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SFCM Faculty Sound off on Hosting Merola Opera Program

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SFCM faculty and Merola Opera Program teachers César Ulloa and Rhoslyn Jones share more on this year’s program, hosted at SFCM.

July 11, 2023 by Mark Taylor

During the school year SFCM hosts some of the most talented singers in the world, and the summertime is no different. 

SFCM is again hosting the Merola Opera Program, which this year selected 28 emerging artists chosen from more than 1,300 international applicants. Aspiring artists are being taught by several longtime SFCM faculty, including César Ulloa, who said of the program, “I am very blessed to have taught as part of the Merola program for the past seventeen years and have seen many of our students at SFCM be a part of Merola and the Adler program.” Recent SFCM students in the program include Esther Tonea and Edward Laurenson.

Cesar Ulloa

César Ulloa.

The program provides training at SFCM from June through August and covers the artists’ travel, housing, weekly stipends, and all other training expenses. Singers also put on several productions at SFCM including the upcoming Schwabacher Summer Concert on August 3, culminating in the Merola Grand Finale August 19 at the War Memorial Opera House. “I am so delighted that SFCM and the San Francisco Opera Center have created this amazing collaboration.” Ulloa added.

For singers in the program, the training will leave them with not just brand-new skills, but also connections. “There’s room for connecting and building community within this program and lifelong friendships with artists, guest artists, staff, and faculty,” faculty member Rhoslyn Jones said. “This is a summer that the Merola artists will never forget and SFCM has played an important role in making that possible.”

SFCM's Rhoslyn Jones.

Rhoslyn Jones.

For Jones, being a teacher in the program is a full circle moment as she was once a singer in Merola. “I will never forget that feeling of excitement and surprise when finding out. I did a happy dance in the middle of a snow-covered Manhattan street in my flip-flops,” Jones continued. “It’s an unforgettable feeling to know that your effort and voice as an artist was heard, recognized, and you're being given a chance. It’s all that young artists dream of and it doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s a magical moment.”

2023 Merola student performs in Hume Hall.

2023 Merola student performs in Hume Hall.

In the time since being part of the program Jones was also an Adler Fellow, a frequent artist on the stage at SF Opera, and is now full-time faculty at SFCM. “This is my artistic home and I feel grateful and a deep sense of responsibility to continue a legacy that I learned so much from,” she added.

For both Ulloa and Jones, the practice of working with emerging singers has not only been about honing and growing talent, but creating meaningful connections. “They will also leave the program also having made new friends and professionals in the business that will continue to mentor them as they move forward with their own careers.” Ulloa said.

“My favorite part of being in Merola has always been the people. Creating art and building lifelong relationships with incredible humans is, in my opinion, what makes a life in music meaningful,” Jones added. 

Learn more about studying voice at SFCM.