Custer resident wins big at vocal contest

By Stefanie Donahue

Competing against talent from Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Washington, 16-year-old Custer resident Aaron McInnis celebrated a first place win at the Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition in Las Vegas on March 26.

The competition is open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors and awards more than 120 scholarships to young artists on a yearly basis. Since it started 30 years ago, more than 5,000 have participated. Some have gone on to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the George London Competition and more.

The Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition takes place in 15 locations throughout the United States and requires participants to perform three compositions by memory alongside a professional accompanist. The all-day event awards cash prizes to first, second and third place winners as well as finalists and “encouragement” and “best sophomore” categories.

Last month, McInnis took top honors and won $2,500.

A former Blaine High School student, McInnis remains active in the community through his church. He’s studied opera in Bellingham under the direction of Ed Cook since 2015.

As a lyric tenor, he’s won multiple awards, including the San Juan Music Educators Association (SJMEA) regional solo ensemble in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, he won the SMJMEA state competition and is set to compete again April 28–29 in Ellensburg.

McInnis’ Schmidt Youth Vocal Competition award will be used to help fund a trip to Austria, where he was accepted to study at the Franco-American Vocal Academy this summer. During his time in Austria, he’ll study and perform the lead role of Temino in “The Magic Flute.”

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