Jenna Buck, Haley Hodges, Caitlin McDougall, Brent Smith

Hope College seniors Brent Smith of Owosso and Caitlin McDougall of Flint won first and second respectively in the 2012 Opera Grand Rapids Collegiate Competition, held on Sunday, April 22, at the Betty Van Andel Opera Center in Grand Rapids.

They were among nine finalists—four of whom were from Hope—from Grand Rapids-area colleges and universities competing in the event after having been chosen from among 15 select contestants during an initial round in February.

Smith, who is majoring in piano performance at Hope, will pursue a Master of Music degree in vocal performance at the University of Northern Iowa in the fall.  He is a 2008 graduate of Owosso High School, and the son of Kent and Monica Smith of Owosso.

McDougall, who is majoring in vocal music education, will pursue a Master of Music in vocal performance at Indiana University in the fall.  She is a 2008 graduate of Powers Catholic High School and the daughter of Patrick and Jesusa McDougall of Flint.

Smith and McDougall had also been finalists in the event in 2011.  The 2011 competition was won by Sarah Ashcroft, a 2011 Hope graduate from Holland who completed her student teaching this past fall and has been accepted at Eastman School of Music.

The Opera Grand Rapids Collegiate Vocal Competition provides an opportunity for outstanding student vocalists being trained full-time at Greater Grand Rapids-area colleges and universities to compete in a professional competition and to be recognized for excellence by a professional opera company.  The participating students are asked to perform two arias in differing styles, languages and composers from opera and/or operetta.

The area institutions that participate in the competition are Aquinas College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope.

In addition to Smith and McDougall, the Hope students competing as finalists were senior Jenna Buck of Elburn, Ill., and junior Haley Hodges of Hart.  All four students study with Linda LeFever Dykstra, who is an associate professor of music and chair of the voice division at Hope.

All four students have been active in music or theatrical performance in a variety of ways through the years.  Among other activities during the current school year, Buck was a member of the cast of the February 3-4 Opera Grand Rapids production of “The Magic Flute”; Hodges was a member of the cast of Hope College Theatre’s November production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and is in the current (April 20-21 and 25-28) production of “Ring around the Moon”; and McDougall and Smith were among the soloists selected to perform during the college’s annual Concerto/Aria concert on February 3.

Each was also a member of the cast of the college’s fall 2010 production of the Kurt Weill opera “Street Scene,” a major collaborative effort of the departments of music and theatre, Buck as a member of the high school graduation class; Hodges as Jenny and a nursemaid; McDougall as Mrs. Fiorentino; and Smith as Harry Easter.  All four were featured soloists during Hope’s Musical Showcase concert at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids on March 5.

In addition this year, Smith won first place in the Fourth-Year College Men category of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Great Lakes Regional Competition in March and third place in the Third-Year College Men category of the NATS Michigan State Chapter Auditions in November, while Buck won third place in the Fourth-Year College Women category in the NATS Great Lakes Regional Competition.