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2015 Vocal Music Artist of the Year: Nicholas Kendig

Nicholas Kendig spent six years singing with the All-American Boys Chorus.Then something happened & the thing that happens to boys as they enter adolescence. His voice changed.They never really formally told me I had to leave, Kendig said. But, you know, reality. Kendig, who loved the sacred pieces that are part of the choir’s repertoire, reluctantly said goodbye in 2012. By then, he was enrolled in the Orange County School of the Arts classical voice conservatory. Kendig’s recollection of the crack in his voice that marked his passage into the world of opera amused the judges who went on to select him as the Orange County Register’s 2015 Artist of the Year in vocal music.

All 10 of the finalists were charming and articulate, said Dennis Siebenaler, music education coordinator at Cal State Fullerton. Kendigs maturity, at 17, earned him the final nod. The high school junior seemed to best understand what he was singing about, the judges said.Kendig impressed them on several fronts. The depth of the research he puts into his performances, digging into what the composer is feeling behind the words and music & turmoil or exuberant joy. The diction he brought to the German language of O w’sst ich doch den Weg zurck by Johannes Brahms, a product of taking the time to hand-write phonetic pronunciations beneath the foreign words he would sing.

The warmth of a voice that is now a rich baritone-bass. For a kid, Siebenaler said, it was just gorgeous. Kendig skillfully expressed the nostalgia of the older man in the Brahms piece, longing for childhood and an innocence forever lost. His old soul quality captivated Rebecca Sherburn, associate professor of voice and director of vocal studies at Chapman University. I thought this might be someone who could really move and shake the classical world, she said. Yet Kendig considers himself an introvert. When asked about welcoming an audience into his world and being an extrovert on their behalf, he replied, I find that I have a little trouble with that. He has plenty of time to work on it.

In nominating Kendig for vocal Artist of the Year, Maria Lazarova, director of OCSA’s classical voice conservatory, left no doubt about the future of a young man she considers one of the top two classical singers to go through the program. I am confident that Nick has the potential to have a career as a professional opera singer, Lazarova wrote. Nick’s vocal talent is obvious, but the heart and passion he demonstrates when he performs is exceptional for a young man.

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