CoOPERAtive Fellow for opera singers won by Cross Lanes native Sara Plata

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Sarah Plata, a Cross Lanes native and graduate of Charleston Catholic High School, has been selected to be one of 23 participants in the CoOPERAtive Program, an opera training program at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in New Jersey this month.

Sarah Plata, a 25-year-old Charleston Catholic graduate and Cross Lanes native, has been selected from among hundreds of applicants around the world to be one of 23 participates in the CoOPERAtive Program, an opera training program at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey, this month.

Participation in the program is considered to be “the next step” toward an operatic career.

“I feel pretty great and excited. It is a reminder that all my hard work does pay off. I do enjoy singing, of course, for myself and for performing, but to be recognized and accepted in to such a program is always a great feeling,” Plata said.

While living in Charleston, Plata was a voice student with Deborah Lucus.

“I have studied classical singing for almost 13 years. I studied with Deborah Lucas in Charleston, she was like a second mom to me. She really helped me develop from a girl who just likes to sing to a real artist. Not in just technique, but what is the text about, what the music suggests emotionally, and what is the history of this piece. She definitely helped me realize that it was a lot more to it than learning notes and words. I found that that sort of learning and study is so intriguing to me,” Plata said.

The singer currently lives in New York as she pursues her music career.

“I am currently on my ‘gap year — or two’ between my undergrad at West Virginia University and grad school. I got my bachelor’s in vocal performance at West Virginia University where I studied with Dr. Hope Koehler,” Plata said.

“I felt I needed to work a little more musically and also let my voice mature before I committed to a graduate program. I was not sure if I was going to be a mezzo-soprano or soprano and everyone had their own opinions. I am now confident that I am a mezzo, at least for now, and am working on all kinds of mezzo-soprano repertoire. I also do some productions at smaller opera companies in New York City in order to gain experiences and roles.”

Presented by professionals in the field of opera, the CoOPERAtive Program helps young singers prepare for acceptance into an advanced young artist or summer apprentice program. It is distinguished by its personal approach to developing a customized program for each singer. The faculty assesses the strengths of each participant, nurtures each singer’s talents and assist in their skill development.

“I plan to audition for grad schools this year. These programs like CoOPERAtive and this other program I did this summer in Los Angeles, called OperaWorks, where I was one of 32 chosen from hundreds, are great for me to prepare for my auditions,” Plata said.

The three-week intensive program includes private coaching focusing on operatic style, performance techniques, dramatic presentation, language and diction, body awareness, and resume and application advice.

Plata’s schedule will include private coaching sessions, classes and master classes with some of the country’s leading conductors, stage directors and pianists. Graduates of this program have been finalists in the Metropolitan Opera National Council’s National Auditions and have gone on to work with opera companies throughout the United States.

“I have been recommended to do CoOPERAtive from a lot of colleagues. It is a very well-known program. I heard such great things about that training and about all the guest artists that come and teach and do master classes. I thought it would be a great opportunity and experience,” Plata said.

The CoOPERAtive Program is directed by Westminster Choir College faculty members Laura Brooks Rice and Christopher Arneson. Sheri Greenawald of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program has said of the CoOPERAtive Program, “This isn’t a recreational program. This is the real deal, where students will work hard and grow toward their goal under the guidance of professionals who care.”

To learn more about the CoOPERAtive Program, visit or call (609) 924-7416.

“I advise other singers in West Virginia to just get out there. Reach out and audition for as much as you can. It gives you the opportunity to work and show what you and your teachers work so hard for. It is such a rewarding experience,” Plata said.

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at or 304-348-1230.

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