Santelli is a music intern at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, and a tenor who’ll be training in our upcoming Classical Voice Intensive.
But he wasn’t always a classical singer. When Santelli was younger, he wanted to rock the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.
“I wanted to play rockabilly, and thought I wanted to be a pianist,” said Santelli, 20, of Orlando.
Having been a part of his school choirs since he was in the fourth grade, Santelli joined the Orlando Chorale when he was a junior in high school. There he met Gregory Ruffer, now the music chair at the Patel Conservatory, and began private voice lessons.
“Working with Greg was amazing. He was the reason I realized I could sing in the classical music world,” said Santelli. “He helped improve my singing by light years.”
That was also the year Santelli saw his first opera online, La Sonnambula.
“The staging was new. The characters were in street clothes, and the stage was set up to look like a rehearsal hall,” said Santelli.
His impression of opera had always been that it was very formal. This new staging caught his attention and got him thinking about singing opera. “It was really cool to see it that way,” he said.
Having decided to study classical voice, Santelli auditioned and got into the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where he studies with renowned opera tenor Salvatore Champagne.
“My freshman year, I got to sing in an opera for the first time...I was actually in an opera before I got to see one live.”
Last summer, he was among an elite group of young artists from around the country chosen for the Oberlin in Italy program, a language and music intensive in Tuscany.
There, he had the unique experience of playing Paolino in il Matrimonio Segreto by Domenico Cimarosa “in the round.” Unlike traditional opera, it was an outdoor production, with the stage set in the middle of the audience.
“It was a really personal and intimate experience with the audience,” said Santelli.
This summer, he’s helped teach the Patel Conservatory’s Instrumental Petting Zoo camp and the Junior Vocal Arts Intensive. Working with the younger students reminded him of the wonder of discovering a new instrument and learning to sing for the first time.
“It was cool to see the beginning of the music process, I'd forgotten what that’s like,” said Santelli.
He says working at the Conservatory has also been rewarding because Ruffer and other staff always present him with new challenges and believe in his success. “It’s nice having people around to really push me in a direciton I might not have been comfortable with.”
Next week, he looks forward to delving into some of his own work as well as being challenged with new material during the Classical Voice Intensive (CVI).
As part of the CVI, he’ll participate in master classes with renowned vocal instructors from around the country including Champagne, Stella Zambalis, David Friedman, Ruth Golden, Beverly Rinaldi, Robyn Frey-Monell, Brad Diamond and Mark Lubas. All master classes are open for observation. Click here for a complete schedule.
Santelli will perform in the Classical Voice Intensive concert on Fri., July 20, 2012 at 7 p.m. in TECO Theater. Don't miss this opportunity to see Santelli and other exceptional up-and-coming classical singers!
“People have this idea of opera being such a high society thing,” said Santelli. “A lot of the social issues and comedy in opera are still relevant, so interpretation and performance practice is still evolving and adapting to modern day... it's morals and humor are timeless.”