Sarofim Vocal Competition Faculty

Dana Zenobi

Vocal Competition Director

Dana Zenobi joined the faculty at Southwestern University in 2007. A versatile performer who embraces both traditional repertoire and new music, she appeared in the American Premiere of Philip Glass’s Waiting for the Barbarians with Austin Lyric Opera, and performed with Lyric Opera Cleveland in the first production of Mark Adamo’s Little Womendirected by the composer.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer praised her “dazzling coloratura” and “irresitible phrasing” as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, and she has garnered similar success in roles ranging from Mozart heroines Konstanze and Donna Elvira to Verdi’s Violetta Valéry. She is featured on Viola By Choice Chamber Music Ensemble’s 2010 debut recording, Florilegium.

A native of Northport, NY, Dr. Zenobi is active in the local community as the executive director of BELTÀ - Building Empowered Lives Through Art, a nonprofit organization that supports emerging artists as they build successful careers. She recently completed her DMA in Voice Performance and Pedagogy at The University of Texas at Austin, where her research focused on aural modeling and acoustic analysis of the singing voice.


Bruce Cain

Vocal Competition Judge

Bruce Cain has performed a variety of roles in the following opera companies: the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theatre, Skylight Comic Opera, Pamiro Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Whitewater Opera, and Opera Grand Rapids. In addition to his opera appearances, recent concert performances include Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Billings Montana Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem with the Wheaton Symphony, and Handel’s Messiah with the Austin Symphony.

“I believe that trying to balance an active performing career, and remaining committed to quality studio teaching is very important. Guiding young singers to develop a consistent vocal technique that will lead to healthy singing, as well as a foundation for a career or graduate study, is one of my great joys in life.” He is an Associate Professor of Music at Southwestern University. He received his DMus from Northwestern University.


Lois Ferrari

Vocal Competition Judge

Lois Ferrari is Professor of Music at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and has been a member of the faculty since 1993. Dr. Ferrari conducts the SU Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, and also teaches conducting. She is also the Music Director of the Austin Civic Orchestra, Dr. Ferrari was recently named 1st Runner-Up for the 2012 American Prize in Community Orchestra Conducting. In 2010, Dr. Ferrari was also honored as the first woman to conduct an orchestral performance at the Long Center for the Performing Arts (Austin). An enthusiastic champion of new music, Dr. Ferrari founded the bi-annual ACO Composition Contest and is proud to have premiered more than twenty works during the course of her career. One such work was nominated by the Austin Critics Table for Best Symphonic Performance of 2009. In 2012, Ferrari and the ACO were commissioned by composer David Amram to present the Texas premiere of his “Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie.” She received her DMA from Eastman School of Music.


Acting Workshop Clinician

Prior to arriving at Southwestern in July 2003, Dr. Gaffney served for 16 years as Professor of Theater at Dartmouth College. Previous teaching assignments include the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga and Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.

His area of specialty within the theatre field is directing; in addition to many college and university directing assignments, he has directed at a wide range of other theaters, including the Texas Shakespeare Festival, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Nebraska Repertory Theatre, and the California Theatre Center. He also has directed bilingual and Spanish productions in California and San Jose, Costa Rica; and he has an interest in contemporary Irish theatre. 


weston hurt

Guest Judge

This season, baritone and Southwestern University alumnus Weston Hurt makes his role debut as the title role Nabucco at Seattle Opera, makes his debut with New Orleans Opera as Germont in La Traviata, makes his house and role debut with Houston Grand Opera as Scarpia in Tosca, debuts Iago in Otello with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, and returns to Seattle Opera in another role debut as Talbot in Maria Stuarda.
Recent opera engagements have included Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera with Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, the title role of Rigoletto with PORT Opera and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, Germont in La Traviata at the Seattle Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Atlanta Opera, Ford at the Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, and Virginia Opera; Sharpless at the Boston Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, New York City Opera, the Atlanta Opera, and Opera Grand Rapids; Schaunard in La Bohéme at the Dallas Opera, Peter in Hansel and Gretel at the Portland Opera; Enrico at Portland Opera, the Arizona Opera and the Austin Lyric Opera; the Count in Le nozze di Figaro at the Michigan Opera Theater, Frank in Die Tote Stadt at the Dallas Opera, the New York City Opera, and with Odyssey Opera; Baldassare in L’Arlesiana with the Opera Orchestra of New York, and a performance of Der ferne Klang with the American Symphony Orchestra in Avery Fisher Hall.



Vocal Competition Judge

Under Dr. Kenny Sheppard’s leadership, the Southwestern University Chorale has performed at the Orchestra of Santa Fe Bach Festival, for state and national music conventions, with the Austin Symphony, the Big Spring Symphony, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Temple Symphony, the Austin Civic Orchestra, and the Air Force Band.  In 2010, members of the SU Chorale traveled to China to perform with Sheppard at the Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai as part of the World Expo. In 2013 he travelled with the SU Chorale to Italy and performed at several great venues including St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  In 2016 he will lead the Chorale in a concert tour of France with performances in Paris, Nice, and Aix-en-Provence.

In addition to numerous choral clinics and festivals, Sheppard’s guest appearances include the Austin Symphony Orchestra, International Festival-Institute at Round Top, Big Spring Symphony, Austin Civic Orchestra, Austin Youth Orchestra, and numerous choral and orchestral festivals throughout the country. Sheppard made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2004 as a guest conductor for Mid-America Productions.  Sheppard served as Conductor of Chorus Austin from 2001 to 2008.  During that time he prepared and conducted 58 concerts with Chorus Austin, and he prepared the chorus for 12 additional concerts conducted by Maestro Peter Bay of the Austin Symphony.  A devoted teacher, Dr. Sheppard has mentored many students who now hold positions as conductors and teachers in public schools, churches, and universities. He is the Director of the Conductors Institute of Southwestern University, serving conductors at all stages of professional development.


David Utterback 

Competition Collaborative Pianist

David Utterback is an active collaborative and solo pianist in the Austin area. Performing most often as a vocal accompanist, he is involved in a wide variety of musical endeavors including chamber music, opera, cabaret, and musical theater. He is a member of the Austin Chamber Ensemble, and also is the accompanist for the choirs of Chorus Austin (Austin Civic Chorus and Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble). He has held his current appointment as a member of the piano faculty at Southwestern University since 1993. He received his MM from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan.



Agnes Vojtko 

Vocal Competition Judge

Hungarian mezzo-soprano Agnes Vojtko received her bachelor degree in music at Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. Later, she moved to the United States as a Fulbright fellow to attend the Butler School of Music of The University of Texas at Austin, where she received her Doctor in Musical Arts. In 2006, Agnes made her opera debut to critical acclaim with Opera in the Heights’s production of Norma as Adalgisa. She has also appeared in Austin Lyric Opera’s Madame Butterfly as Ms. Pinkerton, and in several productions of the Sarah and Ernest Butler Opera Center and has sung with the Ars Classica Chamber Opera as Fidalma in Cimarosa’s The Secret Marriage, as Second Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, as well as Proserpina in L’Orfeo with the Budapest Chamber Opera. Agnes has earned recognition at some of the most prestigious vocal competitions, including the Nyiregyhazi International Music Competition in Takasaki, Japan; the S. Mercadante International Singing Competition in Italy, the International Händel Competition in Hungary, the Händel Singing Competition in England, the Dallas Opera Guild, and the W. Stenhammar International Vocal Competition in Sweden. Her accomplished performance at this last event provided an invitation to sing at the Gala Concert of the Cairo Opera.