Samantha Hankey '11 is the recent winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. For over 60 years, the annual competition has helped launch the careers of countless young singers, including some of opera's greatest stars. Every season, over 100 former participants in the National Council Auditions appear on the Met roster, including names like Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Frederica von Stade, and Thomas Hampson. In addition to this incredible honor, Samantha was also recently awarded a prestigious Leonore Annenberg Fellowship, which invests in promising artists to help them begin their careers. Amidst her busy schedule of performances, Samantha took the time to speak with us about her path since graduation.
Tell us about the past 6 years. Where did you go after graduation, and how did it lead you to where you are today?
After Walnut Hill I started my undergraduate degree at Juilliard and 6 years later I am about to finish my Master of Music degree. I was really drawn to Juilliard because of Walnut Hill alumni who recommended the program and the overall vibe I got when visiting the campus. Part of my visit was during the 2010 Walnut Hill Gala that was held at Alice Tully Hall. A few of us in the voice department performed Händel arias, and the next day I visited Juilliard and fell in love! Walnut Hill gave me the support, confidence, and tools I needed to really pursue singing at a high level.
Do you have any projects or performances in the works at the moment?
Yes! I'm singing the role of Varvara in Janacek's Katya Kabanova at Juilliard (April 21-25) and then have my graduation recital on April 27. I'll also be doing a workshop of a new composition by David Hertzberg '08 at Opera Philadelphia in early May. After the workshop I have a lot of Rossini projects taking me through 2018: a Stabat Mater in North Carolina, attending the Merola Opera Program to sing Cenerentola in La Cenerentola, and this fall I will make my European and professional debut as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Den Norske Opera & Ballett in Oslo.
What is your favorite memory or experience from your time at Walnut Hill?
Oh, there are just so many! One of my favorite memories was hiking up the mountain senior year and our pranks--spelling "2011" with all of the dining hall chairs on the lawn and assembling Antonio Viva's office on the front porch. . . I also really cherish the sense of community we had amongst students, teachers, and staff. When I think of my 4 years at Walnut Hill, community is the first thing I think of.
Do you have any advice for our aspiring young artists at Walnut Hill?
Now is the time to explore all aspects of your art, find what speaks to you, trust your teachers, discuss your goals, and stay open minded to their suggestions! I think the most important thing for artists is to work hard and stay emotionally available to create and collaborate. Learn about other forms of art and let it inspire you, and it is so easy at Walnut Hill with all of the different divisions, so take advantage of it while you can!