BATAVIA — Ariana DeSa e Frias is getting a chance to do something she’s wanted to do for a long time.
Ariana, who will start her senior year at Batavia High School in the fall, has been invited to perform at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall in December. She received the invitation after auditioning this spring for the American Protege International Vocal Competition. Ariana placed second in her age category for “Opera Aria Repertoire.”
“I was very surprised because I’ve never auditioned for anything at the international level and knew there were a lot of other talented performers auditioning,” Ariana said. “Although I’m nervous to perform at such a prestigious venue this has been a goal of mine since I was little and I’m so excited to have this opportunity.”
Carnegie Hall, which is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anticipates reopening in September and the competition’s concerts are planned during the holiday season in late December. Ariana’s performance is scheduled for Dec. 19.
Ariana, the daughter of Vladimir and Juanita DeSa e Frias, does not yet know which songs she will perform. The first- and second-place winners from each category will perform for 10 to 15 minutes, she said.
The American Protege International Vocal Competition is designed for singers who would like to challenge themselves in a very competitive environment, according to the competition’s website.
Ariana plans to arrive in New York several days before her performance so that she may work with an accompanist, who lives in Manhattan. She anticipates having just one rehearsal at Carnegie Hall prior to the performance.
Lauren Picarro-Hoerbelt has taught Ariana in both classical voice and musical theater since Ariana was 11 years old.
“She has grown so much in that time,” said Picarro-Hoerbelt. “She is extremely talented in both genres. She has extensive range, and she has a very versatile voice.”
The competition, which bills itself as the largest music competition in the United States, is open to solo vocalists and vocal groups of all ages, nationalities and countries. Participants were required to submit video recording materials for their audition. The materials were then evaluated by a panel of judges.
“I felt it was harder to audition by video because I’m more comfortable performing in front of an audience. On the other hand, it is slightly easier because you are able to send the best of what you can do without having the pressure of having to get it right on the first try,” she said.
For her audition pieces, Ariana performed two pieces, “Voi che sapete” by Mozart and “O del mio dolce ardor” by Christoph Willibald Gluck.
“I already knew both these pieces,” she said, “so once I decided to audition for the competition it took a few weeks to prepare for the video submission.”
Picarro-Hoerbelt said Ariana learns foreign language with ease, and has been building a repertoire of art song in German, French and Italian, and opera aria.
“She is a wonderfully expressive singer,” said Picarro-Hoerbelt. “We often talk about how singing is storytelling. So, as a singer it isn’t just about the notes, rhythms and words, but also communicating the emotion of the story, whether it’s a musical theater song, opera aria or German lied.
“Her voice is clear and very strong,” Picarro-Hoerbelt added. “She is a commanding performer. She brings poise and confidence to the stage.”
Ariana is an accomplished performer. Last fall she was selected for the New York State School Music Association Conference All State where she performed with the Mixed Choir. She has also submitted her application for All Nationals and NYSSMA Conference All-State for 2020.
Last November, Ariana appeared as Fiona in the City School District’s production of “Shrek The Musical.” She has also appeared on stage with Batavia Players, including a summer youth theater production of “Guys and Dolls.” Her first production with Batavia Players, which she said at the time she tried out for because a friend told her it would be fun.
Prior to attending the City School District, Ariana was a student at St. Joseph School in Batavia where in fifth grade she was chosen from the Elementary All-County Chorus. She has also sung with the Eastman Children’s Choir.
Ariana studies outside of school with private teachers and enjoys singing all types of vocal music.
“Mr. Dan Grillo is my music teacher at Batavia High who is helping me along the way, but for the technical aspect of this performance, I will work with my private teachers,” she said. “I will practice daily for an hour and work with my voice teachers once a week for an hour from now until the performance in December.”
Passion and commitment
Picarro-Hoerbelt said preparing for a competition like the American Protégé contest requires a high level of commitment and time. The singer must learn the music – notes, rhythms, phrasing – and also study the diction and translation for deeper understanding of the story.
“Then you practice, and you practice and you practice,” she said. “It’s not enough to just memorize your songs. After you memorize, you want to just live with them for a time – and continue to practice them until they are foolproof and comfortable.”
Picarro-Hoerbelt said that Ariana is a student who commits that kind of time to the work of practice.
“She is a phenomenally talented student – a true triple threat – and I am very excited for her,” Picarro-Hoerbelt said. “It is an international talent pool, an incredibly gifted group of performers.”
Ariana said her family and friends are all excited for her, too.
“They know about my passion for singing and performing and that I am most comfortable on a stage,” she said.
“I want to say how thankful I am for my voice teachers, especially Mrs. Lauren Hoerbelt of Batavia,” she said. “I also want to thank my teachers at the Batavia High School Music Department for always supporting me and helping me on my journey.”
Two other Batavia High School graduates have previously performed at American Protege music competitions. Brothers John and Joseph Irrera each appeared twice in the competition. They first performed individually in 2009 – Joseph on piano. and John on the violin – after separately winning piano and strings competitions. They were the first brothers ever to be first-place winners. In 2012, the brothers entered the contest as a duo and also won, returning for a second performance at Carnegie Hall.