Become a member of Washington National Opera’s Young Artist Program!

Apply today! Applications due September 13.

Applications for singers and pianists are now open for the 2020-2021 season of Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Applications are FREE and can be found online here. Our annual audition tour covers six major cities and a variety of dates around the country. Applications are due by September 13, 2019.

The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is a leading resident-training program for artists on the verge of international careers. The program offers exceptionally promising young singers and coach/accompanists two years of intensive training, study, and career guidance with the resident faculty, and a team of world-renowned visiting master teachers and coaches which includes Joan Dornemann, Kathleen Kelly, Dennis Giauque, Dwayne Croft, Leah Crocetto, Erie Mills, Laura Brooks Rice, and Neil Shicoff among others.

Training includes regular voice lessons, one-on-one language tuition, daily work with a variety of vocal, musical, and dramatic coaches, movement work, nutrition and financial counseling, a recital series, scenes programs, concerts with local orchestras, and regular auditions for visiting agents and administrators. Members of the program are featured prominently in performances on the various stages at the Kennedy Center, and throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Welcome to the 2019-2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Washington National Opera (WNO) has announced the roster of emerging talent selected for the 18th season of its Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program (DCYAP), which begins in August 2019.

Program Director Robert Ainsley leads the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, which offers intensive training and mentorship in technique, repertoire, language, movement, finance management, and career development as well as extraordinary performance opportunities on the WNO mainstage and around Washington, D.C., for these rising stars.

The 2019–2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists are:

Joshua Blue, Aurora, Illinois (tenor, second season)

Amanda Bottoms, Buffalo, New York (mezzo-soprano, first season)

Joshua Conyers, The Bronx, New York (baritone, second season)

Marlen Nahhas, Houston, Texas (soprano, second season)

Alexandra Nowakowski, Chicago, Illinois (soprano, second season)

William Meinert, Herndon, Virginia (bass, first season)

Samson McCrady, Tucson, Arizona (baritone, second season)

Thomas Morris, Atlanta, Georgia (pianist/coach, second season)

Matthew Pearce, (tenor, first season)

Alexandria Shiner, Waterford, Michigan (soprano, third season)

Rehanna Thelwell, (mezzo-soprano, first season)

Samuel Weiser, Princeton Junction, New Jersey (bass, second season)

William Woodard, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (piano, first season)

The DCYAP hosts a faculty of leading master teachers and coaches, which will be led in 2019-2020 by new Artist-in-Residence Leah Crocetto. The celebrated American soprano played the title role of Aida in WNO’s 2016–2017 season and will be seen in next season’s production of Otello.

Through the year-long training and preparation program, the Young Artists will star in a special performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute; perform and cover supporting roles in Samson and Delilah, Blue, Porgy and Bess, and more; participate in world premieres as part of WNO’s annual American Opera Initiative Festival; and appear in a masterclass series, recitals, and concerts in prestigious venues and communities across the region.

Stay tuned for performance dates and Young Artist updates throughout the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program’s 2019-2020 season.


George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) in collaboration with Washington National Opera (WNO) announce Raising Voices, a thrilling new program of opera and musical theater Sunday, April 7 at 4 p.m. at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, featuring the combined talent of WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists and Mason Opera and Vocal Studies students. Raising Voices marks the beginning of a developing partnership between these two important programs, aimed at expanding the support, growth, and opportunities for young opera singers in America. Tickets to Raising Voices are $20 or free with a student I.D. and can be purchased by calling the Hylton Center Box Office at 703-993-7759 or online.

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Spotlight on Robert Ainsley, Program Director of WNO’s American Opera Initiative and Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Before we dive into opera, tell us a little bit about yourself! When did you discover your love of the arts?

I grew up in a small city in the north of England with a lot of history – Durham, with its beautiful 1,000 –year-old Norman cathedral and castle. I was very academic and ‘nerdy’ through high school, and my big break came when I received a government scholarship to attend the private school in my hometown. Although my mum had paid for a few guitar lessons (she always harboured secret hopes that I would be the next Jimmy Page…), my first real musical experience came at 11, when the school provided me with free violin and piano lessons ‘in return’ for my singing treble in the chapel choir; it seemed like a good deal to me, and I never looked back.

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Spotlight on Wei Wu, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Wu, Wei headshot

Bass Wei Wu tells us about his introduction to music and his favorite movie star. Read even more about him here. 


Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Beijing, China.  Not really, But my whole family loves music. I remember when I was young, my grandfather listened to some jazz recordings and my dad listened to classical music which was really rare in my generation.

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Spotlight on Raquel González, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Gonzalez Raquel Headshot croppedSoprano Raquel González discusses her second season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about her here.


Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Iowa City, Iowa. Neither of my parents is musical, though my siblings and I all picked up music through band, choir, or orchestra.


Is that where you consider “home” today?

Home for me is where my family lives now – Lawrence, Kansas. Read more

Spotlight on Rexford Tester, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist


Tenor Rexford Tester discusses his first season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about him here.


Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Tazewell, VA. I grew up in a musical household, however, not classically trained. My family sang southern gospel music together in church.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

Tazewell will always feel like home, however, wherever I am living, I consider it home. So, D.C. is now home too.

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Spotlight on Aleksandra Romano, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Romano Aleksandra Headshot 2Mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Romano returns for a second season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about her here.

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I’m originally from New Haven, CT. I grew up playing violin, but no one in the house was classically trained. I grew up on a healthy diet of folk and rock music, sprinkled with a little gospel. My brother is also a musician, though of more electronic music and rock.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

CT will always be my hometown, and I relish every minute that I get to spend there, but as a traveling singer, you learn to bring home with you, either in the form of small mementos or a dog or bringing your entire family along with you. I bring a couple of pictures and small things wherever I go, so that I can feel grounded, even if I’m in a hotel for a week or two. Read more

Spotlight on Michael Brandenburg, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Brandenburg Michael HeadshotTenor Michael Brandenburg joined the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in the fall of 2015. Read even more about him here. 

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

Austin, Indiana.  I come from a completely non-musical family.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

While growing up in a small, rural town in southern Indiana was certainly instrumental in shaping who I have become, I have felt right at home here in Washington and I plan on making this city my home.

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Spotlight on Timothy Bruno, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Bruno Timothy J HeadshotBass Timothy Bruno joined the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in the fall of 2015. Read even more about him here. 


Where were you born? Do you consider this home today?

I was born in Williamsport, PA: home of the Little League World Series. However, I lived in Toledo, OH from my sophomore year of high school until I came to Silver Spring for the Young Artist program.

What was your first transformative musical experience? How old were you?

Frankly, I had never been very into the popular music culture. Before I got into opera, and before opera, barbershop quartet music, I didn’t really connect to music. The one exception was, for some reason, when I was around 10 years old, I became obsessed with Jesus Christ Superstar. So obsessed, in fact, that I wore out my VHS copy of it.

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