Musical sisters visit summer institute

Musical sisters visit summer institute

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Katherine Ann Ragan (left) and Mallorie Kate Gabbert (right) touring during their free time at Torgglers Summer Institute. Contributed Photo

Chemistry and communication is needed when performing in a musical ensemble. For two musicians, those talents stay with them even off stage.

They face each other when deciding who will speak and give each other feedback with harmonious musical runs of laughter that could brighten up a room.

Katherine Ann Ragan and Mallorie Kate Gabbert, vocal performance majors at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, attended the Torgglers Summer Vocal Institute (TSVI) at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA this past summer.

Only 50 students are selected to be part of the TSVI program. Torgglers Summer Vocal Institute presents the opportunity to meet and work with world-renowned vocalists.

“We got to work with people from The Metropolitan Opera, Broadway and a big jazz group, The Manhattan Transfer,” Gabbert said.

Constanza Cuccaro, Ben Heppner, Brian Stokes Mitchell and 9-time Grammy award winner Janis Siegel were some artists the students worked with.

A jazz piece and an aria had to be performed, recorded and uploaded online in order for Ragan and Gabbert to apply for the program and scholarship.

For others, preparing musical selections and performing them would be the most nerve-wracking procedure. However, introducing themselves in the video was the factor that both had trouble with the most.

“I kept laughing during recordings. I couldn’t get that part right,” Gabbert laughed.

“I don’t speak, I sing!”

Katherine Ann Ragan (left) getting intructed by (right) Ben Heppner, a dramatic tenor for The Metropolitan Opera. Contributed Photo
Katherine Ann Ragan (left) getting intructed by (right) Ben Heppner, a dramatic tenor for The Metropolitan Opera.
Contributed Photo

The wait for acceptance letters was not long.

Feelings of excitement and nerves hit Ragan as she thought about the artists she would be working with.

“I was very excited because I knew I was going to work with this dramatic tenor, Ben Heppner. He has a large voice and we could relate,” Ragan said. “A lot of people do not understand me and want me to sing light and flowy, but I am not like that, I’m like this large thing… in size and volume.”

The 2-week summer program offered master classes and lectures in classical styles and the second was concentrated on musical theatre.

Cuccaro, a performer for The Metropolitan Opera, worked with the students in the first week to help them out with their opera pieces.

Siegel was not familiar with the musical theatre and jazz pieces the students had, so she made them improvise on the spot.

“That was a little confusing, super scary and it took us out of our comfort zone completely,” Ragan said.

Grammy award winner Heppner performed a recital for students during the program and expanded the level of performance the students were used to viewing.

“Everyone was laughing at some parts and crying; it was amazing,” Gabbert said.


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and Ragan were introduced to new performance techniques and learned lessons on stage presence. Both of them said they believed they grew as musicians.

“The program was great and I think it is a very good program for younger people,” Ragan said. “But I’m in the stage where I need to be performing in operas.”

TSVI will become a 3-week program next summer and Broadway star, Adina Menzel, who played Alphaba in Wicked, will be participating with the students as well.

The program offered lectures and master classes for the students, but both Ragan and Gabbert want to expand to a program where it is more performance-based.

“It’s great that students from our music department are getting recognized for their work, not just locally but nationwide,” said Flor Longoria, music performance and music education major.

The girls are not planning on returning to the TSVI, but still show interest in summer programs that will help them grow musically.

“Thank you Dr. Melinda Brou (assistant professor of voice and opera) for helping us find this program. She helped us a lot with applying for this program and had all the resources… And, of course, she helped us learn the music,” Gabbert laughed.



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