It’s not over till the teenagers sing

SMUS youth opera program offers unique experience for musical teens

Instructor Joseph Bulman (left

Teenagers with larger-than-life voices will soon be belting out stellar notes.

About 15 talented singers have signed on to the St. Michaels University School summer voice academy and will perform a youth opera in Victoria next week.

The cast includes youth from across B.C. and Alberta ranging from Grades 8 to 12.

“Most of them are very accomplished singers,” said Dawn Wilson, director of education extension and international programs at SMUS.

In applying for the program, students submitted audio recordings of themselves performing several pieces of music.

“They were selected based on their musical ability and singing quality,” Wilson said.

While this is the first time the youth opera program has been offered at the school, it’s the third year for the academy of voice. “This is quite unique (to be) learning about this genre,” she said.

Students are learning and rehearsing Pandora’s Locker, an opera sung in English and based on the Greek myth, Pandora’s Box. The story is set in a high school, making it easier for the singers to relate to it, Wilson added.

Surrey resident Dylan Braico, 18, is one of two male students in the group, but is the only male boarding at the school during the program.

“I am not going to lie, it’s nice being the only guy,” he said. He admitted he’s still a bit intimidated approaching a large group of girls.

Braico has performed on stage most of his life, starting with his debut as the lead in The Muffin Man at age six. He has a vocal coach and enjoys singing jazz and anything by Frank Sinatra.

Even with that level of experience he has never studied opera, or thought about it much.

But everything changed at a recent competition.

At the Fraser Valley Music Festival in April, Braico sang “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera.

Once of the judges was Joanne Hounsell.

She was moved to tears listening him sing and ultimately offered him a scholarship to the youth opera program at SMUS.

“I thought he had a beautiful, natural talent,” said Hounsell, artistic director at SMUS. “I want to encourage kids who have career voices, but they need to get a foundation.”

At first he was wary of joining a group of teens who have studied the craft for years, but eventually he was persuaded to join the group.

“This is a great experience and a lot of good training,” he said.

Pandora’s Locker performances go July 29 at 7:30 p.m. and July 30 at 2:30 p.m. at the Philip T. Young Recital Hall at the University of Victoria.

Tickets are $20.50 for adults and $17.50 for students and seniors, available at the McPherson Box Office (250-386-6121) or online at

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