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Alexandria Shiner (right), who completed her graduate studies in the Spring of 2016, sits with renowned opera singer Renee Fleming (left). Shiner was selected to participate in a National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) master class with Fleming this summer.

Alumna Alexandria Shiner got the chance to study with renowned opera singer Renée Fleming over the summer in Chicago.

Shiner came to UT in 2013 as a graduate music student and graduated in spring 2016. Associate Professor Marjorie Stephens, who recruited Shiner after working with her at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, said she thinks Shiner has the potential to have her own international career.

Shiner was chosen from hundreds of applicants to participate in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) master class, a small workshop at which Fleming mentored the four chosen students; the students prepared and then performed a concert in front of an audience that included Fleming, friends, family, and others.

“I heard about the NATS opportunity through a friend, and then Professor Stephens nominated me for the master class. I made a recording, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best,” said Shiner “I was absolutely thrilled when I found out I had been selected as one of four singers for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Fleming studied at the State University of New York Potsdam, continued with graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, and eventually completed her studies at Juilliard. Fleming has performed in operas around the world, received many international awards, and is considered one of the greatest figures on the opera stage.

Fleming’s approach to mentoring and teaching was one of kindness and enthusiasm, Shiner said, adding that the opera singer made her feel incredibly comfortable despite the fact that she was singing in front of hundreds of voice teachers.

“She was so gracious, humble, energetic, and knowledgeable,” said Shiner.

Shiner said the experience was life-changing. She learned that Fleming faced many of the obstacles she faces, and Fleming helped Shiner confirm that singing is the correct path for her.

“It was amazing to listen to her talk about the struggles that come from this career, and that she had many similar obstacles in her early years,” Shiner said. “She helped solidify that I’m on the right path, and that I’m exactly where I need to be on my journey right now.”

The experience is leading to more opportunities for Shiner. While participating in the NATS program in Chicago, she also received the opportunity to sing for staff from the Ryan Opera Center, the Chicago Lyric Opera’s young artist program. The program is a two- to three-year paid internship at the Chicago Lyric. Participating artists receive lessons, coaching, dramatic training, and function as the chorus, small roles, and often cover leading roles on the main stage of the Chicago Lyric.

“I was able to sing for the vocal coordinator, Julia Faulkner, twice while I was in Chicago, and she was very helpful to me. Both Ms. Faulkner and Ms. Fleming expressed to me that they would like to see me at the Ryan Opera Center,” said Shiner.

“I will apply to the Ryan Opera Center this January in order to join the 2018–2016 ensemble. Until then, I’m still singing, applying the concepts I learned from Ms. Fleming, and waiting to see how this all unfolds,” said Shiner.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,