The Richard Wagner Society of the Upper Midwest

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November 6, 2020

We are pleased to announce the two artists who are being awarded our inaugural Music in Action grants. In our 22 years as a society, we have never implemented a grant program. This year—of all years—seemed to truly call out for some extraordinary action on our part. We received a number of excellent proposals through our application process in September, and selecting the best two was challenging, to say the least!

Please join your Board of Directors in congratulating Victoria Vargas and Mark Billy! Mark's and Victoria's projects each stood out as being the best aligned with Music in Action's Program Purpose. We are so pleased that their proposals so perfectly address the goals we seek to achieve through our new program. I hope that you will agree that these concepts, once performed and streamed, promise to enrich and reward our Twin Cities communities in a variety of ways:

  • Victoria Vargas is a local mezzo-soprano, and a frequent performer with the Minnesota Opera. She identifies as Hispanic, female, and queer. Victoria plans to create a recital program featuring female, GLBTQIA+ and Hispanic composers, including Ricky Ian Gordon, Paola Prestini, Kristian S. Rodriguez, and Kala Pierson. These selections express various aspects of Victoria's individuality, as well as her connections to other members of these communities. In addition to premiering the recital via RWSUM's Music in Action program, Victoria plans to gift her recital to OutFront Minnesota, to benefit fundraising efforts for their youth group.
  • Mark Billy is a Twin Cities-based baritone. He, too, has often performed with the Minnesota Opera. Mark identifies as a Native person of color (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. According to Mark, "Operatic plots are prevalent with the brutality of anger and unaddressed mental health crises, which are mirrored in our current news and events." He plans to use his grant funds to create a recital of "pieces of music of true (and largely untold) stories of the brutality against Native and LGBTQ+ people." His selections will include a variety of appropriate opera arias and Choctaw hymns which depict hope and healing.

RWSUM plans to make Mark's and Victoria's productions available via streaming video in the first half of 2021. We'll be sure to keep you apprised of their progress, as well as the scheduling of their premieres, along the way!

Those of us on the Board of Directors feel honored and privileged to be able to support the work of these fine Twin Cities artists!
Congratulations, Mark and Victoria!

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