Tiffany Townsend, a senior voice major, has been accepted as a student at the highly selective Juilliard School, which is located at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. She plans to complete a master's of music in classical voice.
After submitting a taped audition and an application with letters of recommendations, Townsend was invited to New York for a live audition. "They do not invite many students out of the hundreds, dare I say thousands, who apply each year," said James Martin, a Juilliard alumnus and teaching artist-in-residence at Millsaps who discovered Townsend's gift as a vocalist.
During her freshman year at Millsaps, Martin overheard Townsend singing gospel tunes in a piano practice room while she was taking a break. Impressed by what he heard, he asked her to sing for him in his studio.
"I suggested that she begin voice lessons at Millsaps," he said. She followed his advice and soon expanded her concentration as a music major to include voice as well as piano - with impressive results. In 2011, she placed second in two categories (classical voice and musical theatre) at the southeast regional competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).
"She only started studying voice after I heard her in a practice room singing gospel music and encouraged her to study voice. She has taken off beyond my wildest dreams. Not only was she accepted into Juilliard (as well as Mannes College The New School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, also top music conservatories), but also she has been awarded the prestigious Irene Diamond Scholarship to Juilliard," he said. "It is a great honor, and as an alumnus of The Juilliard School and her teacher, I couldn't be more proud for her."
Townsend, who grew up in Jackson, began her formal music instruction as an elementary student through private lessons, and then in the fourth grade enrolled in the Jackson public schools' Academic and Performing Arts Complex. Continuing her music studies at APAC, she attended Peeples Middle School and graduated from Murrah High in 2009. Her voice training and experience came through the Mississippi Girls' Choir and the Murrah Madrigals.
Townsend said her intentions when she enrolled at Millsaps were to complete the pre-requisites for entrance into pharmacy school, but her plans have changed thanks to the support of the Music Department. "Had I not come to Millsaps, I wouldn't have become interested in voice," said Townsend, whose career options include becoming an opera singer.
Last summer, Townsend and Jordan Hammons, also a senior, spent three weeks in Italy studying at the Florence Voice Seminar, a continuing education program of the Westminster College of the Arts at Rider University in New Jersey. Townsend and Hammons performed for one of the seminar instructors, Benita Valente, who was a visiting artist at Millsaps in January 2011. An internationally known American soprano, Valente has experienced a long career on the operatic stage.
A big honor for the Millsaps music majors came near the end of the seminar when they were among five students selected to participate in a master class taught by James Conlon, music director of the Los Angeles Opera. They also performed with all seminar participants in two concerts at St. James Episcopal Church in Florence.