The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Jeffrey Sykes retires from Opera for the Young where Clinton Smith will take over as Music Director in 2013.

November 19, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Clinton Smith, who received his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan, is joining Madison-based Opera for the Young (below) as Principal Coach and Music Director of the company’s 2013-2014 tour of “Barber of Seville.”

Smith takes over from Jeffrey Sykes (D.M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison) who held the position of Music Director since 1997 after touring as cast pianist the previous two years. In addition, Sykes adapted the scores of four of the company’s eight operas (“Barber of Seville,” “Magic Flute,” “Rusalka,” “Hansel and Gretel”).

Smith will be balancing his Opera for the Young work with busy schedules as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Master-Coach for Minnesota Opera. In addition, he has engagements in 2013 at The Julliard School and Kentucky Opera. Most recently, he was Assistant Conductor and coach at San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program as well as at Glimmerglass Opera.

Sykes (below) is retiring from OFTY in order to concentrate on his many other commitments:  he is co-Artistic Director of Bach Dancing and Dynamite of Wisconsin, on staff at University of California-Berkeley and California State University East Bay as vocal coach and accompanist, and frequent performer at music festivals across the country and Canada.

When asked for his reaction via email, Sykes said: “Just a quick answer for now— I can go into more detail later.  I am not leaving for any bad or awkward reasons. It just seemed like the right time after—are you ready for this?—SEVENTEEN YEARS as music director.  I still love OFY and they still love me!”

Diane Garton Edie (below), Artistic Director of Opera for the Young, praised both outgoing and incoming directors in a prepared statement: “Jeffrey and Clinton are wonderful leaders who are dedicated to arts education and arts in education. Clinton is inheriting a rich legacy from Jeffrey in terms of helping young artists achieve the highest artistic quality amidst their in-the-trenches work at schools across our five-state touring area. We will sorely miss Jeffrey, our fine friend and fantastic colleague, but are looking forward to working with Clinton who comes with the highest recommendations and is bringing such an exciting background to our work!”

About Opera for the Young: Opera for the Young brings live, professional opera to 75,000 children at 200 elementary schools with its annual tour. Students from each school appear onstage in chorus and cameo roles, performing for their peers right alongside OFY’s professional artists. All productions are fully staged, sung in English and adapted especially for kids. OFY also holds an annual set and costume design contest wherein students submit drawings for pre-selected elements of the upcoming production’s sets and costumes.

To learn more about Opera for the Young, visit the organization’s website at 

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