Press Room

Music Academy of the West’s 2013 Marilyn Horne winners present world premiere

The 2013 winners of the Music Academy of the West’s Marilyn Horne Song Competition, baritone John Brancy and pianist Mario Antonio Marra, will perform the premiere of Force by up-and-coming composer Chris Kapica, Schumann’s Dichterliebe, works by Dvorák, and American standards in a trio of East and West Coast recitals. The first will take place at the Music Academy’s Hahn Hall in Santa Barbara, California on Tuesday, March 4, followed by Santa Monica’s Broad Stage on Friday, March 7, and the National Opera Center in New York City on Sunday, March 16. The New York recital is part of OPERA America’s Emerging Artist Recital Series, a showcase for finalists and prizewinners from the nation’s most prestigious young artist programs and competitions.
In addition to Force and Dichterliebe, Brancy and Marra’s complete program for all three performances will include Koljas and Nereiden from Dvorák’s Three Modern Greek Poems, Op. 50; Mé srdce casto v bolesti (“My heart is often in pain”) from Cypresses, B. 11, also by Dvorák; “The Nearness of You” by Hoagy Carmichael; “The Folks who Live on the Hill” by Jerome Kern; and “Night and Day” by Cole Porter. Following the March 4 recital in Santa Barbara, world-renowned mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne will conduct a question-and-answer session with the performers on stage.
“The song recital remains a uniquely vibrant art form. It’s vital that we continue to nurture and promote it among performers and audiences alike,” said Horne, who has directed the Music Academy’s celebrated Voice Program since 1997. “Once again we have two wonderful young recitalists who I am confident are destined for long careers on stage.”
Hailed by the New York Times as “a vibrant, resonate presence” and a “dashing, strong-voiced baritone,” John Brancy has given recitals throughout Europe and North America, and has appeared frequently in concert with Steven Blier and the New York Festival of Song. His appearances this season include debuts with Oper Frankfurt, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Pacific Opera Victoria, as well as performances with the Saskatoon and Regina Symphony Orchestras, San Francisco Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Brooklyn Art Song Society. Brancy, who studied with Horne as a 2013 Music Academy Voice Fellow, was born in Philadelphia and recently received his bachelor’s degree and graduate diploma at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Edith Wiens. Horne has described him as “a complete singer with wonderful expression.”
Warren Jones, who directs the Music Academy’s Vocal Piano and Interpretation Program, added, “John Brancy is a very gifted young baritone who combines a beautiful lyric voice with a communicative and engaging manner on stage. His attention to details of text and meaning gives his performances a deep dimension of understanding and projection well beyond his years.”
“I am honored and thrilled to be singing in this upcoming recital series presented by Marilyn Horne and the Music Academy of the West,” said the 25-year-old Brancy. “My collaboration with pianist Mario Antonio Marra has been nothing short of inspiring. It is also my pleasure to announce the premiere of Force, a new vocal piano work written specifically for these recitals by my dear friend and fellow Juilliard alumnus Chris Kapica, with lyrics by my life-long friend, poet Robert Corsini.”
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Mario Antonio Marra, 22, recently received a bachelor of music degree from New York University, where he studied with Marilyn Nonken and Grant Wenaus. His recent performance highlights include “The Song Continues” at Carnegie Hall, a tour of Tuscany as a soloist and collaborator with flutist Roberto Fabbriciani, and the rare privilege of playing a High Mass on the organ of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Marra is currently on the coaching staff of the Manhattan School of Music, where he is pursuing a graduate degree under the tutelage of Warren Jones.
“Mario Antonio Marra is an articulate and colorful young pianist who is already sought after by many young singers because of his warmth and support at the keyboard in vocal recitals,” said Jones. “He inhabits the music as he plays, and lives the words and melodies, making them his own.” Horne has also lauded Marra’s “superb technique.”
“Meeting and working with John [Brancy] this past summer was a highlight for me, and I am looking forward to being on stage with him again,” said Marra. “The ability to give our recital not once but three times in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and New York is a true gift. I am very thankful to Marilyn Horne, Warren Jones, and the Music Academy of the West for providing this wonderful opportunity.” Marra studied with Jones as a Music Academy Vocal Piano Fellow in 2013.
One of the most popular events of the summer season at the Music Academy of the West, the Marilyn Horne Song Competition is a showcase for Academy singers and vocal pianists. Top awards, presented in memory of longtime Music Academy vocal accompaniment faculty member Gwendolyn Koldofsky, are given to the Academy singer and vocal pianist who demonstrate both excellence in the performance of song repertoire and an exceptional gift for audience communication. Winners receive full underwriting from the Music Academy for recital appearances, and cash awards of $2,500. The competition regularly attracts industry insiders eager for a glimpse of emerging talent.
Previous winners of the competition have included soprano Tracy Cox and pianist Maureen Zoltek (2012); soprano Karen Vuong and pianist Saule Tlenchiyeva (2011); soprano Megan Hart and pianist Sun Ha “Sunny” Yoon (2010); mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller, tenor Jeffrey Hill, and pianist Lio Kuokman (2009); soprano Simone Osborne, baritone Edward Parks, and pianist In-Sun Suh (2008); soprano Nadine Sierra and pianist Karen Kyung-Eun Na (2007); baritone Evan Hughes (2006); soprano Elaine Alvarez, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, and pianist Tamara Sanikidze (2005); mezzo-soprano Daniela Lehner and pianist Marie-Ève Scarfone (2004); mezzo-soprano Megan Latham and pianist Carol Wong (2003); mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski and pianist Jerome Tan (2002); tenor Ramon Diggs and pianist Nino Sanikidze (2001); baritone Nicolai Janitzky, mezzo-soprano Liesel Fedkenheuer, and pianists Ji Young Lee and Spencer Myer (2000).
Tickets for the March 4 recital in Santa Barbara are $25 general admission and $10 for students. Hahn Hall is located at the Music Academy of the West. Free parking will be available on the campus grounds. For more information, visit
Tickets for the March 7 recital range from $16 to $35. The Broad Stage is located at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St. in Santa Monica. For more information, visit or call 310-434-3200.
The recital in New York City on March 16, which will be live-streamed, will be presented as part of OPERA America’s Emerging Artist Recital Series, which was inaugurated in September by 2012 Music Academy of the West Marilyn Horne Song Competition winners Tracy Cox and Maureen Zoltek. The National Opera Center is located at 330 Seventh Avenue. Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online at
About Music Academy of the West
The Music Academy of the West’s 2014 Summer School and Festival will take place June 16 to August 9. Highlights will include a fully staged production of Carmen, presented as a tribute to Marilyn Horne, and an appearance by the contemporary chamber music ensemble eighth blackbird. Featuring the Academy’s exceptionally talented Fellows, together with illustrious guest performers and faculty, the events will be presented at the Academy’s scenic Miraflores campus and in venues throughout Santa Barbara.
Founded in 1947 by a group of Southern California arts patrons and musicians that included Lotte Lehmann and Otto Klemperer, the Music Academy of the West is among the nation’s preeminent summer schools and festivals for gifted young classical musicians. The Academy provides these promising musicians with the opportunity for advanced study and frequent performance under the guidance of internationally renowned faculty artists, guest conductors, and soloists. Admission to the Academy is strictly merit-based, and Fellows receive full scholarships (tuition, room, and board). Academy alumni are members of major symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, ensembles, opera companies, and university and conservatory faculties throughout the world. Many enjoy careers as prominent solo artists. Based in Santa Barbara, the Music Academy of the West presents more than 200 public events annually, including performances by faculty, visiting artists, and Fellows; masterclasses; orchestra and chamber music concerts; and a fully staged opera. For more information, visit
About OPERA America
Founded in 1970, OPERA America ( supports the creation, presentation, and enjoyment of opera. The organization helps opera companies and creative and performing artists improve the quality and increase the creation of productions. OPERA America’s worldwide membership network includes nearly 200 company members, 300 associate and business members, 2,000 individual members, and more than 10,000 subscribers to the association’s electronic news service. The National Opera Center opened in September 2012 in New York City.
Music Academy of the West upcoming events:
Music Academy of the West 2013 Marilyn Horne Song Competition Winners in Recital  
John Brancy, baritone
Mario Antonio Marra, piano
Schumann: Dichterliebe
Dvorák: selected songs
Chris Kapica: Force (world premiere)
Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter: selected songs
March 4 at 7:30 pm
Santa Barbara, California
Hahn Hall, Music Academy of the West
March 7 at 7:30 pm
Santa Monica, California
The Broad Stage
March 16 at 4:00 pm
New York City
National Opera Center
OPERA America’s Emerging Artist Recital Series
For further information, contact:
Glenn Petry, 21C Media Group: [email protected]; 212-625-2038
Tim Dougherty, Music Academy of the West Communications Manager: [email protected]; 805-695-7908
© 21C Media Group, February 2014

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