Faculty

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Joseph McClain
Artistic Director, Vocal and Acting Instructor

After completion of his vocal studies with Margaret Harshaw, Joseph McClain began his career as a tenor on American and German opera stages. During his 10 years of activity in Germany, he made the transition from performer to stage director.

Returning to the United States, he founded Austin Lyric Opera and as General Director guided the company through years of extraordinary growth and success. Under his leadership the company launched important new artistic initiatives including the co-commissioning of major new American works such as Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree; national co-production ventures of such works as Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking; and a series of acclaimed productions produced outside the theater in environmental settings, including Carmen and Rigoletto.

In 2003 he resettled to San Miguel de Allende and founded Ópera de San Miguel, initiating a nationwide competition for young singers, Concurso San Miguel, which has rapidly become one of the leading operatic competitions in Latin America. At present McClain is Director Artístico Emeritus of the San Miguel organization.

As a stage director he has directed productions of virtually all the international operatic repertoire on stages in the United States, Europe and Canada. He has specialized in training for  singers designed to release the artist’s full potential as a singer and an actor.

2022 Faculty

Michael Sylvester
General Director and Vocal Instructor

Tenor Michael Sylvester, widely considered one of the finest lyric spinto tenors of his generation before turning his skills to teaching, holds a B.M. from Westminster Choir College and a M.M. from Indiana University. Mr. Sylvester has sung leading roles in the major opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, London’s Covent Garden, Milan’s La Scala, Vienna Staatsoper, Opera Australia’s Sydney Opera House, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, Paris Opera, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colon, Houston Grand Opera, Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, Staatsoper Berlin, Grand Theater de Geneva, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Florence’s Maggio Musicale, Hamburg Staatsoper, Bonn Staatsoper, Frankfurt Staatsoper, Opera de Toulouse, the New Israeli Opera and many others. During the 1990s, Mr. Sylvester sang more performances at the Metropolitan Opera of Radames in Verdi’s opera AIDA than any other tenor. A 1989 article in USA Today named Mr. Sylvester as one of the two most important tenors of his generation.

Among others his opera repertoire includes Radames in AIDA (which he has sung over 150 times), the title role Don Carlo in DON CARLO, Adorno in SIMON BOCCANEGRA, Cavaradossi in TOSCA, Pinkerton in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Calaf in TURANDOT, Rodolfo in LA BOHEME, Bacchus in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, Der Kaiser in DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, Samson in SAMSON ET DALILA, Don Jose in CARMEN and Pollione in NORMA. All in all, he has performed close to fifty leading roles. The many works he has performed in concert include Verdi’s REQUIEM, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Symphony #8 and Beethoven’s Symphony #9 with orchestras worldwide.

Among his recordings are the title role in DON CARLO with James Levine (Sony Classics), Adorno in SIMON BOCCANEGRA with Sir George Solti (Decca), Calaf in TURANDOT (EMI video), Mahler’s Symphony #8 with Robert Shaw (Telarc) and Mendelssohn’s Die ertse Walpurgisnacht (Arabesque). Additionally, he has been featured in numerous Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera and in other broadcast and televised performances around the world.

Currently, Mr. Sylvester is an Associate Professor of Voice at Wichita State University and was previously on the faculty at DePaul University and Indiana University. He also maintains a studio of young professional students. He is Co-Director of the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto. Mr. Sylvester served as Master Teacher-in-Residence for the 2014 Concurso San Miguel. In 2013 he was invited to be the Artist-in-Residence at the Art Song Festival at the University of Toledo. Mr. Sylvester teaches annually at the iSing! International Young Opera Singers Festival in Suzhou, China and at Chicago Summer Opera, where he teaqches voice and German diction. He has students performing in North America and Europe and several that have been successful in national competitions.

In recent years, Mr. Sylvester has turned his performing talents toward recital and concert work, having given recitals in Chicago, Wichita (KS), San Miguel de Allede (Mexico), Rochester (NY), Atlanta, Toledo (OH), Indianapolis and Ridgefield (CT). Concerts have included Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Beethoven’s Symphony #9.

He has just finished his first book, English Diction and Enunciation for North American Singers, and is finalizing its publication and eventual e-book publication. Currently he is working on a project called A Survey of Historically Important Classical Singers of the 20th Century, an audio project aimed at introducing young singers to the singers that came before them.

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Ted Taylor
Music Director and Vocal Coach

Equally at home in the pit conducting a repertoire of  over 50 operas and musicals, on the stage accompanying some of the world's pre-eminent vocalists or appearing in the country’s top cabaret venues, TED TAYLOR enjoys a varied international career. As pianist he has appeared with such luminaries as Sylvia McNair, Christine Schäfer, Ben Heppner and Kathleen Battle, for whom he played thirty-four concerts, and in March 2013, he co-conducted LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with Seiji Ozawa in Tokyo and on tour in Japan.

Maestro Taylor has been a member of the conducting staffs of the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Santa Fe Opera, and has appeared with many American opera companies, including New York City Opera, where he made his debut in 2003 leading LA TRAVIATA, as well as those of Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Wolf Trap and Central City. World premieres include the April 2009 production of Libby Larsen’s opera PICNIC for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In the early years as conductor, he was appointed music director by Beverly Sills of the New York City Opera National Company for two years, and he served in the same capacity for Mobile (Alabama) Opera for eight seasons.

Praised in the New York Times as a “sophisticated and unusually sensitive accompanist” (with Jan Opalach) whose “playing had a full lusciousness ideal for Strauss” (with Christine Schäfer), as well as for his cabaret appearances (“one of the best in the business,” raves Associated Press), Mr. Taylor has appeared over the years with many wonderful singers, among them the legendary Eileen Farrell, whose CBS cable show for which he was pianist ran the musical gamut from lieder to blues. As a pianist in master classes, he has worked with such great artists as Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Regine Crespin and Carlo Bergonzi. On CD, he may be heard as harpsichord soloist with Seiji Ozawa in the Philips recording of Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS and as pianist with Sylvia McNair in a disc of Gershwin songs on BBC Worldwide, live from London's Wigmore Hall.

Appearances by Mr. Taylor include the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Festival, and the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Series, Castleton Festival, Newport Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society Summerfest, The Princeton Festival and Music Mountain.  Among his cabaret venues are the Algonquin’s Oak Room, Feinstein’s, Café Carlyle, the Royal Room of The Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, and most recently, Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie with Joyce Castle.

As vocal coach and teacher, his students and clients regularly appear with the great performing organizations of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra and National Symphony, among others.

Mr. Taylor’s earliest professional years in the music business were in Nashville, where his work as pianist, show conductor and arranger led to an extensive tour of the Soviet Union with ‘Tennessee’ Ernie Ford in 1974. Following graduate studies in conducting and opera at Indiana University, he began his coaching career with Santa Fe Opera, subsequently moving to New York, where he soon joined the music staff of New York City Opera.

In the field of contemporary opera, Mr. Taylor served as assistant to Academy Award winning composer Tan Dun for the premiere of his first opera, MARCO POLO, at the Munich Biennale and prepared the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic orchestras for subsequent performances. For New York City Opera, he led excerpts of new works for the company's Showcasing American Composers series. 

As an educator, in addition to his sixteen years on the faculty of the Opera Program at Mannes College THE NEW SCHOOL For Music in New York City and his ten years  with the Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music at Yale University, he has been invited to guest conduct at such prestigious music schools as Indiana University, where he led the university premier of Mark Adamo's LITTLE WOMEN, and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, conducting Rossini's IL VIAGGIO A REIMS, awarded first place in its category in the National Opera Association Competition. This summer will find him teaching for the seventh time in University of Houston’s institute LE CHIAVI: THE KEYS TO BEL CANTO and he has served as master coach for eight years at CoOPERAtive of Westminster Choir College in Princeton. A frequent adjudicator, he has judged the Connecticut, New York and Western Tennessee District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and for four years has coached and played the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Final Awards at the Met.

A native Texan, he makes his home in Manhattan, where he maintains an active studio as coach and teacher.

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Ragnar Conde
Stage Director and Acting Instructor

A native of Mexico, Ragnar Conde studied Graphic Design at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana- Azcapotzalco and Performing Arts at Casa del Teatro. Since 1992, he has served as teacher, coach and stage director in both the educational and professional sectors. These institutions and companies include SIVAM, ARGOS, Artepost Productions, San Benito Abad Theater, Universidad del Valle de México, Alas y Raíces para los niños, Nickelodeon, Artescenica, ITESM-CEM, National Fine Arts Opera Company, Zacatecas Opera Company, the Madrigalistas Choir, Solists Ensemble, Pro Opera, FIGAROSY, the Centro Histórico Children's Choir, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, West Bay Opera, Golden Ceiba Productions., Mobile Productions, Morelos Opera Company, Xcaret Archeological Park, Skylight Music Theatre and Pro-Musica .

Mr. Conde has participated in over 70 Performing Arts projects in Mexico, United States, France, Switzerland, Italy and Columbia.. This projects include Theatre, Opera, Musicals, Concerts and Films, sharing credits as Stage Director, Producer, Writer, Acting Coach or Scenic, Lighting and Costume Designer.

His opera productions include L’Enfant et le Sortiléges, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Sour Angélica, Il Segreto di Susana, Bastien und Bastienne, The Telephone, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Don Pasquale, La Bohéme, El Rey Poeta, Agamenón, Leoncio y Lena, Le nozze di Figaro, I Pagliacci, Hänsel und Gretel, Carmen, La Scala di Seta, L'occasione fa il ladro, Dido and Aeneas, Samson et Dalila, Il Trovatore, Traviata, Elisir d'amore, Despertar al Sueño, Rigoletto, Madama Butterfly, La Creciente and La Voix Humaine. He served as Associate Stage Director for Peter Webster`s production of Little Women, the international première of this most popular opera by Mark Adamo (Mexico City). Conductors and Musical Directors he has worked with include Teresa Rodríguez, James Demster, Enrique Batiz, Luis Fernando Luna, Rodrigo Macías, Gabriela Díaz-Alatriste, Juan Carlos Lomónaco, Roberto Kalb, Benjamín Juárez Echenique, José Luis Moscovich, Andrés Dos Santos, Johannes Debus, Marco Parisotto and Edoardo Muller.

In film, he is the co-writer of No Turning Back, an international feature film (Mexico-Columbia), where he worked also as Acting Coach and Second Assistant. He also worked as Acting Coach in Balls, a Columbian feature film Mr. Conde also adapted the script for the film Seven Years of Marriage, to be feature in Mexico in 2012, and wrote the script for Enamorándome de Abril, to be filmed in the next few months.

Mr. Conde has taught classes in acting, dance, corporal expression and arts. He has extensive experience working with children in professional staging for theatre, opera and concerts, and in coaching acting with opera singers. He has also worked in design, production management and stage management in several national and international projects.

In December 2012 he worked as stage director in the world premier of Viva Verdi, the 200 years celebration of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, in the Hallenstadion, Zürich, under the artistic advice of Mr. Lotfi Mansouri.

He is the General Director of Escenia Ensemble, A. C., a performing arts company in Mexico City.

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Ruth Hennessy
Bodywork Instructor

Ruth Williams Hennessy, the founder of Hennessy Whole Body Voice™ and the creator of the instructional DVD Voice at the Center™, helps people find simple, organic ways to release their unique and authentic voices. For over 30 years, Ruth’s workshops, university teaching, and private lessons in her New York City studio have assisted actors, singers, and speakers of every style. Ruth’s Vocal BodyWorkShops©, offered weekly in NYC, are also sought after by universities, choral organizations, and national singing organizations, including the Voice Foundation, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and Classical Singer magazine. Her DVD, Voice at the Center™, is used in homes, studios, and vocal pedagogy classes around the world. Ruth’s articles have appeared in Classical Singer, The Soul of the American Actor, and other publications.

Teaching positions have included the University of Northern Iowa (Chair, Vocal/Choral department); Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (Director, Professional Division); Hunter College; and New York University. Having earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Voice from Indiana University, Ruth’s lifelong studies include vocal technique, breathing, the physiology of the body and the vocal tract, massage and other release therapies, and numerous bodywork disciplines. You can see video clips of Ruth’s work at HennessyWholeBodyVoice.com and VoiceAtTheCenter.com.

 

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Rodrigo Leal
Collaborative Pianist and Repetiteur

It was his father, who from a young age began to train him musically, giving him his first piano lessons. At the age of 9, he entered the  CREM school where he began to study violin and music theory under the tutelage of teacher Victor Manuel Medeles. In 2012 at the initiative of teacher Timothy G. Ruff Welch; musical director of the choir "Los Cantantes del Lago," Rodrigo became the accompanist of the choir during the tour that took place in Canada at the Kathawmixw festival. In the same year, he won the scholarship for music students awarded by the "Viva la Música" association, which is why he decided to change teachers and began taking classes with Timothy Welch.

 

He has received master classes with pianists: Jasmin Arakawa, Jamie Parker, Irina Meachem and Michael Tsalka. He was the collaborative pianist of the Choir of the Municipality of Zapopan from 2016 to 2021 and part of the Opera Studio Beckmann. He has offered concerts and recitals on stages in Canada, Cuba, Guatemala, Italy and in the most important theaters in Mexico. He is currently a student of Maria Rita Zimmer Rether and is Organist-Choir master at St Andrews Anglican Church.

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Mitchel Casas
Collaborative Pianist and Repetiteur

Pianist from Bellas Artes Opera Studio, he is a graduate of the Universidad Veracruzana with the highest qualifications. This degree was taken under the direction of Mtra. Patricia Castillo. To reinforce his piano skills and technique, he has participated in various workshops and master classes with renowned international pianists such as: Claudia Corona, Rogelio Riojas, Antonio Manzo, Silvana Santinelli, Marta García and Renart, Luca Chiantore, Alberto Cruzprieto, Robert Koenig, Itzhak Solsky , Pamela Pyle, Alberto Cruzprieto, Jorge Federico Osorio, Francis Perron, Viviana Velardi, Hugo Mahieux, among others. 

As soloist, he was awarded in national and international competitions. In 2010 he won the prize for the youngest finalist in the "II José Jacinto Cuevas International Contest" in Mérida and obtained an honorable mention in the "VI María Clara Cullell International Contest" in San José, Costa Rica. 


He has appeared in numerous festivals and musical meetings such as: Nuntempa Festival (2014, 2015), Mexico Lieder Fest (2016), Mexsong International (2017), Artescénica (2017), International Cervantino Festival (2018), Alfono Ortiz Tirado Festival (2019) . 

He was an apprentice coach at the Bellas Artes Opera Studio (2018-2019) where he perfected his opera skills and knowledge with distinguished personalities such as Rogelio Riojas, Andrés Sarre, Tereza Rodríguez, Servio Vela, Javier Camarena, Ramón Vargas, Alfredo Daza, Srba Diníc, Jose Luis Castillo, Lourdes Ambriz, Jesús Suaste, Octavio Sosa and James Demster. 

He has knowledge of the rules and use of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) in Italian, French, Spanish and German. His repertoire includes: La Finta Giardiniera, il Don Giovanni, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L'Elisir d'amore, Bastien und Bastienne, le Nozze di Figaro, Die Entführung auf dem Serail, La Traviata, La Bohème, La Rondine, Madama Butterfly, Carmen, Cavallería Rusticana, among other oratorio and concert works. 

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David Manning
Life Coach

David Manning is an experienced executive coach for educational leaders and a practiced leadership consultant.  His coaching practice focuses on building leadership capacity through one-on-one coaching sessions specifically designed for the individual needs of each leader.  This intense coaching process maximizes leadership potential while harnessing the commitment and energy needed to meet and exceed personal/professional goals. He uses a solutions focused, results oriented process to support the leader in building cultures of responsibility and high performance beginning with self.

David Manning coordinated, and developed the Coaching for Educational Leaders program in Texas, training over 200 educational coaches and providing executive coaching  to over 400 educational leaders in less than of 4 years. 

As an innovator in leadership development, Mr. Manning provided leadership as the Program Manager for Turnaround Principal Recruitment and Selection for Texas Initiatives, Region XIII Education Service Center, Austin Texas.  The selection process included using competency based interviewing techniques.  This Behavioral Event Interview (BEI) process was used for the first time with specific applications to educators through this initiative.

He is the founder of the first principal preparation program for alternative principal certification in Texas and received national recognition for quality. The program served as a model for alternative principal certification efforts.  Many of the states finest leaders holding positions as Superintendent, Asst. Superintendent, Central Office Directors and principals are graduates of the program.

Over the span of 36 years, Mr. Manning has been an Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools, Elementary Principal, High School Principal, Director of Special Programs, Middle School Counselor and Director of Education at the largest psychiatric hospital in San Antonio.  He has also held a statewide professional association leadership position as President of the Texas Association for Alternative Education.