Classical Vocal Students Win at Wood Vocal Competition

L-R: Olivia Gray; Rafael Rovelo; Madeleine Cucullu
NOCCA Students Receive Top Awards In New Orleans Opera Association Donald W. Wood Vocal Competition

NOCCA is proud to share the news that current Classical Vocal students Madeleine Cucullu, Olivia Gray and Rafael Rovelo received top honors in the recent youth vocal competition coordinated by the New Orleans Opera Association.

Winners include:

Rafael Rovelo                First Place Men 

(Grace King High School | NOCCA Classical Vocal) | Teacher: Phyllis Treigle

Olivia Gray                   Second Place Women   

(NOCCA Academic Studio | Classical Vocal) | Teacher: Phyllis Treigle

Madeleine Cucullu        Honorable Mention Women

(NOCCA Academic Studio | Classical Vocal) | Teacher: Phyllis Treigle

The competition was judged by professionals in the field of opera namely Amy Pfrimmer (Tulane), Kathleen Halm (Soprano), and Ellen Frohnmayer (Loyola).  Anne Copeland Sumich (NOCCA), provided professional piano accompanying for many of the students.   High school sophomores, juniors, and seniors were judged on quality of voice, musicality, technical skill, diction, interpretation, and presentation. 

One male and one female vocalist were awarded first place (a prize of $1,000 each), second place winners ( a prize of $500 each) and honorable mention (a prize of $250 each).

About The Competition

The Donald W. Wood Sr. Vocal Competition (Wood Competition) is a collaboration between the New Orleans Opera Association, Loyola University New Orleans College of Music and Fine Arts, Tulane University Department of Music, and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Beginning in 2015, the contest is open to all Louisiana high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The Wood Competition promotes artistic excellence, provides financial support to young vocalists, and encourages young local singers in vocal music.

Created by board member Debby Hirsch Wood in honor of her late husband Donald W. Wood Sr., the Wood family has granted funding for the competition to continue in perpetuity in his name. Donald Wood Sr. loved opera and was supportive of NOOA’s educational endeavors. Wood’s six children continue their father’s legacy of supporting the arts in Louisiana. They are Sarah Louise Wood Ham (Scott Ham), Donald William Wood Jr. (Maria Ainsworth Newell Wood), Pearce Friedrichs Wood (Babs Evangelista), Tiffany Shea Hayers (Stuart Hayers), Hunter Whitefield Shea (Christy Liriano Shea), and Emily Madison Eickhoff.

A major legacy for the New Orleans Opera Association, Loyola, Tulane, and NOCCA, the competition greatly benefits young vocal students in Louisiana and promotes artistic excellence, provides financial support to young vocalists, and encourages young local singers throughout the entire State of Louisiana.


Ellen Frohnmayer  holds the Charles Anthony Caruso Distinguished Professorship of Opera at the Loyola University School of Music in New Orleans.  Her private voice students have gone on to prestigious graduate schools, and many now have high school and college teaching jobs all over the country, as well as music therapist positions at regional and national hospitals.  Many of her students are active in opera, jazz, and pop genres.  Read more at

Kathleen Halm has been praised for her dramatic vocal portrayals of standard spinto soprano repertoire. Her most recent successes have been as the Foreign Princess in New Orleans Opera Association’s production of Rusalka, for which the Times Picayune said “Soprano Kathleen Halm’s Foreign Princess has a villainous bearing and regal voice.” She returned to New Orleans Opera Association’s stage as Jade Boucher in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking the following year. Read more at

Amy Pfrimmer has sung professionally across the United States as well as in France, Germany, Canada, and England. Career highlights include appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra, Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, all in collaboration with the late pianist/composer Dave Brubeck. Read more at


Lily and Brian Monk, Sponsor

Penny & Al Baumer, Patron

Nina and Larry Pugh, Patron

Susan and Vern Raburn, Patron


Special Thanks to the original organizers of the Wood Competition:

Don Boomgaarden, Current president of St. Joseph’s College, New York

Carol Rausch, Chorus Master, Music Coordinator and Education Director New Orleans Opera Association and Director of the Loyola Opera Theatre, and Chorus Master Loyola University New Orleans, Chorus Master/Music Administrator Chautauqua Opera summer festival season, New York

Phyllis Treigle, Classical Vocal Department Chair New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, New Orleans

Amy Pfrimmer, Assistant Professor of Music (Vocal Studies/Performance Newcomb Department of Music, Tulane University, New Orleans

Debby Hirsch Wood, MFA in Piano Performance, Tulane University, Creator of the Wood Competition, Member of the Board of Directors, Chair NOOA Education Committee New Orleans


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