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A capstone experience is not intended to be easy. However, there is an expectation that a Marietta College senior will finish the project with a newfound appreciation and a sense of accomplishment.

Megan Ross ’19, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Vocal Performance, had all of that and more. You could say it was life-altering.

Dr. Amy Yekel, Vocal Instructor at Marietta and dramatic soprano, connected Ross with Mitchell Cirker, who is an accomplished pianist in New York City.

“Students in the department usually have a senior recital for their capstone,” says Ross, who can sing in five different languages. “However, Dr. Yekel believed I was ready for an opportunity in New York that would help me with my future career as a vocalist.”

Yekel and Ross spent many hours picking out the right repertoire and making sure Ross was vocally ready to sing for vocal coaches of high caliber.

“I spent many hours studying the arias, and the languages of the arias, and I had to put in the IPA’s (International Phonetic Alphabet) and write in the English translations,” Ross says. “I also had the opportunity to work with local and regional coaches in preparation for my trip to New York City.”

Yekel says the capstone was designed to provide her with opportunities that would open her eyes to what her chosen career path is actually like.

As part of her capstone, Ross was required to travel to the Akron, Ohio, area to receive vocal coaching from a professional with the Canton Symphony and also to do an audition for the Toledo Opera.

“The capstone chosen for Megan is truly unique,” Yekel says. “It was designed to give her an extraordinary experience that most students never have. … The ability to work with professionals that have coached and played for some of the top names in the opera industry. The ability to work with and learn from these professionals is an incredible experience and an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Yekel and Ross drove to New York in February and spent two days with Cirker.

“Mr. Cirker is an excellent pianist and he gave me many wonderful ideas for my repertoire,” Ross says. “He also gave me the names of other vocal coaches he thinks will be of great benefit to me. I sang some arias for Mr. Cirker. He was very nice and complimentary. He gave me positive feedback.”

Marshall Kimball, who recently retired from the Music Department at Marietta College, was supportive from the start about the capstone proposal.

“What a great opportunity for this budding vocalist with an eye on the opera stage,” Kimball says. “There are few, if any other, college music programs that can offer this kind of senior capstone experience that truly allows them this type of exposure and to make such important career connections. I am thrilled this was possible for Megan. She has worked extremely hard. Dr. Yekel always goes the extra mile for all of her students. This is just another instance where that is the case.”

Ross admits her nerves got the better of her on the initial meeting with Cirker, but eventually she settled down and performed five arias — Che Faro, Voi Che Sapete, I Have Dreamt, Voi Lo Sapete, Va! Laisse Couler Mes Larmes.

“This was my first time in New York City, and I was a bit overwhelmed,” she says. “Dr. Yekel helped me calm down and was able to get me more relaxed. I started singing the song I felt the most comfortable with, which was Che Faro.”    

As Ross prepares for life after Marietta College, she is thankful for what she has been able to accomplish.

“Dr. Yekel is an amazing professor and voice teacher. Without her I would have not had this wonderful opportunity to network with skilled professionals in my field of study,” Ross says. “I am so grateful to have had this experience. I now have some wonderful contacts and networking capabilities with various coaches. I am so thankful for Dr. Amy Yekel and Marietta College for this incredible journey and opportunities I would not have been able to get at any other college.”

- Tom Perry