About halfway between the start of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and TV’s first American Idol telecast, the Marguerite McCammon Voice Competition was born.
The inaugural contest took place in Fort Worth in 1985, thanks to a generous donation by the event’s namesake to the Fort Worth Opera Guild. First prize was $1,000, and only students attending Texas universities or studios could enter.
Fast-forward three decades. Nearly 200 contestants have been narrowed to 28 semifinalists — from Korea, Canada, China, Australia, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Spain and the United States — who will vie for $35,000 in prize money at the Seventeenth Biennial McCammon Voice Competition on March 18 and 19.
Besides competing for a $15,000 grand prize, the competitors — all aspiring singers between the ages of 21 and 35 — get the chance to “audition” for a distinguished jury that includes representatives from major opera companies, including Darren K. Woods, Fort Worth Opera general director.
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And, while the jurors this year from the Washington National Opera and Metropolitan Opera may look for future potential, Woods has an eye on much shorter-term success, as the winner gets offered a role in an upcoming Fort Worth Opera production.
Baritone Joo Won Kang, who won the 2014 McCammon, will play Figaro in The Barber of Seville as part of the FWO’s festival next month.
“Many wonderful singers have been in Fort Worth Opera productions as a direct result of competing in the McCammon Voice Competition,” Woods says. “So many names jump out of the list of winners that we consider family ...”
Above are quick snapshots of the current projects and critical successes that select McCammon winners from the recent and distant past are enjoying.
Seventeenth Biennial McCammon
Semifinals: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 18 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Finals: 1 p.m. March 19 at Bass Hall. Gala Patron Dinner: 5 p.m. March 19 at City Club. Tickets range from $15 for one session of the semifinals to $100 for a patrons package that includes semifinals, finals and dinner. 817-288-1212, www.mccammonvoice.org