Through local auditions, 20 Saint Louis-area high school students are selected to participate in weekly college-level voice lessons and coachings, participate in master classes and recitals, compete for $12,000 in scholarship funds, receive college guidance, and experience the vibrant arts culture of Saint Louis, Missouri. Graduates of the AIT program who choose to continue vocal music studies receive continued support through advanced study scholarship opportunities. One goal of AIT is to identify students who will go on to further music study and perhaps a professional singing career, but the program has other goals as well, such as encouraging self-discovery, finding new means of expression, learning to set rigorous achievement standards, and rewarding disciplined commitment.
Established in 1990 and unique in the U.S., Opera Theatre’s Bayer Fund Artists-in-Training Program was one of 10 in the nation to be recognized by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities with the “Coming Up Taller” Award for success in serving at-risk youth.
Visiting artists have included: Martina Arroyo, Christine Brewer, Jane Bunnel, Cynthia Clarey, Vinson Cole, Denyce Graves, Kathleen Kaun, Everett McCorvey, Sylvia McNair, Erie Mills, Stanford Olsen, George Shirley, Barbara Smith Conrad, Steve Smith, Kevin Short, Marilyn Taylor, and Shirley Verrett among others. Students attend performances at venues including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, the St. Louis Repertory Theater, and more.
- 2019-2020 marks the Artists-in-Training program’s 30th year. The program has been generously supported by Bayer Fund (formerly known as Monsanto Fund) since its creation in 1990.
- Over 240 students have participated in the AIT program since its inception
- AIT has awarded over $526,000 scholarships to graduates and alumni
- AIT boasts a near perfect high school graduation rate. In the last 10 years, 100% of program graduates have attended college – many of whom are the first in the families.
- Graduates of the AIT program gone on to study at the nation’s top music schools including Boston Conservatory, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music, The Julliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, and New England Conservatory.
- Many AIT graduates have gone on to a variety of music careers as professional singers, educators, stage directors, arts administrators, and private instructors.
- AIT-graduates have performed with major opera companies and symphonies across the United States and Europe including the Dutch National Opera, English National Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris’ Opera Comique, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Sydney Symphony, and Washington National Opera
- As of 2019, nine graduates will have appeared on the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis mainstage including Kendall Gladen in the 2012 title role of Carmen, and Julia Bullock in the 2019 world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones.