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Summer Spotlight: Shyheim Hinnant, Bass-baritone

Bass-baritone Shyheim Hinnant could be found anywhere but home this summer. He attended the Classical Singer Convention and Competition in Chicago, the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop in Atlanta, the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy in Nellysford, Va., and the German Vocal Arts Institute’s Summer Opera Program in Seattle.

Shyheim Hinnant performing role of Zuniga, the Lieutenant of Dragoons, in Bizet’s opera, Carmen.

Hinnant spent May 25-28 in Chicago for the Classical Singer Competition and Conference. He passed the first round of the competition this spring at George Mason University, and was invited to Chicago for the regional round where he continued to the second and semifinal rounds. This competition gave Hinnant a full scholarship to attend the German Vocal Arts Institute’s Summer Opera Program in Seattle. He also performed in masterclasses for Robert Swensen from the Eastman School of Music and Juliana Gondek from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Next, Hinnant visited Atlanta for the Harrower Summer Opera Workshop, which ran from June 5-25. This workshop included daily movement classes and had a strong focus on French diction. He performed the role of Zuniga, the Lieutenant of Dragoons, in Bizet’s opera, Carmen. This was his first opera performance outside of VCU. Hinnant was also chosen to sing in a recital with American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Laramore.

“I grew tremendously as a singing-actor and made some amazing friends that only this business can provide,” said Hinnant.

Hinnant was in Nellysford, Va. July 5-16 for the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy’s Vocal Intensive. VCU Music’s Director of Choral Activities, Erin Freeman, is also the Artistic Director of Wintergreen Performing Arts, where she leads the artistic endeavors of the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and the associated Wintergreen Summer Music Academy. Freeman led coaching sessions at the workshop and conducted the final concert of Mozart’s Requiem, which was Hinnant’s first opportunity to perform as a soloist with a professional orchestra. Hinnant also had the opportunity to learn from American soprano Arianna Zukerman and conductor Giovanni Reggioli.

“We had daily masterclasses which were intense,” said Hinnant. “ It was a vocal intensive to say the least, but it was great.”

Hinnant singing Sarastro in a modern production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the German Vocal Arts Institute’s Summer Opera Program.

Hinnant ended the summer with a trip to Seattle for the German Vocal Arts Institute’s Summer Opera Program from July 30 to Aug. 16. This program gave participants a chance to focus on their German diction and perform German works.

“This was my first opportunity to work with native German speakers, which I hadn’t been able to before,” said Hinnant. “They gave me a lot of tips and tricks for approaching the German language in the future.”

Hinnant gave two recitals while in Seattle and had two performances as Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), which was all in German with English subtitles.

“Sarastro is the largest role I’ve done so far, and it was a lot of fun,” said Hinnant.

There is no doubt that Shyheim Hinnant made a lasting impression everywhere he went this summer. VCU Opera director Melanie Day coached and prepared Hinnant for each of his summer workshops, and he attributes much of his success this summer to her guidance. He was the youngest person in the Harrower Young Artist program and was also the youngest participant at the Wintergreen Vocal Intensive and the German Vocal Arts Institute. Hinnant made great professional connections this summer, and also gained skills and knowledge that he will use in ensembles at VCU Music.

“I have a lot of work to do,” said Hinnant. “This summer really taught me how much work I have to do if I want to be taken seriously as a classical musician, but it’s manageable work. This summer affirmed that I can do it.”