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Southern Miss Students Prepare to Sing with Renowned Opera Star PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Contact Van Arnold - 601.266.5568   

Watching a world renowned opera star like Renée Fleming perform in person is exhilarating enough. Getting a chance to sing with her on stage is practically unthinkable.

But that is exactly the opportunity that awaits a dozen University of Southern Mississippi vocal students who will accompany Fleming during her performance on Jan. 29 at Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson in conjunction with the university’s centennial celebration.

“When I found out some of us were going to be singing with her I couldn’t even really function,” said Lori Birrer, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Voice Performance. “I was excited enough that she was even coming here. I have her book and all of her CDs. It’s just so hard to comprehend. It is a truly incredible opportunity for us.”

The Southern Miss contingent will join 12 other vocalists from the Mississippi Opera Association for the Fleming concert. The Southern Miss Symphony Orchestra will provide musical accompaniment for the special performance.

Dr. Jay Dean, director of orchestral activities at Southern Miss, said the idea to have students sing with Fleming came from the superstar soprano herself.

“She and I were talking last August about which pieces we would do and she mentioned that there were a couple where the students could sing along. I thought that was a great idea, and that’s where we are today,” said Dean.

The Grammy award-winning Fleming has been hailed as the “Voice of the Century” and “The People’s Diva.”  She has performed operatic roles in Italian, German, French, Czech and Russian, aside from her native English.

Southern Miss vocal student Tyrone Hayes concedes that the jitters will be hard to suppress when he takes the stage with Fleming.

“Yes, I will definitely be nervous. It never crossed my mind that I would get a chance to sing with Renée Fleming, an opera star who has performed all over the world,” said Hayes, who is pursuing a doctorate in Voice Performance and Pedagogy. “To think she will be performing with members of our university just an hour-and-a-half away is amazing.”

Tickets for the concert range from $39 to $129 and may be obtained by calling 1-877-MS-OPERA or by visiting

A handful of seats are still available on the charter bus that will transport concertgoers to Jackson and back. The bus trip, which costs $25 per person, will depart at 3 p.m. on Jan. 29 from the parking lot of University Mall beside Starbucks on Hardy Street and return at approximately 11:30 p.m. For more information about the trip call 601-266-5418 or visit

Lori Birrer

Tyrone Hayes

University of Southern Mississippi vocal students Lori Birrer (far left), Mattie Obregon (second from left), Rocio Tamez (second from right) and Tyrone Hayes (far right) will be part of a 12-person group scheduled to sing with opera star Renée Fleming during a special performance on Jan. 29 at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson. Shown here rehearsing with the student is associate professor of music Maryann Kyle (center). (Office of University Communications photo by Steve Rouse).

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at

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