Four Baroque Singers Awarded with Master Class Training by Carmel Bach Festival

Mike Lawson • ChoralNews • March 10, 2015

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Carmel Bach Festival, an immersive festival of music and ideas celebrating the works, inspiration, and ongoing influence of J.S. Bach, has named the winners of the 31st annual Virginia Best Adams Fellowship – Jana Miller (soprano), Janna Critz (mezzo-soprano), Brian Giebler (tenor) and David Rugger (baritone).

This prestigious program is the only of its kind in North America that pays singers to study and perform Baroque music within a professional performing environment, and also allows a public audience to experience how mentoring and coaching shapes and enhances performers’ technique and expression. Each Adams Fellow receives a cash stipend, airfare and housing, and will study with Carmel Bach Festival’s Master Class Director/Festival.

Dramaturge David Gordon, Master Class Music Director/Keyboardist Michael Beattie, Festival Associate Conductor Andrew Megill, and Festival Soloists Dominique Labelle, Daniel Taylor, and Peter Harvey. As part of the Festival, the Virginia Best Adams Fellows will participate in six public master classes taking place from noon to 2 p.m. on July 13, 16, 20, 23, 27 and 30 at Carmel Presbyterian Church. Admission to each of these master classes is free, with no ticket required.

Additionally, they will perform in the Showcase Concert August 1 with members of the Festival Orchestra. That event takes place from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. at the Carmel Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at or by calling 831-624-1521.

“The Virginia Best Adams Fellows program shows the world how hard singers have to work to make it look easy and effortless on stage. One of our goals with the Carmel Bach Festival is to let the audience into our experience and really show them what we do behind the scenes,” said Carmel Bach Festival’s Gordon. “The applicants this year were among the strongest over the past quarter century. The four singers we selected are all excited to be able expand their craft while taking part in the world-renowned Carmel Bach Festival.”

This year’s Virginia Best Adams Fellows were chosen from more than 75 applicants with graduate-level vocal training and prior experience in performing Baroque repertoire. Miller recently won the First Prize in singing in the Prix d’Europe Competition, while Critz was the winner of the 2014 Biennial Bach Vocal Competition sponsored by the American Bach Society and the Bach Festival of Bethlehem, Penn. Additionally, Giebler was named one of two New Young Artists for the Victoria Bach Festival in Victoria, Texas for their 40th Season and Rugger is a PhD musicology student at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.


The program first came to fruition in 1984 in honor of Virginia Best Adams, the wife of photographer legend Ansel Adams. Adams was herself a gifted singer who had performed concerts throughout the area when she was in her 20s, and her husband Ansel was a talented concert pianist who could have had a career in music full time if he had not chosen to pursue photography. In her name, her friends and family established an endowment to the Carmel Bach Festival that would help fund a master class for up-and-coming singers. The first group of Virginia Best Adams Fellows was recruited in 1985, and the tradition has continued ever since. 

When Gordon took over the program in 1990, he expanded the annual selection and audition process to extend beyond the Festival’s own ensemble. He also generated interest in the master classes as a “must see” aspect of the Festival by opening the coaching sessions to the general public.

Today, there are more than 100 alumni of the Adams Vocal Master Class, some of whom have come back to take part in the Carmel Bach Festival as soloists and members of the Chorale.

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