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Scholarship Enables Professor J. Felder to Share His Opera Talent Worldwide

July 11, 2019

It's always exciting to see our staff, students, and alumni branch out and share their unique talents with the broader world outside Paine College. That's why we're thrilled to share the news that our own Professor Johnny Felder has earned the opportunity to share his operatic talent with music-lovers in Bulgaria.

Professor Felder, a music instructor here at Paine College, received a scholarship from the Varna International Music Academy after auditioning earlier this year. He said that he attracted the attention of Academy officials while he was singing an aria during the "Arts of Shandon" program at Shandon Presbyterian church.

He described the encounter in an article in the Times and Democrat:

"They were actually in the audience and came up to me afterwards. I was the last person to sing, and they invited me to apply for and audition for their program in Varna, Bulgaria. And that's how it really came into existence."

During his three-week adventure in Varna, Professor Felder will be singing as Rinuccio in Puccini's opera "Gianni Schicchi" and serve in the chorus for the Leonard Bernstein opera "Candide." The trip will also be an educational adventure, as Felder will also have the opportunity to receive voice lessons from instructors and work with a coach from the Vienna State Opera and a conductor from the New York Metropolitan Opera.

For Felder, the operatic experience will be groundbreaking in several respects. "I've not performed in this role before," he said. "This will my first role in a European country. And just being engulfed in the culture there. I love singing for different people in different venues and that kind of thing."

Of course, music has always played a prominent role in Professor Felder's life, beginning with his time in the church choir during adolescence. And though he comes from a family with many singers, he said that he was the only one "crazy enough to give a stab at opera."

Obviously, he gives a lot of credit to everyone who's helped him along the way – from musical instructors to vocal coaches and everyone else who's supported him as he pursued his passion for music. He also looks forward to sharing his Bulgarian experience with his students:

"All of the little nuggets of wisdom that I receive for myself, I'll try my very best to in some way give those to my students. Every time I learn something new from someone, no matter whether they're here or there, I try to in some way enlighten my students in the same way."

All of us at Paine College are thrilled to see Professor Felder share his talent with new audiences in Bulgaria. Campus Pastor and Assistant Professor of Religion Luther B. Felder expressed the sentiments of all our staff and students when he said, "I am extremely proud of the incredible accomplishments of our amazingly talented Prof. Johnny Felder, who is sharing his operatic gift in Varna, Bulgaria. I am delighted to share a family name with this immensely capable young man."

Well done, Professor Felder!

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