Students reflect on Vocal Arts Festival: a life-changing experience for aspiring vocalists 

A student rehearses during Vocal Arts Festival

This weekend, the Peck School of the Arts welcomes high school students from across Wisconsin and Illinois for the annual Vocal Arts Festival. The event is a fan favorite among students, as UWM hosts a festival that stands out among other choral events.

Vocal Arts provides young musicians with a wide range of activities, including a UWM Vocal Showcase, private lessons and masterclasses. While traditional large choral rehearsals also occur, festival director and PSOA Associate Professor Zack Durlam acknowledges that they strive to offer variety for students.

“One of the things that makes Vocal Arts unique is that it is not just an honor choir,” said Durlam. “This festival is balanced between choral performance and solo vocal performance, offering an array of different classes singers can attend based on their interests.”

Offering variety also extends to students’ level of comfort. “While most students enjoy solos, not everyone is comfortable in front of their peers immediately,” Durlam noted. “Vocal Arts offers opportunities for vocalists of all comfort levels.”

The festival allows students to work directly with UWM faculty through masterclasses and private lessons. The opportunity to spend time with some of Peck School’s best has inspired students to pursue a vocal education at UWM.

Current PSOA student and former festival participant Anthony Androncyzk shared how the festival made up his mind about UW-Milwaukee being the school for him.

“After going to Vocal Arts and working with the voice faculty, it made my decision final: UW-Milwaukee was where I needed to be,” said Androncyzk. “I hope other students get that same experience.”

For Androncyzk, appreciation for music in high school was scarce due to what he perceived as a dwindling interest in supporting the arts. Interacting with students from other schools and meeting UWM faculty provided positive energy and a welcoming environment that he credits as encouraging his “overwhelming passion for music.”

Similarly, Scotlyn Haverkorn, also a current PSOA student, remembers attending the event with minimal classical training and little support from others about pursuing music. She didn’t see a future in music, but that changed.

“Attending Vocal Arts Festival was the first time I got to be in a room with people who shared my love of music and performance,” Haverkorn said. “I felt very encouraged and welcomed by people who believed in me, and I had never had that before.”

Haverkorn also acknowledged that none of her accomplishments would have been possible had she not been to Vocal Arts: “I did not know I had potential until Dr. Durlam and the voice faculty encouraged me to believe that I have the talent I do. Everything changed because I attended.”

The 2024 Vocal Arts Festival concludes this Saturday evening, January 27, with a free performance in the Zelazo Center on the UWM campus. Visit the the Vocal Arts Festival webpage for more info.


Story by Jason McCullum ’25