary management liaison to both of Portland Opera’s artist unions: AGMA and the AFM. Under her leadership, Portland Opera has produced two world-premiere recordings on the Orange Mountain Music label: Orphée and Galileo Galilei, both by Philip Glass. Prior to joining Portland Opera, Burovac spent 14 years at Seattle Opera, beginning in the stage management department, and taking on a variety of increasingly demanding positions, including production stage manager and production coordinator of the company’s world-renowned Ring cycle. Burovac received her bachelor’s degree in violin performance, magna cum laude, from Bowling Green State University. As a violinist, she performed with the Toledo Symphony, Ohio Light Opera Orchestra and other groups in the Cleveland area. A recipient of an OPERA America Fellowship in Opera Production in 1993, she has been a guest stage manager for San Francisco Opera, LA Opera and The Glimmerglass Festival, among many others. She has served as a guest lecturer for Seattle Opera and The National Association of Teachers of Singing and is a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and other vocal competitions.

Morris Robinson – Bass-baritone, Artistic Advisor to Cincinnati Opera

Morris Robinson is considered one the most interesting and sought after basses performing today. Mr. Robinson regularly appears at the Metropolitan Opera, where he is a graduate of the Lindemann Young Artist Program. He debuted there in a production of Fidelio and has since appeared as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte (both in the original production and in the children’s English version), Ferrando in Il Trovatore, the King in Aida, and in roles in NabuccoTannhäuser, and the new productions of Les Troyens and Salome. He has also appeared at the San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Teatro alla Scala, Volksoper Wien, Opera Australia, and the Aix-en-Provence Festival. His many roles include the title role in Porgy and Bess, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Ramfis in Aida, Zaccaria in Nabucco, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos, Timur in Turandot, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly, Padre Guardiano in La Forza del Destino, Ferrando in Il Trovatore, and Fasolt in Das Rheingold. Also a prolific concert singer, Mr. Robinson’s many concert engagements have included appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (where he was the 2015-2016 Artist in Residence), San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, L’Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Met Chamber Orchestra, Nashville Symphony Orchestra, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, New England String Ensemble, and at the BBC Proms and the Ravinia, Mostly Mozart, Tanglewood, Cincinnati May, Verbier, and Aspen Music Festivals. He also appeared in Carnegie Hall as part of Jessye Norman’s HONOR! Festival. In recital he has been presented by Spivey Hall in Atlanta, the Savannah Music Festival, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Mr. Robinson’s solo album, Going Home, was released on the Decca label. He also appears as Joe in the DVD of the San Francisco Opera production of Show Boat, and in the DVDs of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Salome and the Aix-en-Provence Festival’s production of Mozart’s Zaide. This season, Mr. Robinson returns to the Metropolitan Opera for The Magic Flute, makes his role debut as Phillip II in Don Carlo and sings Sarastro at the Dallas Opera, returns to the Atlanta Opera for Porgy and Bess, and returns to the Cincinnati Opera for Aida. He also makes his debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in performances of the Mahler Symphony No. 8 with its music director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, and sings the same piece with the Atlanta Symphony. An Atlanta native, Mr. Robinson is a graduate of The Citadel and received his musical training from the Boston University Opera Institute. He was recently named Artistic Advisor to the Cincinnati Opera.

Carol Anderson – MONC Accompanist and Utah Opera Principal Coach

Currently principal coach for Utah Opera, Carol Anderson spends her summers coaching at the Santa Fe Opera. Since 2006, she has acted as the official accompanist for the Utah District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Previous to her appointment in Salt Lake City, she served as chorus master and musical administrator for Orlando Opera. Other experiences include Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, Sarasota Opera, and Rice University’s Shepherd School Opera. When not engaged in rehearsals, she makes time in her schedule for shopping, hiking, downhill skiing, and The Amazing Race.

Arizona District Finals Judges and Accompanist

Erie Mills – Opera Theater of St. Louis English Diction Coach and Singer EOperarie Mills
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In a vocal career of over twenty-five years, Erie Mills has received critical and popular acclaim throughout the world, dazzling audiences with her sparkling coloratura voice, captivating personality, and vivid portrayals of operatic roles. She has performed in the world’s major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Vienna Staatsoper, English National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera and many others. In concert, she has appeared with the orchestras of Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the VARA radio Orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. An accomplished recitalist, she has performed both as a soloist and in chamber music, having sung with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Bravo Colorado Music Festival, Music from Angel Fire, and at St. John’s Smith Square in London. On recording, Ms. Mills may be heard on RCA’s recording of Sondheim’s Follies, New World Records’ Grammy award-winning Candide, and her solo CD of American song “always it’s Spring” from VAI. In 1998, Erie Mills joined the music faculty of San José State University, devoting herself to the education and training of young singers. She spent ten years in academia, retiring from SJSU in 2008 as a full Professor of Music. She continues to maintain a private studio devoted to the vocal training of young professionals. Since 2003, Ms. Mills has served as the Principal English Diction Coach for Opera Theatre of St. Louis and master teacher for the Gerdine Young Artist program. She has also worked as English Diction Coach on the staffs of the Metropolitan Opera and Santa Fe Opera. She has taught master classes throughout the country and adjudicates regularly for the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and for the National Association of Teachers of Singing. From 2004 – 2010, she served on the Opera America Board of Directors, the first singer ever named to the board. Erie Mills was born in Granite City, Illinois. She is a graduate of the College of Wooster and the University of Illinois, and was a member of the Houston Opera Studio. She studied voice with Dale Moore, Karl Trump (Wooster), Grace Wilson (U of IL), Elena Nikolaidi, and Alan Bowers. She was a recipient of a Richard Tucker Foundation grant in1984 and has received both the Distinguished Alumni Award (1989) and an honorary Doctorate in Music (1993) from the College of Wooster. She resides principally in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Dr. Thomas Rescigno and their two terriers, Blondchen and Siegfried (Ziggy). They maintain a second home outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Ryan Taylor – Minnesota Opera President and General Director

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Ryan Taylor was named President and General Director of Minnesota Opera in May 2016, coming full circle to the company where he was a member of its Resident Artist Program in 2000. Taylor previously served as General Director of Arizona Opera having begun his tenure at Arizona Opera in January 2012 as Director of Artistic Administration. Taylor enjoyed a 10-year career as a baritone, performing over thirty operatic roles and numerous concerts and symphonies throughout the United States, Canada, Germany. From 2009-2013 he served concurrently as Artist Manager and Public Relations Director for ADA Artist Management in New York and as Manager of Community Development for the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the top residency training program in the field for emerging artists in the United States.  He also held posts as General Director of the Berkshire Opera Company, Artistic Director of Singers Beyond Borders and Co-founder of the Southeastern Festival of Song.  He has served as a judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Igor Gorin Career Development award for the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. As a stage director and producer, Taylor has presented over sixty distinct programs of recital, concert, oratorio, ballet and opera.  His producing partners have included the Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Boy Choir, Bar Harbor Music Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Bryan Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Dallas Museum of Art, Emily Dickinson Museum, Michael O’Neal Singers, New York Festival of Song, the Phillips Collection, Shakespeare Dallas, Trinity Artist Series of New Orleans, Tucson Desert Song Festival, and Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. As a consultant, guest lecturer and educator, Taylor has collaborated with OPERA America, the Lexington Philharmonic, Kentucky Opera, Emory University, Southern Methodist University, University of Texas-Dallas, Arizona State University, University of Louisville, Baylor University, Arizona Opera Studio Artist Program, Kent State University, Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, Georgia State University, Kentucky Opera Studio Artist Program, Fletcher Opera Institute at the North Carolina School of the Arts, University of Minnesota, Seagle Music Colony, TCU/Fort Worth Opera Institute, Wolf Trap Opera Company, University of Arizona and Wright State University. A native of Atlanta, Taylor earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of the South, and a Master’s degree from San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Craig Terry – Chicago Lyric Opera, Music Director, Ryan Center Young Artist Program

Lauded for his “sensitive and stylish” (New York Times) and “superb” (Opera News) playing, pianist Craig Terry has launched an international career regularly performing with some of the world’s leading singers and instrumentalists. Currently Mr. Terry is Music Director of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center and is in his eleventh season as Assistant Conductor at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Previously he served as Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera after joining its Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Mr. Terry has performed with such esteemed vocalists as Jamie Barton, Stephanie Blythe, Christine Brewer, Nicole Cabell, Sasha Cooke, Eric Cutler, Joyce DiDonato, Giuseppe Filianoti, Denyce Graves, Susan Graham, Bryan Hymel, Brian Jagde, Joseph Kaiser, Quinn Kelsey, Kate Lindsey, Ana María Martínez, Susanna Phillips, Luca Pisaroni, Patricia Racette, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Hugh Russell, Bo Skovhus, Garrett Sorenson, Heidi Stober, and Amber Wagner. He has collaborated as a chamber musician with members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchester, and the Pro Arte String Quartet. Craig Terry was recently named Artistic Director of “Beyond the Aria,” a new concert series presented by the Harris Theater in collaboration with the Ryan Opera Center and Lyric Unlimited. His discography includes “Diva on Detour” with Patricia Racette, “As Long As There Are Songs” with Stephanie Blythe, and “Chanson d’Avril” with Nicole Cabell. Mr. Terry hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee, received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Tennessee Technological University, continued his studies at Florida State University and received a Masters of Music in Piano Performance/Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of pianist Warren Jones.

Robert Mills  – Official MONC Audition Accompanist

Dr. Robert Mills is an assistant clinical professor of Music and the vocal coach/accompanist for Arizona State University’s Lyric Opera. Dr. Mills holds a BA in music from the University of Maryland as well as a MM and a DMA in Collaborative Piano from Arizona State University. Additionally, Dr. Mills holds both a Juris Doctor and a MLIS from Brigham Young University. For nearly three years, Dr. Mills served as an assistant vocal coach and accompanist for the Opera Institute at Boston University. Currently, he is on faculty at the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) summer program in Graz, Austria as a repetitor/coach. Dr. Mills concertizes regularly throughout the United States promoting American art song and has just completed a recording on the Summit label of the song cycles of Judith Cloud. He has collaborated with vocal artists and technicians such as Ingo Titze, Phyllis Curtain, Andrea Lechner and Ariel Bybee in concert, workshop and master class settings. Dr. Mills has taught throughout the world including invitations to the Conservatorio Nacional de Musica de Mexico as well as the Big Bear Lake Song Festival. Dr. Mills has performed with the Baltimore Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Johns Hopkins Symphony, and the Mesa Symphony as well as with the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale and the Three Tenors of Mexico. Dr. Mills can be heard on the Canyon Record label.


Colorado-Wyoming District Finals: Judges and Accompanist

Bruce Donnell – The Santa Fe Opera

Bruce Donnell studied at Friedelind Wagner’s Bayreuth Festival Master Classes before joining the Metropolitan Opera as a stage director in 1975. He has staged productions for San Francisco, Austin, the Boston Lyric Opera, New York City Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, among others, as well as the Chicago Lyric Opera. Internationally, he has worked in Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires and in Japan on tour with the Metropolitan Opera. He also has worked at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and the Shepherd School of Music (Rice University) in Houston. He is a frequent judge for Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.

Roger Pines – Lyric Opera of Chicago Dramaturg










Roger Pines, who has judged annually for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions since 1991, is dramaturg at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Among his many roles there have been program editor, broadcast co-host and commentator, and special lecturer and consultant for the company’s young-artist program, the Ryan Opera Center.  Roger previously held positions at San Diego Opera, The Dallas Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera. He has undertaken repertoire research for many major artists, has written articles for every major American opera company, and is a contributor to Opera News, Opera Magazine (U.K.), and publications of major opera companies internationally. Roger has also written CD liner notes for seven major labels. Among his activities in recent months have been a seminars for San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, the University of Texas at Austin, and Chicago’s renowned Newberry Library, regarding historically important singing; lectures for the inaugural season of Teatro Nuovo, America’s new bel canto opera festival; and his first articles for the programs of both The Juilliard School and Ireland’s Wexford Opera Festival. Last spring Roger appeared on the Met broadcasts’ “Opera Quiz” for the 12th consecutive year. He was recently appointed to the faculty of Northwestern University, where during the 2019-20 academic year he will teach the Opera Repertoire course at the University’s Bienen School of Music.

John Churchwell – San Francisco Opera Head of Music


John Churchwell began serving as head of music for San Francisco Opera in August 2011. Prior to this appointment, he served as an assistant conductor for both the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera for 14 years. Mr. Churchwell has worked on more than 100 productions with such conductors as James Levine, Nicola Luisotti, Donald Runnicles, Nello Santi and Sir Charles Mackerras.  A champion of American music, Mr. Churchwell prepared the world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Stewart Wallace/Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Philip Glass’ Appomattox, and Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne. More recently he led the preparation for John Adams’ world premiere The Girls of the Golden West and the West Coast Premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain. On the recital stage, Mr. Churchwell has partnered with some of today’s most sought-after vocalists, including appearances at the Hollywood Bowl with Ellie Dehn, San Francisco Symphony with Michael Fabiano, and recitals with Lawrence Brownlee, Lisette Oropesa, Joyce DiDonato, James Westman, and Isabel Leonard. Mr. Churchwell spends his summers at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA, where he is the Director of Music for the Vocal Institute.  While there, in addition to chamber music performances and public masterclasses, Mr. Churchwell is instrumental in the training of young singers and apprentice coaches. Mr. Churchwell earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota and holds a bachelor’s degree in piano from the New England Conservatory, a bachelor’s degree in French from Tufts University, and a master’s degree in accompanying from the University of Minnesota.  Mr. Churchwell attended the Merola Opera Program and is a graduate of the Lindemann Young Artists Program at the Metropolitan Opera.


Rocky Mountain Regional Finals

Brad Trexell – Lyric Opera of Kansas City Director of Artistic Administration and Administrator of the Resident Artist Program








Brad Trexell has held several artistic and production-related positions during his career as an administrator in the fields of opera and theater.  He is currently Director of Artistic Administration and Administrator of the resident Artist Program at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Previously, he was Director of Artistic Operations/Artistic Administrator at Opera Colorado in Denver.  From 2005-2008 he was the Artistic Administrator at the Royal Danish Opera in the new Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, working with the 30-member ensemble and Artistic Director Kasper Bech Holton planning and casting upwards of 200 performances per season.  He was the Artistic Administrator at San Francisco Opera under General Director Pamela Rosenberg, and Assistant Artistic Administrator and Rehearsal Administrator under the late General Director Lotfi Mansouri.  After receiving his degree in Fine arts/Art, he began his career in Wisconsin at the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee where he filled various stage management and production positions over a span of eight years, and at Theatre Tesseract, where he was a stage manager, and occasional director of a production, including the plays ‘night, Mother and Strange Snow.  He also helmed a main stage production of Eugene Onegin and several touring school programs at the Florentine Opera, and a school version of Romeo and Juliet for Opera Colorado, where he also conceived and directed the inaugural SIDESHOW-a cabaret style evening featuring a fully staged performance of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, alongside a selection of traditional cabaret songs.  He is a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and has also served as a judge for several vocal competitions, notably, the Tucker Awards, the Dallas Opera Guild Competition, the ARIA awards, the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Vocal Competition, and the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition.

Emily Pulley – Metropolitan Opera Singer

A winner of the MONC National Finals in 1993, Emily Pulley has sung almost 200 performances as a Principal Artist at the Metropolitan Opera and continues to perform across the country and around the world, with companies as diverse as Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the National Symphony of Taiwan, and the Bartok + Festival in Miskolc, Hungary. While well established in traditional repertoire and venues, Emily has also earned praise for her work in modern compositions and in unconventional spaces, most recently the world premiere of Stay, a site-specific opera performed this past fall in a deserted house on Governor’s Island in NYC. She is a summa cum laude graduate of West Texas A&M University and was the recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014 and invited to spend the following year on faculty as an Artist-in-Residence.
Melissa Wegner – Metropolitan Opera National Council Exective Director
Melissa Wegner is the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions (MONC). Having joined the artistic staff of the Met in 2011, she hears artists in stage and screening auditions at the Met and is responsible for casting the Met’s New Opera Commissions workshops. She is a casting consultant for the upcoming Ricky Ian Gordon/Lynn Nottage opera INTIMATE APPAREL at Lincoln Center Theater. In addition to the District, Regional and National rounds of MONC, Ms. Wegner has adjudicated the Belvedere Competition, the SAI Vocal Competition, the McCammon Voice Competition, and the inaugural Nicola Martinucci Competition in Italy. A faculty member of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, Ms. Wegner has also been visiting faculty for Bard College’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program and is a frequent guest speaker and clinician at many of the country’s top conservatories, universities and summer festivals. This season she presents master classes at the Eastman School of Music, the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and the Curtis Institute. She is an active member of Opera America’s Performer Development forum steering committee and will present at the NATS Winter Conference in January 2020. Ms. Wegner is a member of Families of FANA WNY, which supports the orphanage in Colombia from which she was adopted. She is a Trustee of the Foundation Board of SUNY Potsdam, an Advisory Board Member of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, and on the team of advisors for Turn The Spotlight, a mentoring organization for exceptional women, people of color, and other equity-seeking groups. Ms. Wegner holds degrees from Bard College, The Manhattan School of Music, and The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam.
Allan Armstrong – Pianist And Vocal Coach CO-WY District Finals and Rocky Mountain Regional Finals
Pianist and vocal coach Allan Armstrong is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Collaborative Piano at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.  Previously he was a member of the applied piano faculty at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where he co-directed the nationally award-winning UTRGV Bravo Opera Company.  In 2019 he was selected to be a collaborative pianist at the prestigious National Association of Teachers of Singing Intern Program at the New England Conservatory of Music. Allan has been a principal production coach at Eugene Opera, Opera Colorado, St. Petersburg Opera, Summer Opera Tel Aviv, Opera on the Avalon, and Opera Tampa.