Ashland University Voice Major Awarded For Talent

3/23/12 ASHLAND, OH -- The Ashland University Department of Music congratulates junior voice-performance major Bret Cowden from United Local High School in Hanoverton, Ohio, for recent achievements based on his talent.


In Akron on March 20 at the Musical Association's annual competition, Cowden was awarded second place in the voice area. This scholarship program is widely recognized as one of the best in Northeastern Ohio. Since its inception in 1955, nearly 500 scholarships have been awarded in categories of voice, piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, organ and music education.


Cowden also auditioned and was selected to participate in this summer's Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute in Spearfish, S.D. Now in its 14th year, the institute selected 20 to 25 aspiring pre-professional opera singers from all over the United States and Canada for this unusual two-week program. Students are assigned roles in April and are asked to memorize their roles before arriving in South Dakota.


World famous operatic soprano Johanna Meier is the artistic director and the stage director is Bruce Donnell of the Metropolitan Opera and the Santa Fe Opera. Operatic conductor John Stewart is a former leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera and in Europe who recently retired from teaching voice and opera at the University of St. Louis. New York pianists Charis Dimaris and Elizabeth Hastings serve as vocal coaches and accompanists. Melanie Palm provides instruction in movement and dance. By working in an ensemble atmosphere, student camaraderie develops an important understanding of future rapport with colleagues, coaches, and those in charge of opera production.

Cowden will present his junior recital at Ashland University with fellow voice major Brandy Kay Riha on Thursday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the Elizabeth Pastor Recital Hall. He also will appear in the music department's annual Opera Scenes performances on Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. These events are free and open to the public.


For more information about the music department, visit, find us on Facebook or contact Tricia Applegate, coordinator of performing arts publicity and events, at 419-289-5950 or


Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.