Title/Position: Visiting Assistant Professor, Vocal PerformanceProfile:
What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments, to date?
As a singer, there have been a few debuts that packed an extra punch and reminded me of the rewards of hard work and dedication. They include, but aren’t limited to, performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and at Wolf Trap and New York City Opera. In all of those cases, the colleagues (singers, crew, conductors, etc.) were all at the very top of their games while being good human beings. They make you challenge yourself in ways you may not have thought possible. Attending Juilliard for 7 years was a thrilling experience for me, as well.
As a teacher, I felt very proud to return to Wolf Trap Opera in the Summer of 2016 as a member of the singing faculty. Having trained and cut my teeth there as a young professional on stage, it was invigorating to come back and promote that great company’s ethic and aesthetic from the other side of the table. It’s also wonderful when I see students make important debuts. I’m far more nervous for them than I ever am for myself! In the last year, I’ve seen students debut at the Met, Covent Garden, Glyndeborne and Zurich. Also, in 2016 , I got to interview the iconic soprano Sarah Brightman in front of a live audience for YoungArts. Her immense humanity and humility is a refreshing reminder of the importance of giving back from even the highest level.
Why do you enjoy teaching?
I really like to hear myself talk. I can’t be more honest about that. I love teaching because it’s in that instance where people seem to be listening when I do that talking. I like being behind the scenes with vocal athletes as they do the real work behind the “art”. There is nothing more rewarding for me as a teacher than hearing from a student the day after they have a great performance. When they don’t check in the morning of a show in a state of worry, I know I did my job in the studio. The endgame here is to equip singers with enough information about singing and about their own athleticism that they can go off and win the Hunger Games on their own. Come, learn, work, fly, succeed, return once-in-awhile for check-ups and be my friend on Facebook. Mission accomplished.
What have been your main biggest influences as a teacher?
The most influential person in my life was easily my last voice teacher at Juilliard, Beverley Peck Johnson. She had this incredible ability to be both brutally honest and loving in one breath. She didn’t have to be mean to me to deliver solid information and she didn’t need to soften the information in order to be nice. All at once, it was both personal and professional. I trusted her and she gave me, through routine and process, confidence in myself that was faltering when we met. I’ve also worked with the sopranos Cynthia Hoffmann, Rita Shane and Phyllis Curtin who each gave me information I use every day. One of the greatest wealths at Juilliard is the immense coaching faculty. They were and have been incredible especially my dear language coaches Corradina Caporello, Kathryn LaBouff, Thomas Grubb Richard Cross and the singular pianist Steven Blier who, when I was just 18, met me and made me feel legit. He also just makes me love music. I also count the American conductor and pianist Kathleen Kelly as someone who makes me think and work harder than I think I can.
What would prospective students be surprised to learn about you?
On the musical side of things, it would probably be that, after Pavarotti, my favorite singer is Dolly Parton, Her ability to have a timeless technique and to sing words and pitches so clearly is perfect to these ears. I finally got to see her perform live in 2016 and it was everything I hoped it would be.
My offstage (out of studio) life is pretty chill and I like to turn the music off. I love baseball (especially the Baltimore Orioles) and am addicted to social media. I like being in the kitchen and, in 2010, I was offered a contract to be a member of the cast of Season 1 of Fox’s MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay. After a 6-month audition process, I had to decline due to a scheduling conflict, but that would have been pretty cool…unless I lost in the first episode.
What do you expect from students, and what can they expect from you?
I expect students, whether performance or non-performance majors, to treat their voices as they would treat their most valuable possession. They should talk about their own talents with pride and seriousness, but also with humility and honesty. Studying singing is like gardening. It’s a new beast every morning and, even after winning a blue ribbon, you have to weed and water the garden so you can win again next week. There should be pleasure in the dull process of athletic training. Students should forgive themselves for being imperfect but not for being complacent. What we do is hard and trying, but not dangerous. I also expect students to demand the most of my instruction and to ask questions if my words don’t go far enough. It’s not enough for me to say “sing lightly” or “make that beautiful”. Our friends can tell us that. Ask me how. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll tell you that I don’t know and I will go home and do my homework until I do.
Jason Ferrante is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Vocal Performance at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. Praised by Opera News for “singing up a stylish storm”, American tenor Jason Ferrante holds the B.M. and M.M. in Voice from The Juilliard School where he studied with the legendary vocal pedagogue Beverley Peck Johnson. His additional training includes opera fellowships at Wolf Trap, Aspen Music Festival and Tanglewood. On the operatic and concert stage, Ferrante has appeared in leading and supporting roles around the world with companies and orchestras including New York City Opera, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Wexford Festival, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Florida Grand Opera, Atlanta Opera, Guangzhou Opera House, Arizona Opera, Interlochen, Wolf Trap and regional companies around the U.S. Ferrante created the role of Cornaccio in John Musto’s Volpone at Wolf Trap and in 2017, will create the role of Little Victor in Kevin Puts’ new opera Elizabeth Cree for his debut at Opera Philadelphia. He has sung with some of the world’s leading conductors including Ozawa, Rudel, Slatkin, Conlon, Maazel, Zinman, Lord and Nelsons. He has written articles for the Juilliard Journal and has been a panelist on the Metropolitan Opera Quiz. His students are currently singing around the world at venues like the Met, Covent Garden, Santa Fe, Glyndeborne and San Francisco Opera. They have been winners in the Met Auditions, Operalia, the George London Foundation and Sullivan awards. He is on the voice faculty for the young artists programs at Wolf Trap Opera, Arizona Opera, Pensacola Opera and Nashville Opera. He teaches at the UBC Summer Voice Workshop in Vancouver and is currently the National Panelist for Classical Voice for YoungArts.