The Austrian Empire: Soloists

Naomi Ruiz, soprano. Praised for having a “rich soprano that holds stunning power and tender softness,” Naomi Ruiz engages audiences with her compelling and sincere stage presence. Recently, Ms. Ruiz made an important role debut as Cio-Cio-San in Madama  Butterfly with Tacoma Opera. In demand as an interpreter of Puccini, she has enjoyed performing the roles of Musetta in La bohème with Minnesota Opera, Mimì in La bohème with the Janiec Opera Company and Opera Santa Barbara, Liù in Turandot with Toledo Opera and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi with Des Moines Metro Opera. Naomi’s diverse repertoire  encompasses such roles as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Antonia in Bolcom’s A Wedding, Leïla in The Pearl Fishers, the title role in La Wally, and Marguerite in Faust. A testament to her versatility and flexibility, Naomi performed the role of Atalanta in Xerxes. Other noteworthy engagements include appearances with Michigan Opera Theatre, Toledo Opera, Mobile Opera and the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan. www.naomiisabelruiz.com

Nichola Hill, alto. Nichola was born in England and moved to the United States in fourth grade. She completed her bachelor’s degree in vocal music and a master’s degree in opera theatre at Oberlin Conservatory. Her education continued at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music artist diploma program. Later, she attended the University of Washington, where she completed her music education certification while enhancing her knowledge of world music. In 2009, she received her national board teaching certification. Nichola performs with Canticus under the direction of Dr. Scott Peterson. Recently Nichola married her best friend James and was blessed with two new children. Nichola currently teaches music at Robertson Elementary School in Yakima.

Jason Wickson, tenor. Possessing a voice that is being recognized for its vast power and beauty, youthful dramatic tenor Jason Wickson is emerging as one of the next leading tenors in the U.S. Seamlessly transitioning from Puccini to Verdi to Wagner, Mr. Wickson garnered critical acclaim in recent role débuts: Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West with Mobile Opera, which he also covered at the Castleton Festival; Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth with Opera Delaware; Calàf in Turandot with Shreveport Opera; Pollione in Norma with Baltimore Concert Opera; Erik in Der fliegende Holländer with the Princeton Festival; and Canio in Pagliacci with Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île en Mer in France. In addition, he performed Don José in Carmen with Piedmont Opera, as tenor soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and returned to the Michigan Opera Theatre as the Florestan in Fidelio. Other notable roles include Cavaradossi in Tosca, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, the title role in Peter Grimes, Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, and Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera. On the concert stage, Wickson has performed as the tenor soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem, and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. In addition, he was a soloist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Winter Opera Saint Louis and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. www.jasonwickson.com

Steven Slusher, bass. Steven S. Slusher has conducted throughout the United States from the Crystal Cathedral in California to Riverside Church in New York City. He has performed in many musicals, opera productions and orchestral works including Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Mozart’s The Impressario, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Faure’s Requiem with the Yakima Symphony Chorus. Mr. Slusher is the past assistant director and soloist of the Bach Society of St. Louis and a principal singer and soloist for the St. Louis Symphony. He was on the music faculty at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri for seven years teaching choir, choral arranging, private voice, opera workshop, vocal pedagogy and vocal literature. He also assisted with the marching band and concert band. Mr. Slusher served as the director of music at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis and, most recently, director of choirs at Toppenish High School.  Mr. Slusher is the assistant chorusmaster of the Yakima Symphony Chorus, the director of choral/vocal activities at Yakima Valley College and an active adjudicator.