Mid-Michigan Singers and Voice Academy returns this summer

Katie Travis stars as Christine in the national touring production of "The Phantom of the Opera." She will be a speaker at the upcoming Mid Michigan Voice Academy. (Photo Matthew Murphy)

Katie Travis stars as Christine in the national touring production of "The Phantom of the Opera." She will be a speaker at the upcoming Mid Michigan Voice Academy. (Photo Matthew Murphy)

When Matt Travis started the Mid-Michigan Singers and Voice Academy last year, he was hoping 30 people would sign up.

When all was said and done for the weeklong program dedicated to those who love to sing, more than 70 people had signed on.

“It succeeded my wildest dreams,” he said. “This year we are hoping to expand even further, which is why we are offering new things.

“The idea,” said the Bay City native, is to united people who “have a love of choral and vocal music.”

This year, the June 19-25 program takes place at three venues around the area. Kicking off June 19 and 20 at the Midland Center for the Arts, the program moves to First United Methodist Church, 4790 Gratiot Road, Saginaw, June 21 and 22, Bay City Players, 1214 Columbus Ave., June 23 and 24, and back to the MCFTA, June 25 for the concert.

Those wishing to take part have until June 1 to register on line at www.midmichigansingers.com or www.mcfta.org, or by calling the MCFTA, 1801 W. St. Andrews Road at (989) 631-8250.

There are three tiers to this year’s program.

The entire program, which includes master classes and 20 minutes with an instructor during the week and singing with the Mid Michigan Singers is $119. This also includes Skype sessions with area natives who are now working on Broadway and television.

Those wishing to sing in the choirs, sit in on master classes and ask questions during the Skype sessions pay $95, and $40 for those just wishing to sing in the choirs.

New this year is an audition based chamber choir.

“Everyone can sing in the Mid Michigan Singers,” Travis said. “The chamber choir is designed for students entering their junior year of high school through adult. This is a pre-professional choir setting for people who read music fluently and are more interested in an intensive experience.”

Also new this year is partnering with the Midland Center for the Arts, something Dexter Brigham, managing director of Center Stage Theatre and the choirs at MCFTA, says fits right in with the center’s choral education program.

“What he is doing is awesome,” Brigham said. “He called me last year to brainstorm. As I kept talking to him, I thought this is a really cool thing.

“We really want to build on the momentum Matt started last year,” he added. “They had 75 singers involved last year. We want to at least match that and grow a little bit. It’s no denying how exciting this is if you’re a passionate singer. If we have 100 people in the choir it will be a great victory.”

Passion is exactly why Travis, who now makes his home in Connecticut, got the idea for the program. Sister Katie Travis, who is playing Christine in the national touring company of “Phantom of the Opera,” jumped on board as well. They also wanted to do in the area and showcase area talent.

“Both my sister and I did a lot of shows in the area,” he said. “It was a wonderful way for us to meet people through our love of the theater. There is Peanut Gallery and Youtheatre in the summer, but there wasn’t a choral component. The idea was to get folks together and fill that niche and create a music making experience.”

Travis has lined-up an impressive group of people for both the master classes and the Skype sessions.

Joining the brother and sister in the master classes are Tracy Watson, voice faculty at Central Michigan University, Stephen Lusmann, voice faculty at the University of Michigan, Peter Lightfoot from Michigan State University, Jim Hohmeyer, MCTFA media director, Kevin Simons from Saginaw Valley State University, Kathryn Wills, a Caro native, now a professional musician in Chicago, and pianist Catherine McMichael, who performs with the Saginaw Choral Society, The Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra, and the Bijou Orchestra.

Those SKYPEing in include Betsy Brandt, a Auburn native, now staring on the CBS comedy “Life in Pieces” Brian d’Arcy James, a Saginaw Native, now starring in “Something Rotten” on Broadway; Midland native Eric Bourne, performing in “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway; Michael Fabiano, one of the leading tenors in the world; and Kelli O’Hara, six time Tony nominee and 2015 Tony winner for “The King and I.”

“This is really a testament to the community,” said Brigham. “These artists coming back to help us. This is a group of people who came from here and have such a strong connection. The area gave them so much, they want to send the elevator back down to pick up the youngsters.”

The academy recently received financial support from the Saginaw Community Foundation; the Dow Corning Donor Advised Fund at the Bay Area Community Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation and Saginaw Community Foundation; Old City Hall Restaurant; and Bay Arts Council.