University of Waikato music students June and Jarvis Dams, soprano and baritone, have been selected for the Astoria Music Festival Vocal Apprenticeship Programme in Astoria, Oregon.
The siblings, postgraduate music students at Waikato, auditioned by singing and video recording two contrasting arias which they submitted online with a headshot, cv and reference.
"It was senior teaching fellow Dame Malvina Major who suggested we audition," says June.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to work with some major singing tutors. We expect to learn a lot but it will also be good for us to see what it's like studying opera in the US."
The programme's been running for 10 years and puts exceptional young vocalists with a faculty of professional singers, coaches and stage directors for advanced study and performance.
The pair, originally from Tauranga, are the first Waikato students to attend the Astoria programme. "And I think we might be the first New Zealanders, though I'm not 100 per cent sure about that," says June.
During the three-week event, students not only receive voice coaching, they will attend daily German or Italian conversation classes, perform weekly recitals and stage two full operas.
"I'm playing the role of La Ciesca and Jarvis will be Betto in Gianni Schicchi by Puccini and he's also playing Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. I imagine we won't be getting much free time."
Jarvis says knowing in advance what parts they'll be playing means they're expected to know their roles off by heart before they arrive in Astoria.
"We've only just been cast and with two parts to learn, I'm quite busy preparing. It's only a month away."
June, the elder of the two, is in the final year of her Doctor of Musical Arts and is a Waikato University Hillary Scholar.
Jarvis, a Hillary alumnus, graduated with a Masters of Music last year and is studying toward a Postgraduate Diploma (Music) in professional performance practice.