By Randy Gonzales
HAYS, Kan. – It’s a long way from Dighton to North Carolina. It’s an even longer distance from Salina to France. A pair of Fort Hays State University vocal students have come a long way, and their talent is being showcased this summer.
Clayton Capra, a third-year music education major from Dighton, was one of six artists selected from national auditions to be part of the Asheville Lyric Opera Summer Young Artist Program in Asheville, N.C. Jon-Luke Martin, a third-year music composition major from Salina, was invited to join the 2016 Franco-American Vocal Academy this summer in Perigueux, France. Both Capra and Martin are vocal students who are training under Dr. Joseph Perniciaro, associate professor of music and theatre and director of opera at FHSU.
Perniciaro, in his 11th year at Fort Hays State, has had two other students in the summer program in France and a little more than half-dozen total students participate in summer arts programs in his time at the university. This is the first time he has placed a student in the North Carolina program.
“It’s only a few weeks away now; looking forward to the experience,” said Capra, whose program in North Carolina runs from June 3 to July 27. “I think it’s going to be really positive.”
Capra’s positive experiences when he visited the FHSU campus — and also when he attended the High Plains Music Camp on campus while he was in high school — influenced his decision to enroll at Fort Hays State.
“I came to Fort Hays State because I liked the atmosphere here,” Capra said. “I also felt it was good for me, coming from a smaller school environment, to come here because it was large enough to facilitate good programs but at the same time it was small enough I could make close friends, make good connections with my professors.
“I also really loved the music department here, all the faculty,” he added. “I was excited to get to work with them. I think that’s what really led my choice in the end.”
Perniciaro and Capra met at FHSU’s summer music camp, which expanded to include vocal instruction in 2012. Perniciaro started giving vocal lessons to Capra while Capra was in high school.
“It has been a good chance for high school students to get to know the voice faculty and our students,” Perniciaro said. “It has been very helpful. I think a good number of them see the quality of education they’re going to get.”
Martin’s summer program in France starts July 2 and runs through Aug. 15. He is leaving early to visit his sister, Bonnie-Jean Taylor, who is in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Germany. He applied for the program after learning of a cancellation, and he was accepted.
“I was very excited but also very nervous, because all of a sudden I had all this music to learn in not a lot of time,” Martin said.
Composition is included in Martin’s instruction. He will work with composer Isabelle Abouker and perform in her opera, “Les Fables Enchantees.”
“I’m really excited, considering I’m a composition major,” Martin said. “I’m really hoping to get some composition techniques, learning from her. I’ve never had an opportunity like this before — it’s really big.”
Martin, a baritone, also will perform in Jacques Offenbach’s opera, “Pomme d’Api,” as part of an intensive study program. He will take French lessons due to having speaking parts in his roles. He also will have voice lessons, musical coaching, role preparation and career counseling.
Martin also participated in the High Plains Music Camp before enrolling at FHSU.
“I’m grateful to Fort Hays State,” Martin said. “They’ve given me a lot of opportunities.”
Martin started taking lessons from Perniciario his freshman year at FHSU.
“I really liked him; I really liked the campus,” Martin said. “So I decided I would come here to study under him. Dr. P definitely was one of the primary reasons I came to Fort Hays State.”
Capra, also a baritone, will perform a program of opera scenes while on tour in western North Carolina. He will have roles in “Man of La Mancha” and “The Tragedy of Carmen” with Asheville Lyric Opera. He will also receive intensive training two or three times a week in diction, acting and professional development.
FHSU played a large role in being chosen to participate in the program, Capra said.
“I definitely believe this university gave me the tools I needed to succeed,” Capra said. “That’s what really propelled me to look for these kinds of opportunities.”
Perniciaro is confident his two students will make the most of their opportunities this summer.
“The opportunities are hard to come by, but they’re particularly invaluable experiences for the singers,” Perniciaro said. “I think these two guys are particularly prepared for these opportunities.
“They’re both very talented, continue to grow,” he added. “These opportunities will only enhance that.”