“As singers, we are serving the art form,” says Gerardo Ortega, a professional vocalist whose credits include stage roles and solo concerts throughout the South. “We’re not just saying words. We are telling stories. We are conveying strong, deep emotions.”
The students who gathered in the Dan and Frances White Chapel Thursday, May 4 listened not only to Ortega’s incredible voice, but also to his expertise. Ortega hosted a master class, organized by Director of Performing Arts Meredith Long-Dieth. A master class is one given by an expert, usually presented in public. This type of class is a concentrated public coaching for the singers who participate.
Ortega, who is the brother of St. Martin’s students Sofia ’21 and Diego ’18, began vocal studies at Loyola University New Orleans and continued them in Miami at New World School of the Arts (NWSA). Ortega is receiving his master's from Florida International University in Vocal Performance.
He has recently appeared in ¡Viva la Zarzuela! for Vero Beach Opera, Noche de Zarzuela with the Hispanic American Lyric Theatre, Rossini’s Stabat Mater as the tenor soloist with Barry Chamber Group, and Claussen’s A New Creation as the tenor soloist with the Maryville Orchestra. Ortega’s stage credits include the title role of Faust with Coral Gables Opera; Nemorino from Donizetti's L'elisir d'Amore with NWSA; Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff and the Italian singer in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier with Harrower Opera; Parpignol in La Bohème and Dombé in Lakmé with the Florida Grand Opera; and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with the Riuniti Opera.
Ortega is a repeat performer for the local Trinity Artists Concert Series, and the Church at Highland and Ponce Concert Series in Atlanta. Last year Ortega made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Lyric Opera Theatre as a National Finalist competitor.
For his master class at StM, Ortega was able to expertly observe and engage with the participating students while simultaneously creating an experience which was inspiring to the audience.
“He helped me, as well as other students, to discover new ways to approach singing,” said master class participant Hannah Bonnette. “I'm sure that the lessons he taught us will stay with us throughout our singing careers.”
Students find this type of class helpful because it gives them the opportunity not only to hear from an expert, but also to feel the support of the entire audience encouraging them to succeed.
Though his time with individual students was brief, Ortega excelled in maximizing the use of that time. Each student choose a song to present. After every performance, Ortega quickly immersed himself in the details and emotion of that particular song to uncover a valuable nugget of information the student could apply. The audience especially enjoyed seeing how Ortega’s advice improved the students’ performances in such a short time.
“It was incredible to watch Gerardo work with our students,” said Head of School Merry Sorrells. “We have so many talented singers with incredible voices, so it was fascinating to watch him give them advice on small adjustments they could make. Then after they made those adjustments, hearing them sound even better than before was just wonderfully inspiring.”
Long-Dieth, who has known Ortega for a decade, invited him to share his knowledge and expertise with St. Martin’s students as a way for them to expand their horizons, hone their craft, and hear from experts in the field.
“It is exciting to see how much he has grown as a performer,” said Long-Dieth. “I was inspired by his teaching. It was such a joy to see him work.”
St. Martin's performing arts curriculum offers students the opportunity to explore the arts through various performance types in the areas of theater
. Students at all grade levels are able to perform on stage or pursue set design, lighting design, sound design, or audio recording. The centerpiece of St. Martin’s performing arts department is the Solomon Theater. This state-of-the-art, 491-seat theater, featuring professional lighting and staging, provides the St. Martin’s community with a wonderful venue for a variety of school performances, while offering students multiple ways to learn and grow.