CS Vocal Competition Winners : Classical Young Artist/Emerging Pro

$14,000 of cash prizes and $4.2 million in scholarships were awarded at the 2022 CS Vocal Competition. Meet the winners in a series of online features.

Introducing our First Place winner in the Classical Young Artist/Emerging Pro division! 

FIRST PLACE WINNER: MEGAN KOCH

1. What is your artist level and school if applicable?

I competed in the Young Artist / Emerging Pro category, which is exactly how I would describe myself. I graduated from the University of North Texas with my GAC (graduate artist certificate) in Opera in 2021 and my master’s in voice in 2019. I also earned my Bachelor of Music Education degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2017. I have been a Lesley Resident Artist at Fort Worth Opera during the past two years as well.

2. What is your dream role?

There are so many roles that I would love to sing someday. I’ve really loved connecting to Lucia, Manon, Norina, Gilda, etc. I recently spent a couple of months studying Violetta, and I fell in love with her music. There are so many moments to show her depth through luscious melodic lines as well as guttural, emotional outpouring. I would love to perform her someday because though my life looks very different from hers, I am inspired by her strength and sincerity of heart.

3. What advice would you give to future participants in the CS Music competition?

My advice for anyone participating in the CS Music competition is to go in with big goals and just put your best foot forward. As in any competition or audition, you can only do your best on that day, so try to have fun doing it. No matter the outcome, there are some great connections to be made, and people will remember more than just your singing. Always be kind and supportive of your colleagues!

4. How do you feel that singing, and music in general, can have an impact on the world?

Singing is such a healthy way for people to express themselves either through solo or collective effort. I have a background in teaching, and I love to see the way that my students’ confidence blossoms through their voices. The beauty that they can create from practicing and exploring the limits of their comfort zones is amplified by their sense of accomplishment. When the voice becomes an accessible medium, I find that they have more compassion for one another and can stand a little taller themselves. Music allows for shared experiences that often lead to connections that transcend our differences. There is a core humanity in our art that has a lot of power to bring us together. I think if more people could use their voices in this therapeutic way, the more people would feel heard, and so much violence and hate could be avoided in the world.

5. Name one of your favorite professional singers and why they are so impactful.

My teacher, Jennifer Rowley, is particularly impactful to me personally as well as to the industry. Her artistry and technique are stunning, and she brings detailed attention to every role she sings. I had the pleasure of hearing her in recital, and it is easily one the best concerts I have ever attended. I was very moved by the energy and honesty behind each phrase she sang. During COVID, she brought industry professionals together to hear and interact with young artists, and she kept the morale high during that difficult time. I am constantly impressed by her dedication to her students as well as her own art. I am extremely grateful to have such an encouraging mentor, and I hope that one day I will be able to pay it all forward.

6. In terms of singing and performing, what has been your biggest struggle and how have you overcome it?

My biggest hurdle lately has been allergies. For a while, my voice was quite inconsistent, and singing was tiring. Finally I figured out that I have some severe reactions to the North Texas environment! I want to share this in case it can help someone – if singing feels harder than normal, or you constantly wake up not knowing what’s going to come out, go get tested for allergies in your area! I was not sneezing or blowing my nose, but it was the constant post-nasal drip that affected me over about two years. I was always swollen and congested to the point that my resonance was totally inaccessible no matter how hard I tried. It ruined my technique and led me to develop Muscle Tension Dysphonia. Once my allergy test came back for over 60 environmental allergens, I worked with my doctor to find the best regimen for me as a singer, including allergy shots – also known as immunotherapy- antihistamines, and Flonase. I simply need to take my hydration extra-seriously to compensate for the drying effects of these medications. This routine will not work for everyone, but I highly recommend working with an allergist if you think this might be an issue for you! Regular SOVT exercises, steaming, and nasal rinses can also help keep some of these symptoms at bay. After working through this with my allergist and my teacher, my technique is better than ever, and I never have to worry about waking up and not having a voice anymore. It is a huge relief!

7. How did you come to participate in the competition? (How did you hear about it and what steps did you take in order to make it happen?)

This year is my third entry into the Classical Singer Competition in Chicago. I first heard of this competition when my professor, Dr. William Hudson, from Illinois Wesleyan encouraged members of our studio to apply. I competed once during my undergraduate degree and once in my master’s, both in the collegiate division. The second time, I made it to the semi-final round. Naturally, my goal was to be a finalist this year as a Young Artist / Emerging Pro, and not only did I achieve that, I won first place!

 

Photo of the finalists in the Young Artist/Emerging Pro division:

CS Music Staff

CS Music is THE community for singers, teachers, and pianists. CS began in 1986 with the first issue of The New York Opera Newsletter and later to the award-winning magazine Classical Singer. Since 2003 CS has expanded to included articles, audition listings, and events for both classical and musical theatre singers worldwide! Free online articles and listings are available at www.csmusic.net.