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SAVANNAH, GA – May 24, 2021 – For the 15th consecutive year, VOICExperience Foundation (VE) founded by acclaimed operatic baritone Sherrill Milnes and soprano Maria Zouves, will offer their annual ‘Opera Idol’ master class competition. Traditionally taking place in the Chicago area, this annual event will take place virtually on Tuesday, June 1 at 7 p.m. EST, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Four of the following aspiring classical singers will compete in front of an online audience for one full scholarship to attend the Milnes VOICE Studio.

  • Danielle Bavli, soprano, has performed in many operatic productions as well as in productions with Odyssey Opera, Boston Opera Collaborative, and the College Light Opera Company. She was recently named a Semi-Finalist in the 2021 Orpheus Competition and in the 2020 Camille Coloratura Awards. In 2019, she was named a first place winner of the Music Worcester Young Artist Competition and is the recipient of an Emerging Talent Award from the 2017 Lotte Lenya Competition. Bavli recently earned a Master of Music in Opera Performance from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and received a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Vanderbilt University.
  • Hope Metts is an up-and-coming soprano known for her flexible, silvery voice and her vivacious stage presence. Her most recent roles include Belinda from Purcell’s Dido and Aenaeas and La Fée in Viardot’s Cendrillon. She has been a soloist with the Des Moines Choral Society, a member of the Iowa State Singers, and has previously studied and appeared in concert with the world-renowned bass-baritone Simon Estes. Metts currently studies with Mary Creswell at Iowa State University, and will graduate with a BA in Music in the spring of 2022.
  • Courtney Sanders, soprano will be making her debut as Rose in a virtual production of Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus this season. Sanders has completed the following training programs: Classic Lyric Arts Italy, German Vocal Arts Institute, CoOPERAtive, and SongFest. While completing her Bachelor of Arts at Yale University, she was a soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C with the Yale Symphony Orchestra, as well as a winner of the Sledge Performing Arts Prize. Sanders received her Master of Music from the Mannes School of Music. She currently studies with Beth Roberts and resides in New York City.
  • Benjamin Sokol, Jewish-American Bass-Baritone, is a Junior at Manhattan School of Music, studying in the studio of world-renowned Bass-Baritone, James Morris. During his studies, Sokol has worked with wonderful vocal coaches including Andrew King, Dura Jun, Shane Schag and Kenneth Merrill. He has won multiple awards, from his Encouragement Award in the Schmidt Competition to being a Semi-Finalist in the NATS Boston competition. In 2020, Benjamin was the recipient of the Manhattan School of Music Alexandra Hunt Endowed Vocal Scholarship. Additionally, in 2020, he was selected as a Young Artist at SongFest Online. Benjamin is also an experienced choral singer.

Mary Burkhardt Lysaught is donating the grand prize, via The Tom Lysaught Scholarship Fund, in honor of her late husband. The winner will be selected by the renowned group of carefully-selected judges – Juilliard’s Jorge Parodi, the Metropolitan Opera’s Howard Watkins, VOICE Composer in Residence Michael Ching, Northwestern Professor Emeritus Dr. Bernard J. Dobroski, as well as VOICExperience’s Executive Director Maria Zouves.

The Milnes VOICE Studio Online offers a variety of opportunities to develop the singer as a whole artist in preparation for their next step. Participants will come away with new recordings, head shots, career advice, and defined goals. During the week, singers also participate in career development workshops, with topics ranging from vocal health to personal branding.

“We are immensely pleased we are still able to host ‘Opera Idol’ this year, but in a different format, as it presents an outstanding opportunity for young singers who stand to benefit from attending our programs,” Zouves said. “Sherrill and I are so proud to be able to offer aspiring artists the chance to hone their craft while learning more about the performing arts. It’s very rewarding for us, the audience and for those chosen to participate.”

Opera Idol was conceived by Milnes and Zouves as part of their non-profit vocal training organization, VOICExperience Foundation, when the two served as faculty at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. The contest aims to showcase and encourage budding opera stars in a format that emulates popular television shows featuring talent searches.

Milnes, who is a John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus, and Zouves, who taught the opera workshop as adjunct, joined Northwestern’s faculty after Milnes concluded a long career on all the major stages of the operatic world, including the Metropolitan Opera, where he was the leading baritone for over three decades. It was during this time frame that they founded VOICExperience and, subsequently, Opera Idol.

Streaming “Idol” in this format also allows for more audiences to get to know and enjoy this continuing initiative in the programs. After going online in May 2020, the Milnes VOICE Programs, namely, Savannah VOICE Festival and VOICExperience, have reached over 22 countries with their programming, special concerts, and educational events.

To learn more about Opera Idol, VOICExperience or the Milnes VOICE Programs or to support young artists, please visit


For media inquiries, please contact Lesley Francis at or 912-429-3950, or the Lesley Francis Public Relations team at 912-417-LFPR(5377). 

Editor’s Notes

VOICExperience Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to pass on the traditions of great singing and develop new audiences for opera. Under the umbrella of The Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs, VOICExperience continues its dedication to the quality, integrity and perpetuation of the vocal arts through life-changing intensives, performances, and community-enriching outreach events in New York, Georgia (with its sister organization, the Savannah VOICE Festival), Florida and Illinois. For more information, please visit