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High note

Mizzou student wins national title

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  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Photo by Dianna Martindale
  • Published: March 23, 2010
Molly Clodius

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"Quando Me'n Vo" from Pucini's La Boheme, performed by MU graduate student Molly Clodius. Clodius won Young Artist Voice competition of the Music Teachers National Association March 22, making her the fourth MU student to take the top honor in the past decade. Fans can watch her perform in La Bohème at the Missouri Theatre April 29.

Master’s student Molly Clodius earned a victory for herself and her school when she captured a national singing title March 22 in Albuquerque.

Clodius won the 2010 Young Artist Voice competition of the Music Teachers National Association, an achievement that labels her one of the nation’s finest collegiate singers.

With winners in four of the past 10 years, students from Mizzou’s School of Music have dominated the MTNA voice contest for a decade.

Clodius competed against four sopranos and a tenor, all finalists after winning their respective state and division competitions against hundreds of students nationwide.

“I knew I had done well. I was trying not to be disappointed if I didn’t win,” Clodius says of the competition.

She warmed up that day with the assistance of her vocal coach, MU Associate Professor Ann Harrell, who describes Clodius’ voice as a “brilliant, sparkling soprano … capable of singing long lines with lovely richness and warmth.” Alumna Rachel Aubuchon, MM ’06, accompanied Clodius on the piano.

Stress with Strauss

Each of the finalists prepared a program of about 25 minutes. Clodius sang nine songs in four languages — French, Italian, German and English — including arias from Puccini’s La Bohème and Gounod’s Faust. “The Jewel Song” from Faust ranks among her favorites. 

Fast runs, high notes and long stretches without stopping to breathe make parts of the songs “grueling” to perform in front of three judges. When she sings “Befreit,” by Strauss and encounters the final four or five excruciatingly long bars, she sometimes wonders, “Am I going to make it?”

Clodius says her voice has changed drastically for the better since she has studied with Harrell. “I love Ms. Harrell. She put me through the wringer when I got here. She’s really into technique.”

Clodius impressed Harrell from the beginning with a self-awareness of what problems she needed to correct to improve her voice. “She has the personality of a performer, and she is not afraid of criticism.  As a person, Molly is a delight. She is very open, warm, and funny.”

Just before the competition, Harrell, who has a reputation for producing excellent singers, reminded Clodius that she has the talent to win. Two of Harrell’s former students won the Young Artist Voice competition: tenor Neal Boyd in 2000 and soprano Emily Bennett in 2008. (Professor Jo Ella Todd coached baritone Kory Bickel to the title in 2002.)

Clodius: I was nervous

Friends of Clodius encourage her to concentrate on keeping a clear head before performances because of a well-known incident in the School of Music: She passed out during her scholarship audition for a graduate teaching assistantship at Mizzou.

The fainting spells are long gone, Clodius says, but some nervous worry is inevitable, especially about forgetting lyrics. Performers must memorize all music for the Young Artist competitions. 

On contest day, Clodius ate a big breakfast, read through all her pieces, stayed hydrated and warmed up her voice by singing short parts of each song. Then she tried to forget about the competition and relaxed by listening to her usual music: rap, hip-hop, country and Lady Gaga. She loves all music, which, she speculates is unusual for opera singers.

Good golly, Miss Molly

Clodius grew up performing in the St. Louis area. At her mom’s request when she was small, she would stand on the sofa and sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for visitors. When she was older, she performed with classmates at nursing homes, joined a musical theater group and sang in the Muny kids chorus.

Voice lessons began in eighth grade and continued through her undergraduate years at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., when Clodius decided to major in opera. “My parents didn’t get it,” she says of her preference for opera over musical theater. “But they’re excited now.” 

“With opera you have to learn so much: language, translations, rhythms, high notes. I feel accomplished when I sing opera,” says Clodius, who teaches nine students of her own.

Columbia area residents can hear Clodius sing the role of Musetta in Act II of the Show-Me Opera production of La Bohème at the Missouri Theatre on April 29.

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012