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Lisa Vroman returns as an arts advocate and honoree


Acclaimed singer Lisa Vroman plans a July trip to the north country where she will be an honoree and an advocate at two separate events.

Four days before a concert to benefit the Henderson Harbor Performing Arts Association Inc., the Adams native will receive an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

Ms. Vroman is looking forward to seeing family and friends during her north country break, but the two events here are part of a schedule she is quite used to.

In December and January, Ms. Vroman played the role of Anna in “The King and I” for Lyric Opera Virginia. She was in Paris in the spring performing a Cole Porter review written by her husband, Patrick O’Neil. A few days after flying home to Pasadena, Calif., she was on her way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to sing two evenings with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

The soprano, a 1975 graduate of South Jefferson Central School, Adams, and a 1979 graduate of Crane, is a frequent guest soloist with theaters, opera companies and orchestras all around the U.S. and the world.

She also is an advocate of the arts — which is partially why she will receive the honorary doctorate and why the benefit concert is so important to her.

Ms. Vroman, speaking by phone from Florida, where she was visiting her mother, said arts are especially important for young people; something she learned from her mom, Gail Vroman Gage, who was choir director at Adams Village Baptist Church and a high school music teacher at South Jefferson Central School District.

“It’s a struggle as it is to grow up,” she said. “I just think it’s going to save society to keep the arts going. These kids — who knows what they can do? It can stimulate their academic achievements tenfold to also have arts in their lives. So I want to make a stand for it and step up.”

Ms. Vroman’s concert in Henderson Harbor will assist the arts association’s goal of funding its proposed building at its grounds on Harbor Road. The concert is expected to sell out. There will be no tickets sold at the door.

“We’re just hoping to get people out and support them because the arts are being cut all over the country,” Ms. Vroman said.

The soprano said the concert will be mostly Broadway tunes, “with a few standard-type things.”

The second act, she said, will contain a few surprises.

“It will be things some people may remember,” she said. “I don’t want to give it away. It will be fun. Certainly, the ones I went to high school with will be laughing about it.”

Accompanying her on piano, and singing on a few tunes, will be baritone Mark Aliapoulios, whom she often performs with in Florida, where he is the director of the vocal arts department at King’s Academy in West Palm Beach.

“He’s a wonderful conductor and singer,” Ms. Vroman said. “I’ve sung with him a hundred times. He’s teaching at a music camp in New England, and he’s going to come over.”

Playing piano on parts where Ms. Vroman and Mr. Aliapoulios sing will be Toni Grieco Zygadlo, retired district music coordinator of Indian River Central School District.

Honorary doctorate

Ms. Vroman will be presented with her honorary doctorate at SUNY Potsdam during the college’s reunion weekend. College officials said the degree will be presented “in the limelight” on July 14 in a ceremony preceding an 8:15 p.m. recital by the singer. The public is invited.

Ms. Vroman explained that she was asked to say something at the honorary degree program.

“I said I could, but I would rather sing it,” Ms. Vroman said.

Accompanying Ms. Vroman will be Crane School of Music Dean Michael Sitton on piano.

Ms. Vroman noted many of her relatives attended SUNY Potsdam, including her older sister, Susan, and a brother, David. Her stepfather, Calvin C. Gage, who died in 2004, was a professor at Crane and a graduate of the school. Her sister-in-law, Mona Ouimet Vroman, also a graduate, is the college’s director of alumni relations.

“We are just so proud of what they did for us musically,” she said.

Ms. Vroman said SUNY Potsdam was the perfect college for her.

“I was a little upstate New York girl and I felt that emotionally at the time, at 18, I wasn’t ready for a big-city conservatory. Potsdam was the perfect place for me to grow up. It allowed me to fail, allowed me to nurture, develop emotionally and to love being a musician.”

Ms. Vroman, also a flute player in college, earned a bachelor’s degree in music education.

“I developed as a good musician first, and I think that has been the foundation that has kept my career going,” she said.

After SUNY Potsdam, Ms. Vroman received a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. This past spring, she sang at centennial celebrations for the university in Pittsburgh and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Ms. Vroman said she sees positive developments continuing at SUNY Potsdam, from a new arts center under construction to the college’s 15th president, John F. Schwaller, who, she said, is a music lover and “crazy about the Crane school.”

“The school has been moving forward, where a lot of schools have not,” Ms. Vroman said.

The honorary doctorate, she said, will be valuable because she would like to focus more on teaching, which is another field where she finds herself more in demand.

“That’s a valuable place for me — to offer some guidance,” she said.

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