Summer Youth Intensive Program, Instructors & Testimonials

Summer Youth Intensive
Program Content

Collaboration and teamwork is essential in opera, which is why mornings begin with group scene studies and focus on excerpts. Participants convene with a director, music director, and accompanist to do vocal warm-ups and exercises and then focus on preparing for their Saturday afternoon performance. In the afternoons, youth drive their own learning and participate in two masterclasses (1.5 hours each) of their choice.



In Week One, youth will learn the music and staging for selected chorus numbers from operas from the COC’s 2014/2015 season. Explore the drama and grandeur of beloved, well-known, European operas of various periods and styles!

Masterclasses and Workshops

    • VOCAL I: TECHNIQUE: Come prepared to perform an aria or art song in front of a supportive group of peers and receive some positive and constructive feedback on how to improve your vocal technique. This masterclass will also include discussions on how to make the most of your practice time and tips on how to prepare for auditions.
    • VOCAL II: DRAMATIC INTERPRETATION: Take your performance to the next level in this workshop which focuses on character development, motivation, movement and musical expression. Working under the guidance of a director, participants go beyond the technical aspects of their singing and discover the dramatic side of opera. Youth will receive feedback on individual performances as well as participate in group exercises to develop their acting skills.
    • PRODUCTION: Find out what it really takes to work in the COC's production department by learning from the experts! You'll spend time behind the scenes in the costume, wig, and props departments at the COC and complete hands-on projects each day.
    • STAGE COMBAT: While a fight scene looks like a fast and furious battle, it really involves an incredible amount of discipline and control from the actors. Get ready to learn the basic techniques and principals of safe stage combat and choreograph a fight scene with your peers.


In Week Two, youth will learn the music and staging for selected numbers from an opera written especially for young voices. Experience the fresh and moving musical innovations of a more contemporary composer! Participants who have previously attended Summer Youth Intensive (in Week One or in previous years) will be given the opportunity to rehearse an additional, focused small group or solo scene.

Masterclasses and Workshops

    • VOCAL I: TECHNIQUE: Come prepared to perform an aria or art song in front of a supportive group of peers and receive some positive and constructive feedback on how to improve your vocal technique. This masterclass will also include discussions on how to make the most of your practice time and tips on how to prepare for auditions.
    • SPECIAL SMALL GROUP SCENE AND SOLO WORK: Have you attended Summer Youth Intensive before, either in Week One or in previous years? If the answer is, “Yes,” you can sign up to rehearse an additional scene and/or solo that will be featured in the Saturday afternoon performance.
    • PRODUCTION DESIGN: What is involved in creating the look of an opera production? In this masterclass you’ll work with a professional designer to complete hands-on design projects and learn the process of production design from concept to creation.

    • DRAMA: Hone your acting chops to heighten the intensity and quality of your vocal performance. You’ll learn how to use body movement, gesture, and facial expression to communicate emotion and intent. This masterclass will help you refine your acting technique through a series of rigorous drama activities and exercises.


Instructor Bios

Music Director:
Kyra Millan
Stage Director: Lianne Seykora
Collaborative Pianist: Christina Faye
Vocal I: Karine St. Pierre
Vocal I Accompanist: Sandra Mogensen
Vocal II: Markus Howard
Stage Combat: Casey Hudecki & Michael Dufays
Production: Members of COC Production staff

Music Director:
Kyra Millan
Stage Director: Liza Balkan
Collaborative Pianist: Christina Faye
Vocal I: Mark Daboll
Vocal I Accompanist: Sandra Mogensen
Vocal II: Markus Howard
Drama: Liza Balkan
Production Design: Camellia Koo


Liza Balkan - Director/Instructor (Drama)

Liza Balkan is a Toronto-based director, librettist, writer, educator, coach and Dora Award-winning actor. Directing credits for opera include Anais Nin at Koerner Hall (21C Festival), The Brothers Grimm (Canadian Opera Company’s Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour), Le Nozze di Figaro and L’Elisir d’Amore (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy), the site-specific pub opera, Opera on the Rocks (Toronto Fringe Festival), and Paradises Lost (Summerworks Musical Works in Concert). Upcoming engagements include directing the Bicycle Opera Project’s 2014 summer tour.

Mark Daboll - Vocal I
With almost 40 opera productions to his credit, Mark Daboll has performed as a member of the COC Chorus, Opéra de Montréal, Spoleto Festival (Italy/U.S.), and the Festspiele Musik und Theater Saar in Germany. Currently working part-time as part of the voice faculty at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, Mr. Daboll is sought after as a masterclass instructor, adjudicator at music festivals and as a coach-clinician at vocal/choral workshops. He holds a bachelor’s degree in voice performance from Westminster Choir College (New Jersey), and a master’s degree in vocal pedagogy and performance from the University of Toronto.

Michael Dufays - Instructor (Stage Combat)
Michael Dufays began studying martial arts at the age of seven, when he began Tae Kwon Do. At 21, he became certified in Stage Combat with the Society of American Fight Directors, and eventually became an instructor with Fight Directors Canada in 2003. An avid movie buff, Mr. Dufays loves all things about the film creation process. He shares ideas about capturing action and telling a visual story with a team called Riot A.C.T. As an actor, he has trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (New York City), studied the MeisnerPlus® technique at the Jim Bonney Acting Studio (New York City), and learned from various teachers and classes across Canada.

Christina Faye – Collaborative Pianist
An active teacher and solo performer, Christina Faye has worked with numerous student and professional instrumentalists, singers, orchestras, chamber groups, and theatre and opera productions. Ms. Faye earned a bachelor of music from Brandon University and a master of music from the Eastman School of Music. Currently the music director at St. John's Dixie Anglican Church, she has also held positions with major summer music programs including Opera Nuova, the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory (Colorado), Canadian Operatic Arts Academy and the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy. Ms. Faye has collaborated with Out of the Box Productions on Sound in Silence and was music director for their production of Opera Erotique

Markus Howard - Vocal II
Markus Howard is a voice coach, director, conductor and choreographer who has worked extensively in the arts throughout Canada and abroad, and in many musical genres including opera, choral, pop, musical theatre and jazz voice. His students have included members of the Stratford and Shaw festivals, Toronto cast of The Lion King and Mamma Mia, and a number of Broadway and touring companies. He is currently a lead artist with the COC’s After School Opera Program, and is the artistic director of La Jeunesse Choirs and Oriana Singers in Cobourg, Ontario and the Guelph Youth Singers. 

Casey Hudecki - Stage Combat
Casey Hudecki holds an honours bachelor of arts degree, specializing in theatre, from the University of Toronto, and is a certified fight director and fight instructor with Fight Directors Canada. She is the first woman to be credited with fight direction at the Stratford Theatre Festival, and is also a professional actor and stunt performer in film, television and theatre. Ms. Hudecki is the founder of TEMPER: Combat Performance Arts.

Camellia Koo - Production Design
Camellia Koo is a Toronto-based set and costume designer for theatre, opera, dance and site-specific performance installations. Recent designs for opera include Macbeth (Minnesota Opera); Don Giovanni (Royal Conservatory of Music); Marilyn Forever (Aventa Ensemble); The Tales of Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera); Maria Stuarda (Pacific Opera Victoria); The Lighthouse (Boston Lyric Opera); Pelléas et Mélisande, Turn of the Screw and La Bohéme (Against the Grain Theatre); Giiwedin (Native Earth); and The Shadow (Tapestry New Opera). She is the recipient of five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a Sterling Award, a Chalmers Award Grant and the Siminovitch Protégé Prize, and was a member of the Third Prize team at the 2011 European Opera Directing Prize.

Kyra Millan - Music Director 
Soprano Kyra Millan is a Toronto-based educator, vocal coach and singer. In addition to private coaching, Ms. Millan has worked as a voice and singing coach on productions for Canadian Stage, Crow’s Theatre, Stage West and for international touring productions for Warner Bros. As an artist educator, she has led many of the COC’s education and outreach programs for the past 15 years, as well as facilitated workshops for Opera Atelier, Workman Arts (an affiliate of CAMH), Abilities Arts Festival and various choirs. In September 2011, she began Gleesical, a musical theatre program for young people in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood.

Sandra Mogensen - Vocal I Accompanist
Sandra Mogensen performs as a solo pianist, as well as an accompanist with singers in recital, across North America and Europe. Since 2006, she has specialized in the music of Edvard Grieg and has released of a trilogy of recordings featuring his music on the CHM label. In addition to studies at the University of Western Ontario, Ms. Mogensen has studied in Salzburg, Copenhagen and at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, where her teachers were renowned accompanists J.J. Penna and Dalton Baldwin. In addition to performance, she mentors musicians as a piano teacher and vocal coach. 

Lianne Seykora - Director
A multi-disciplined artist who brings a depth of creative experiences to her work in opera, Lianne Seykora is a trained actress, singer, dancer and pianist. She has worked for opera companies in Canada and overseas, notably as an assistant director for new productions of The Tales of Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera), Pelléas et Mélisande (Université de Montréal) and The Magic Flute (Opéra de Lyon). Her work with singers focuses on heightening their presence through an increased awareness and connection of mind and body in the space.

Karine St. Pierre - Vocal I
A native of Montreal, soprano Karine St. Pierre is currently enrolled in the doctorate in voice performance and vocal pedagogy program at the University of Toronto. She has performed many opera and operetta roles, including Ilia in Idomeneo, Annina in La Traviata, Bella in Paganini, Gabrielle in La vie parisienne, and Stella in La fille du tambour major. Ms. St. Pierre received a fellowship from the Fonds de recherché du Québec for her research on solo vocal works from Quebec. She is also president of the University of Toronto’s Student Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.



“Summer Youth Intensive draws such interesting and enjoyable people to work with, and rehearsals are always such fun. It is a very intense, busy week with lots of opportunity for artistic growth, but the atmosphere is relaxed and joyful. It is my favourite time of the year!”
– Kyra Millan, Music Director (2013) and Vocal Masterclass Instructor (2010 – 2012)

Participant feedback

“I loved expanding my musical horizons and getting better and polishing the things I am already good at. I had never sung opera before this program and it was cool to learn how to change my sound."

“It was fun! I received a lot of advice and tricks for the voice. Even if you have no experience, you learn so much in this program.”

“I do already take voice lessons, but preparing for a career in music means it is incredibly helpful to hear from other teachers.”

“It’s an amazing opportunity to gain experience as a young artist or simply a lover of opera, and to make friendships to last a lifetime!”

Parent feedback

“My son really enjoyed the opportunity to sing with other kids. He loved the instruction and variety of activities.”

“My daughter was so happy and full of life during this week. It was wonderful to see her so excited and to listen to her talk about her experience. This is her second year, and she loved it!”

“It was an enriching experience that taught them skills which will be particularly useful in their career and social pursuits.”

“My child enjoyed the program a lot. This time she was focused on stage performance more than vocal (which is unusual for her), and I believe her confidence on stage improved.”


Program Supporters:

J.P. Bickell Foundation
State Street

2013 Summer Youth Intensive participant. Photo Credit: COC © 2013

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