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A

particularly exciting chapter in the history of The Academy of Vocal Arts

is unfolding. We are proud to announce Raising Our Voices, a $10 million dollar campaign to maintain and improve upon AVA's long-standing tradition of educational and artistic distinction. The Raising Our Voices campaign will enable AVA to renovate and expand upon existing facilities in order to better serve both our Resident Artists and our audiences. Most importantly, it will increase this very special and rare institution’s endowment to ensure our ability to serve the future generations of vocal artists who will seek the level of training that only The Academy of Vocal Arts can provide. Regarded by many as the premier opera training school in the world, AVA provides four years of tuition-free training. The student body is kept intentionally small, and the admission process is highly competitive. Dedicated to maintaining an unparalleled level of individualized attention for our students, the program is limited to fewer than 30 total Resident Artists, who are immersed in a uniquely intensive and highly personalized program where they learn from world-renowned faculty. They receive training in voice, vocal repertoire, acting, stage combat, opera history, and several languages. More than $100,000 in training resources are invested in each student, each year. The core of our Resident Artists’ training is through The Academy of Vocal Arts’ opera productions where they receive the exceptional opportunity to perform the leading roles they will in all likelihood continue to perform for the rest of their careers. Thank you for being part of the AVA family and for joining us in “raising our voices” to support our extraordinary artists. You are their greatest source of encouragement.

K. James McDowell, President & Artistic Director


TOTAL CAMPAIGN GOAL: $10 MILLION The Raising Our Voices campaign goals are twofold: to renovate and expand upon AVA's existing historic facilities to better serve both our artists and our audiences, and to increase AVA's endowment to ensure financial stability in the years to come. These funds will help AVA to further its mission of providing the finest opera training: to recruit the most promising young artists, to train them by the world’s finest faculty, and to introduce them to you in a venue that has been renovated and expanded to meet their training and performance needs.

THANKS TO OUR GENEROUS EARLY SUPPORTERS, NEARLY $8,000,000 HAS BEEN RAISED AS OF THIS WRITING. WE GIVE THEM OUR HEARTFELT THANKS! STRENGTHENING OUR ENDOWMENT: $6 MILLION Growth of The Academy of Vocal Arts' endowment is essential to the sustainability of our tuition-free program. AVA's Resident Artists – tomorrow's leading opera soloists – depend on our tuition-free program and fellowships to dedicate themselves fully to the individualized training from world-renowned faculty that only AVA provides.

CAMPUS EXPANSION AND RENOVATION: $4 MILLION The expansion to 1916 Spruce Street and renovation of AVA's historic facilities at 1918 and 1920 Spruce Street will enable us to provide educational and performance spaces that meet the needs of today's artists and audiences. Highlights include:  Multi-media learning center  Elevator to make upper floors of campus fully accessible  Dedicated room for music recitals, preview lectures, and donor receptions  Large orchestra and staging rehearsal hall  Improved seating and lighting in the Helen Corning Warden Theater  Workspace devoted to the needs of the conducting staff  Fitness studio for Resident Artists  Expanded three-floor library and archives


Jeannine B. Cowles Honorary Campaign Chair B.A. (Mackie) MacLean, Jr. Chairman of the Board

AVA President & Artistic Director K. James McDowell distributes gilded sledgehammers to guests at the October 2012 Groundbreaking of the Sally Paxson Davis Building at 1916 Spruce Street.

K. James McDowell President and Artistic Director Dr. Romeo Abella Allen D. Black, Esq. Caroline Davis Claytor and Warren I. Claytor Catherine and Douglas K. Davis Peter G. Gould Lucinda S. Landreth Leon L. Levy Jim McClelland Thomas O'Rourke Susan E. Sherman Ann R. Stephenson Walter M. Strine, Jr. Esq. P. Jeffrey Warden Charlotte Watts

Mr. Robert Capanna of The Presser Foundation kicks off the renovation of the future home of the Presser Library within The Academy of Vocal Arts’ newest building at 1916 Spruce Street.


Warren Claytor, Caroline Claytor (daughter of Sally Paxson Davis), AVA Board Chairman B.A. (Mackie) MacLean, Jr., and AVA President & Artistic Director K. James McDowell officiate the ribbon cutting ceremony for AVA’s newest campus building at 1916 Spruce Street.

The name of AVA’s newest building at 1916 Spruce Street is revealed: The Sally Paxson Davis Building, titled in honor of AVA Founder Helen Corning Warden’s granddaughter. Mrs. Davis followed in her mother’s footsteps (Adele Warden Paxson, for whom AVA’s building at 1918 Spruce Street is named), in chairing AVA’s Board of Directors. AVA’s landmark building at 1920 Spruce Street is named for founder, Helen Corning Warden.

William B. Dietrich Foundation The Presser Foundation The Isenberg Family Charitable Trust The Jacob Burns Foundation


Admission to The Academy of Vocal Arts is highly competitive, with fewer than 5% of candidates accepted to our tuition-free training program. We attract many the world’s best singers to our equally challenging and nurturing environment where students learn from outstanding faculty—and from each other. Everything this institution does is focused on the artistic development of our Resident Artists, who will give voice to opera’s future. The Raising Our Voices campaign will ensure our ability to launch future generations of vocal artists.

Burak Bilgili

Stephen Costello

Ellie Dehn

Joyce DiDonato

Joyce El-Khoury

Nancy Fabiola Herrera

Michael Fabiano

Othalie Graham

Eglise Gutiérrez

Bryan Hymel

Michelle Johnson

Luis Ledesma


“AVA offers the venue and opportunity to learn the craft of opera and to walk on stage and sing! Every artist that has stepped into that brownstone at 1920 Spruce Street knows the feeling of accomplishment of singing on that stage. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.” - Joyce DiDonato, class of 1995 Shawn Mathey

Angela Meade

Latonia Moore

James Morris

Ailyn Pérez

Taylor Stayton

Ruth Ann Swenson

Richard Troxell

James Valenti

Corinne Winters


The current and continuing success of AVA’s Raising Our Voices campaign has resulted not only from immediate gifts and pledges, but also from generous planned and estate gifts of many of our patrons. Here, we remember and celebrate Robert Baxter, to whom we are deeply grateful for his many decades of friendship, the passion for opera which he shared with our Resident Artists, and for his impact on the future of AVA through a bequest of great significance. For the last two years of Robert Baxter’s life, he served on the faculty of The Academy of Vocal Arts in what he described to friends as his “dream job,” as AVA’s teacher of opera history and the history of singers until his passing in 2010. As an opera teacher, Mr. Baxter was not only knowledgeable but also inspirational to artists. He received great joy in seeing AVA’s young singers consistently receive such high acclaim and it thrilled him to discover students who were equally touched by his favorite operas and singers. Born in 1940 and raised in Merced, California, Robert Baxter attended Stanford University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and a PhD in Classics. He taught Classics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts until 1979 when he left his faculty position to become a performing arts critic for the Courier-Post where he wrote theater, opera, and classical music criticism for close to 30 years. Opera News wrote that Baxter was “highly discerning and scrupulously honest, and had a well-deserved reputation as a tough, but fair critic whose coverage of theater, opera, and classical music in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey was highly valued and respected by his readers and by his colleagues.” He was also a regular contributor to an international array of such musical publications as Opera News, Opera, Opera Now, and Opera Quarterly, among others. Robert Baxter was the founder and President of the Opera Club of Philadelphia which met monthly except in the summer for some 22 years. To its more than 200 members, he introduced major personalities in the world of opera, including directors, authors, composers, administrators, young aspiring singers, and celebrated opera stars. The Opera Club’s annual prize recital promoting local operatic voices was a popular event. We believe Robert Baxter would have been thrilled to know that his bequest played a significant role in supporting the campus expansion to 1916 Spruce Street with its three-story library, additional rehearsal spaces, and particularly the new recital/lecture hall, which may allow AVA to offer informative pre-opera lectures in the near future. His legacy gift will help young singers train for international careers in opera for decades to come. Undoubtedly, some of the very singers he taught here will be the subject of future opera history classes at AVA!


Robert Baxter was a very dear colleague and a great gentleman, a man of serious concern and respect for everyone; people he knew well and people he had just met. It is no exaggeration to say that he loved his work. In one of his letters to me, Robert wrote: “I am teaching opera and vocal history at The Academy of Vocal Arts. I am surrounded with love and good cheer and positive vibrations. My schedule is perfect, and I’m interacting with the young singers, who are a great joy!” And he signed it, “so much love Mary Jane, there is so much love.” That is what we should all remember. Mary Jane Phillips Matz, long-time writer for Opera News, biographer of Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Leonard Warren, Rosa Ponselle, and much loved annual speaker for the Opera Club of Philadelphia Robert Baxter was a great source of encouragement and support and one of the few critics who celebrated local talents and followed their careers with great loyalty and interest. He was a caring and limitless supporter of The Academy of Vocal Arts. I think that teaching the AVA singers was probably his biggest source of happiness while he battled his illness.. Hopefully those who were lucky enough to attend his classes were enlightened and inspired by his great knowledge and heart. Danielle Orlando, Master Vocal Coach, The Academy of Vocal Arts

Robert’s sophisticated ear and critical taste were infallible. He studied recordings and analyzed performances constantly and found in his judgments an admirable balance between heart and mind, emotional reaction and historical perspective. I know for certain that the opportunity to give some of his love and knowledge of music through teaching at The Academy of Vocal Arts meant a great deal to him, especially in his last year. Mr. Walter Moore, long-time friend and professor emeritus at the University of Music in Vienna, Austria

Every interview or informal conversation was a joyous exchange about “the greatness of the art form.” It wasn’t important whether we agreed or disagreed, because he was always coming from such a place of genuine affection for the music. For Robert Baxter, his job was not that of merely reporting on the music but rather, one of living the music. I was delighted to be a part of his musical world. Steven Mercurio, Conductor


The Raising Our Voices campaign was officially announced at The Academy of Vocal Arts’ VIVA LA VOCE! Gala, held on Saturday, April 6, 2013. More than 350 guests participated in this spectacular evening, held amid the exotic collections of the Penn Museum. We give our great thanks to Gala Co-Chairs Dr. Emmeline P. Abella, Dr. Romeo Abella, Dr. Lamberto G. Bentivoglio, and Barbara M. Donnelly, and the entire Gala Committee for their role in making this year’s Gala a record-breaking success . Pat Conte, Jane Rice, Emmeline Abella, Judy Green, Resident Artists Patrick Guetti, Zak Nelson, and John Viscardi, and Claire Donohue (front)

Resident Artist Dominick Chenes and Leon Levy

Cassey Coleman, Peggy Lyon, and Evie Minor

Bobbie and Joel Porter

Megan Sage, Rick Pitcairn, Leah Rollins, and Marty Janowiecki

Gail Howard and Richard Muñoz

Peter and Christine Batchelor

George and Marlene Milner

Gordon and Ellen Wase


AVA alumnus, tenor Richard Troxell along with Resident Artist Musa Ngqungwana, joined in the announcement of The Academy of Vocal Arts’ Raising Our Voices campaign.

Ruth King and Steven Ryave

Paul Batastini, Resident Artist Shelley Jackson, Amelia Batastini, Lyn Vizzi, and Stage Director Tito Capobiano

Caroline and Warren Claytor

On Sunday, March 17, 2013, Gala Angels and Benefactors enjoyed an exclusive cocktail party at the beautiful, private estate of Dr. Luz Hammershaimb in Newtown Square, PA where they were treated to performances by Resident Artists Chloé Moore, Musa Ngqungwana, and Alexandra Schenck, along with pianist and AVA’s Assistant to the Music Director, José Meléndez. Thank you to Party Co-Chairs Judith A. Dooling and Ann R. Stephenson, and party host Dr. Luz Hammershaimb for such a lovely and memorable afternoon.

Aaron Cohen and Priscilla Coblentz Cohen

Alice and Walter Strine

Judith A. Dooling, Dr. Romeo Abella, Dr. Emmeline Abella, Dr. Luz Hammershaimb, Barbara M. Donnelly, Dr. Lamberto G. Bentivoglio, and Ann R. Stephenson All photos by Sarah Lyon


For many of our Resident Artists, The Academy of Vocal Arts

“When we perform at AVA we have the subscribers, the donors, the coaches, all of them rooting for us to do the best we can. You know there are people who support you, they want the best out of you, and they’ll always be with you, wherever you go.” – AVA Resident Artist and National Winner of the 2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Bass-Baritone Musa Ngqungwana

is much more than an opera training institute—it’s a family. And it’s patrons like you who make these artists feel at home. Since its inception in 1934, The Academy of Vocal Arts has been a bastion of world-class operatic training. AVA Resident Artists—tomorrow’s leading performers—depend on us to provide the unique environment, outstanding faculty, and top -notch facilities that foster the development of great singers. They need donors like you—who care deeply about the future of opera—to invest in their training. We welcome your interest in supporting The Academy of Vocal Arts’ Raising Our Voices campaign. You can participate through a naming gift, a planned gift, or a multi-year pledge. Our staff are pleased to share with you the full details and intended impact of the campaign, and to discuss with you the ways in which you can see yourself becoming involved in this important project. Robert W. Lyon Director of Institutional Advancement 215.735.1685 x16 rlyon@avaopera.org

Robin Barnes Director of Major & Individual Gifts 215.735.1685 x28 rbarnes@avaopera.org

The Academy of Vocal Arts | 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 | 215.735.1685 | avaopera.org

The Academy of Vocal Arts' Raising Our Voices Campaign Newsletter: June, 2013  

www.avaopera.org