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Justin Vickers
A Door Just Opened

The purpose of this project is to provide a collection of transcriptions from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. This project seeks to give a platform to all parts of the vocal performing arts to better understand the lived experiences and mentality of those professionals. In collecting stories from the COVID-19 pandemic Justin Vickers, tenor and musicologist, discussed his travels between Russia, the United States of America, and England. His story illustrates the issues that beset many and he ends with a statement on current affairs and updates on his life.

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Dr. Justin Vickers, Associate Professor of Music and Artist Teacher of Voice at Illinois State University
Interviewed March 23, 2020

TB: I like to start off each of these interviews with something positive. What is the best thing that has happened to you in the last week?

JV: The best thing was actually being able to leave England and make it back to my home in Normal, Illinois. It was certainly quite an experience to have spent the last fortnight in Aldeburgh, England, where I was conducting research. I was on a creative retreat for the first opera libretto that I’m writing, and, fortunately, I didn’t have a television. So, that mitigated a lot of the stress and pressure that I’m assuming most of my friends and family were experiencing while watching television. I would only see things as they came up on my iPhone, and then only intermittently. Consequently, I was actually saved from a great deal of that stress, pressure, and concern.
      However, while I was in England, I observed people who might typically deal with any situation with a sort of witticism—those things stopped happening. That really brought home to me the severity of the situation. Of course, on my laptop I was also watching clips of the British Prime Minister delivering daily press briefings, many of which ratcheted up tensions in the UK. So, while I seem to have strayed from your initial question about something that was happy, I was very happy to be in Aldeburgh. I was very happy to be safely ensconced in the relative isolation of the eastern coast, about two hours northeast of London. I was living in one of the cottages—called Cosy Nook—on The Red House grounds that belonged to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears; certainly a place that I have loved going for the last eleven-plus years.

TB: So, for those who may not be familiar with your diverse career, could you give us a bit of where you are in your career and some things that you’ve done to get there?

JV: Sure, I did my first two degrees in voice performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at University of Kentucky in Lexington. I performed the title role of Idomeneo and Tamino with Wolf Trap Opera Company. Then, I sang with San Francisco Opera in the Merola program and with the Western Opera Theater tour. So, I spent around eight or nine months in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to New York City. Eve Queler was, at that time, the conductor of Opera Orchestra of New York, so I got to sing a lot of smaller roles with her over a number seasons and covered the leading tenor roles in those operas: Donizetti, Meyerbeer, and Bellini. She’s typically known for bel canto works or things that aren’t done with much frequency, but it allowed me to share the stage performing alongside Renée Fleming, Marcello Giordani (whom I also covered), Mariela Devia, Paul Plishka, Stephanie Blythe, and a host of amazing international artists.
      I lived in New York City for nearly ten years before I realized I was tired of living out of a suitcase, mostly paying rent on an apartment I was never in and using every penny I made to pay for preparation for the next round of auditions and gigs. I was able to have many experiences as an opera singer, traveling around the United States and the world, singing Italian Tenor at Minnesota Opera and a lot of Die Zauberflöte and Die Fledermaus productions. As well as adding professional Così and Entführung productions and Of Mice and Men in D.C., and to sing things at the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Carnegie Hall; but then I decided I needed a change. The financial crisis of 2008 also started to really put in perspective another concern that I had as I watched close colleagues—whose instruments I certainly admired—start to leave the field completely. For instance, one of the most beautiful bass voices I’ve ever heard, now sells cars for a living down in Texas. He said, “I just have to support my family.” So I saw a lot of people leaving the career, which made me very anxious because I knew how talented they were. Frankly, I felt like they were far more talented than I was. I always had a sense of gratitude because I knew that there were one hundred more tenors out there more talented than me, and it was always the luck of the draw at any given audition.
      But then the other group of my colleagues—the ones that continued in the singing career—that I noticed were going through a horribly jaded experience, which scared me too. I knew I had this feeling in my gut that said, “You have to stay in music, but you’re going to have to stay in charge of what that looks like.” Concurrent with that, I had been a finalist for an Assistant Professor of Voice position at University of South Florida. I got a phone call from one of the gentlemen on the committee who said, “You’re not moving forward because you don’t have your doctorate. Everybody on the committee thought that you were the person we want to have in this teaching role. But the university said that we have to have a candidate with a terminal degree moving forward.” That was a game changer.       After a few minutes of disappointment, I picked up the phone and by the end of the next afternoon, I had airline tickets and an audition arranged back at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which was my alma mater. A number of faculty were there from when I was an undergrad and they heard me, I got into the doctoral program and was ultimately given a University Fellowship. So, the rest is history as far as transitioning into academia. I did the D.M.A. [Doctorate of Musical Arts] in Performance and Literature and, over the course of the time I was there, successfully completed all of the course work for the Ph.D. in Musicology, which I had discovered was an increasing passion of mine.  
      Since then I became an Associate Professor of Music and Artist Teacher of Voice at Illinois State University and I’ll go up for promotion to Full Professor this November. But the thing that’s been the most amazing and brings me a great deal of joy is: I’ve leaned against brick walls before and wondered why there was no give, and now I’ve moved over a few feet and a door just opened. At some points in my career as a singer, it was a brick wall. And in these last twelve years since I’ve stepped back into academia, it has been a lot of open-door moments for me. It just humbles me so much to think of all that has happened.

TB: So, diving into the topic for today, can you describe a bit about where you were and how you realized that the pandemic was going to affect you?

 JV: Of course. In January, we were starting to hear news of things coming out of Asia, and reports of a potentially new virus which was spreading and causing a great deal of concern in the global health community. Concurrent with that, I was actually flying to St. Petersburg, Russia. I was going to a conference at which I was presenting a new scholarly paper about a Russian song cycle that Britten wrote, called The Poet’s Echo, a setting of Pushkin texts. I was performing the cycle as well at a concert with a bunch of soloists from the Mariinsky Theatre. Because I was going to have ten days there, and the performance was then followed by the conference, I had masks with me and I wore a mask in the airport, as did my colleague, Karyl Carlson, who is the Director of Choral Activities here at ISU and was my pianist. We just thought that we couldn’t take the risk as we didn’t quite know what this was. So, while I saw very few people wearing masks in the airports then—and we got a lot of suspicious looks our way—on our return flight going through the same airports, I saw noticeably more people wearing masks.  
      I got back to the states and about two weeks later. I was flying to England, but again, it just seemed like the situation was getting increasingly more serious. And again, I realized that a mask was the wisest choice for me, because I didn’t want to lose this privileged opportunity to have the two-week Creative Retreat at the Britten-Pears Foundation by being sick and unproductive. That got me through Chicago O’Hare and London Heathrow Airport, and to picking up the car rental. Once I got into the car, I wiped down every surface, just to play it safe. I met Tony Solitro, the composer with whom I’m collaborating on this project, and we safely got into the vehicle and we drove to Aldeburgh.  
      I knew that we were driving two and a half hours north east of London, and I also knew we were going to be in relative isolation in Suffolk, in this small coastal village of Aldeburgh. So, at least I felt that we were going to be relatively safe there. The only problem with Aldeburgh is at least half, if not more, of the residents are actually Londoners who just come up and have a weekend home there. Therefore it is a very posh and expensive place. The concern I felt almost immediately was because we were starting to hear information coming out of London that COVID-19 was increasing there. Suddenly my concern was: what happens when everybody from London starts to come to their Aldeburgh hideout?  
      All of the restaurants had hand sanitizer available to everyone in very short order. Places stopped taking cash, which is fine because I use Apple Pay on my iPhone anyway. But there were lots of little things like that you started noticing almost immediately.

TB: So, fast forwarding a bit, I know that you just got back to Illinois this last weekend. Could you talk a bit about your experience traveling?

JV: I flew back on Saturday morning [March 21], and the scariest thing was the Saturday before that. On the night of the 14th, about half-past midnight, I received an e-mail from American Airlines that said, “Your flight has been cancelled.” I’m not one to overreact, but I literally felt like I was at the top of a roller coaster and my stomach was somewhere underneath my feet. It all became really real to me in that moment.  
     I had made the financial decision to book my American Airlines flight through British Airways, because it save me about $300 and that seemed like a smart move to make. But, unfortunately, then American Airlines said, “It’s not our problem, call British Airways.” British Airways said, “It’s not our problem, call American Airlines.” But for about a day, I felt like I was in the scariest limbo that I had ever known internationally.  
      [This was ratcheted up] when I started reading what was happening at Illinois State University through the internal e-mail memoranda that were coming from our administration about how we were going to have to switch—at least until April 12th—to online course delivery. In short order, Governor Pritzker was announcing procedures here in the state and there seemed to be such momentum to all of that that the very notion that my flight back was cancelled was a little more than I could take. Immediately, I was looking online for various flights and it was going to be around 1,500 pounds to do that.  
      Fortunately, British Airways sent an e-mail saying that my flight had been rebooked. What they did is rebooked it to a different code number. My assumption is they were trying to make sense of what was happening with anything relating to COVID-19 passengers and flights during this period, I figured they were giving new flight numbers so that they could easily and accurately track passengers. So, my fears were alleviated and I thought that I had five days left to do a great deal of research.  
      By this point, the composer with whom I was working had flown home. He was part of an American Opera Project session that was ultimately cancelled (or flipped to Zoom): unfortunate, but understandable. So, I knew I had a week remaining and, in short order, the Britten-Pears Archive closed and so I ended up having a day-and-a-half to snap as many photos as I could of archival documents that would help me. Then, within a day of that, Snape Maltings—which is the umbrella organization that runs the Aldeburgh Festival—announced their closures, and everyone was implementing work-at-home procedures. Thus I was back to a sense of isolation in Aldeburgh.  
      Fortunately, I have some very dear friends that I’ve made over the last few years who said, “Come stay with us and at least we’ll all be together.” We all had a sense that we were safe and well, however misplaced I suppose that might have been. Luckily, we are all safe and well and that took me to Saturday morning. I was in my rental car driving to Heathrow and the roads were nearly empty. There was no traffic whatsoever getting into Heathrow.  
      There were no waits for anything: I walked up to an agent at the British Airways/American Airlines counter. It took two minutes to get through security. The airport itself was just very empty. A number of places were closed. There is a lot of “great shopping” in Heathrow if you want to spend too much money. Those places were closed. Once I got on my flight, I was surprised that the entire flight was full to capacity. However, I also noticed that a number of flights were cancelled and I suspect that they were trying to get as many people as they could onto other planes, so that they wouldn’t have half-empty planes flying around.

TB: How did it feel to walk through these airports that are normally packed with people?

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JV: Surreal. It was like a movie. That’s what it was like driving into Heathrow and seeing virtually no traffic, dropping off my rental car, getting onto an empty shuttle bus to the terminal I was going to be flying out of: all of those things were just highly unusual and surreal.  
      I’m a big social media person. I am probably way behind the times because, while I have a Twitter account, I mostly just use Facebook. And I’m guilty of over-posting because I really like the memories that come up the following year and I like to be able to share with my family and to be able to see what I actually did. So, in a way, I use it as a diary, and in another a way, I use it to share with very close family who want to see about all the travels that I’m doing. But especially my Mom, who then gets to sort of vicariously follow me.
      The one thing that I very consciously did not comment upon over that two weeks that I was in England—especially since my Mom would have read it—was a general sense of increasing surreal-ness and—I won’t say fear—just a real sense of apprehension about what was happening. I would have anticipated, in the months and years prior to this, that I would have been hearing British friends, or people that you meet at a pub or a restaurant, make a witty comment or some sort of witticism to diminish the severity of it. That wasn’t happening at all, and that actually scared me. Because that seems to be out of character among Brits with my experiences there in the past.

TB: Can you talk a little bit about how your role as a teacher is evolving?

JV: I’m fortunate to have taught virtually before. I’ve taught students in other places in the United States, so the notion of taking voice lessons by Skype or FaceTime is not at all foreign to me. Really, it just means communicating openly with my students and meeting them where they’re at. I took a couple videos in England and sent them back to my students so that they could see me talking rather than writing a long-winded e-mail, and to maintain a connection with them. Maybe this would be more enjoyable and hopefully they’ll pay attention. They know I’m a fairly expressive person, so they could see me trying to communicate with them and see my concerns.
      This semester is going to be disrupted and that comes with frustrations. There will be some moments of disappointment or recognition that this is very different. My posting of a couple of videos was to share with them that: “we’re going to make it.” That is one of the unique things that we all experience as applied music instructors that a chemistry or language professor rarely gets to enjoy: we have this one-on-one connection with our students. We know when a grandparent dies, a pet is sick, or when a student is depressed. We know when our students are going through things, because we have that touchstone with them on a weekly basis. So, it’s really important to me to just continue to be their teacher and continue to be a face that they recognize, and to share and communicate.

TB: So what information is being relayed to you from your students?

JV: Well, I suppose in some ways it is too early to tell. But just prior to this meeting, I taught my first official online voice lesson. But in the e-mails that we’ve shared back and forth, a lot of students have questions about what’s going to happen and how grades are going to be handled. It’s always the most capable and talented students who are asking those questions, so fortunately, I’m able to reassure them, “Nothing is going to be punitive for you. We may make changes to the syllabus and my expectations will be a bit more elastic. But none of it will be done in such a way that it is punitive to your grade.” I try to instill a bit of calm and maybe a bit of humor.

TB: So, what is one thing that you’re most grateful for in this experience?  

JV: From the bottom of my toes, I’m grateful for the leadership that we’ve got at Illinois State University. President Larry Dietz is one of the most conscientious and capable leaders that I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. I have been elected to the Academic Senate and have served on the University Research Council at ISU, so that has allowed me opportunities to really see those qualities in him. I’m so grateful to have seen the consistency with which he’s messaging things; the obvious care and concern that he communicates to faculty and students alike. It’s obvious that he’s spending an extraordinary amount of time in our emergency response center on campus.
      I’m equally grateful to our Provost, Jan Murphy. She is every bit as much of a leader. She mentors people through her generosity and patience just by example. Then, of course, the ways the Dean of our Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, Jean Miller, and the outgoing director of our School of Music, Steve Parsons, are getting us the information we need. You don’t get an e-mail that leaves you with more questions than answers. You get e-mails that anticipate the concerns that a number of faculty might have. The way that the administration is rolling out the information to me is just something about which we can all be grateful here at ISU.

TB: What would your advice be to your students as they are dealing with this, both now and thinking five-to-ten years down the road?

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JV: For the majority of my friends, or colleagues whom I admire who aren’t friends but whose careers I admire and follow with great interest, they’re contract artists. And I’m seeing their contracts cancelled. As I read on the various social media platforms that I follow, I’m seeing them come home, entire festivals cancelled, opera productions cancelled, recital series’ cancelled, and major symphonic works being cancelled. In academia, I’m seeing conferences being cancelled. Currently, I’m hosting the Ninth Biennial Conference of the North American British Music Studies Association at Illinois State University in late-July. I have to say I have a pit in my stomach about whether that is going to actually be able to happen.  
      So, I think one of the most important things that one of my early choir teachers ever said to me was: “Cope and adjust.” It was a bit curt, but it helped me to develop the tough skin that we need as artists. Given, we have to have the ability to tap into sensitivity in order to communicate beautiful and complex emotional situations; but, the ability to cope and adjust, and to have a thick skin—I think that if there were ever a concern for this generation lacking that ability, maybe this will help them find that strength in themselves. Maybe this will challenge them in a different way.
      It is certainly going to challenge all of us to communicate those needs to them in a different way. Because the way we message things is very important, because we can so easily wound people with our words. But, we can also build people up and prepare them for situations that none of us would otherwise anticipate. This certainly falls into that latter category. So, I hope to instill in my students an ability to roll with it, and to cope and adjust in the most sensible, non-terse way, because it will serve them well. Many of our contracts as artists have force majeure clauses and, as we have learned, contracts do get cancelled. So I do think that this can benefit them in their learning experiences.

TB: I have two more questions; first, is there anything that you would like to add to our chat today?

 JV: I believe it is probably just incumbent on us as teachers to recognize that, while this is a new experience, it is also a great opportunity for us to engage in co-teaching. One of the things that I’m asking my students—because now I don’t have the opportunity to be in the room with them one-on-one—is to feel the freedom to communicate to me. I know that they communicate with each other in ways that I either don’t understand or won’t hear about. I certainly don’t mean gossip. But, I am asking them to keep me updated if there are things that I could be doing to bring comfort, calm, or perspective that they might not otherwise be getting that can help them navigate this situation. Though, I am very clear about the fact that I’m not a parent, but if there are things that it would help all of us to know about, then, please, do share inasmuch as they’re comfortable sharing.

TB: What is your video binge right now? What are you watching?  

JV: I have started watching this show on Amazon called Hunters. It is overwhelmingly provocative. I go back and forth between watching that, because I can’t take more than one episode at a time, and things that I save off of HGTV because I’m perpetually wanting to remodel our kitchen.

TB: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me today.

 

 Sunday, September 27, 2020

JV: Today I am sitting in my office at home—something I have become all-too-accustomed to in the past six months—and getting ready to spend the afternoon listening to “takes” to get back to my sound engineer from the month of July. I was fortunate that my administration at ISU permitted me to have the Concert Hall of the Center for the Performing Arts as my office for the month of July and for the first few days of August. It was an especially prolific time for me and one of my dear collaborative pianist colleagues and friends, John Orfe, of the acclaimed ensemble Alarm Will Sound, who is a wickedly brilliant solo pianist, as well. Together with John, I recorded mainstay repertoire from my life as a recital artist—something I would never have anticipated doing when we spoke in March. We recorded nearly three discs worth of music (two of which will be released by Albany Records as follow-ups to Caledonian Scenes: Songs of Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten, and Hamish MacCunn (Albany Records, 2019; TROY1800). We are also very hopeful to get the tracks in front of a couple of major British classical labels known for a rich song catalogue, so fingers crossed there. But we recorded Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Sechs Hölderlin-Fragmente, Canticle III, and the world premiere recording of Peter Pears’s English-language translation of Britten’s The Poet’s Echo, as well as a new song cycle by Britten’s last music assistant, the indefatigable Colin Matthews—a cycle of Chinese poetry from antiquity in English translations that he wrote in memory of my Dad, who passed away in January 2017. I also recorded the South African-born British composer Priaulx Rainier’s unaccompanied Cycle for Declamation, and song cycles by two American composers: John David Earnest’s Songs of Hadrian and Thomas Schuttenhelm’s Apollo’s Lament (the latter with guitar). Late this fall we’ll complete the three discs with another large song work that Colin Matthews wrote for Peter Pears, Shadows in the water, that has not been heard since the 1980 Aldeburgh Festival, and Britten’s The Holy Sonnets of John Donne. So all of this has amounted to a genuine feeding of my soul this summer. And I am incredibly humbled by the opportunity to undertake such a project when so many of my dear friends around the world of music simply have not had safe access to such a space. The word “grateful” doesn’t begin to cover it. 
      It is an understatement to say that the arts have been impacted exponentially as the weeks and months have gone by, including this week’s announcement that the Metropolitan Opera cancelled its 2020-2021 season.
      The horrors of the murders of Black women and men this summer, the continued revelations of systemic racism and police violence too-frequently unchecked, have all contributed to the already deeply awful weight of 2020. And thank God for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the voices of our BIPOC Congressional Representatives and Senators, the powerful voices of the families of all those so senselessly taken from us so unjustly, and all of the protests and righteous anger that has been expressed.
      They’re a re-righting, however, in other areas, as it was announced earlier this week that Afton Battle has been named General Director of Fort Worth Opera in Texas! Afton is the second Black woman to hold this post at an American opera company. This is a major “righting” of a litany of systemic wrongs. And only the first of what so many of us allies hope will be a tide of systemic industry-wide artistic corrections in the 21st century! You should talk to Afton soon!
      As for the NABMSA Conference I mentioned back in March, we flipped the entire conference to an online Zoom modality and more than doubled our normal in-person attendance, appealing to delegates across some ten time zones from the West Coast of the US to the UK and Europe.
      My husband and I continue to work from home. He is a principal at a national architecture and engineering firm here in Illinois. And I continue to teach from the piano in our sunporch. And, next January—COVID permitting—I start a six-month U.S. Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom through University of Surrey, Guildford, to finish writing my history of the Aldeburgh Festival during the Britten and Pears era. I’ve also been invited to be a Visiting Fellow at New College, University of Oxford, in England. I am supposed to be doing a lot of singing in orchestral concerts and for recital series’ throughout England and in Paris next spring and summer, but only God knows if that will remain a possibility. The doors have continued to open... we’ll just keep praying and see if they stay that way.

Justin Vickers - 'Sì come nella penna e nell'inchiostro' (Michelangelo)

Official NATS · Britten – 'Sì Come Nella Penna E Nell'inchiostro' (Michelangelo)
 

Justin Vickers - Lady Isobel and the Elf-Knight

Official NATS · Lady Isobel and the Elf-Knight v1

About Justin Vickers

JUSTIN VICKERS, American lyric tenor, made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of twenty-five with Opera Orchestra of New York in the American première of Donizetti’s Adelia. He has returned to the venue as a principle artist in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, and Bruckner’s Te Deum, and notably alongside Renée Fleming in Lucrezia Borgia, an opera Vickers also performed with Opera Boston and was again assigned for the Washington National Opera production with Fleming under the baton of Plácido Domingo. In addition to repeat solo performances at venues ranging from Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls at Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the 92nd Street Y, The Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, and San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, he has bowed at Moscow’s International House of Music, Beijing’s Forbidden City Concert Hall, Shenyang’s Grand Theatre, Albania’s National Opera House, and Vienna’s Stephansdom. With more than seventy-five standard leading tenor operatic and oratorio/concert roles, Vickers has also sung the world premières of operas by Daniel Catán, Seymour Barab, Alexander Zhurbin, Jerrold Morgulas, William Banfield, and Francis Thorne. The tenor can be heard on his first solo disc, Caledonian Scenes: Songs of Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten, and Hamish MacCunn (Albany Records, 2020) singing the world premiere of MacCunn’s Cycle of Six Love-Lyrics (1899), Full Fathom Five (Navona Records, 2015), singing the first recording of Michael Tippett’s harpsichord version of the Songs for Ariel, in addition to The Fair Ophelia (Navona, 2013) and Shakespeare’s Memory (Navona, 2013); Vickers recorded the title role in Francis Thorne’s Mario and the Magician (Albany, 2006). Recent and upcoming seasons feature the tenor in premières and future Albany Records recordings of Britten and multiple newly-commissioned song cycles by American and British composers Timothy Bowlby, John David Earnest, Martha Horst, Colin Matthews, Roy Magnuson, Jerrold Morgulas, Carl Schimmel, Thomas Schuttenhelm, Tony Solitro, and Zachary Wadsworth. As a frequent interpreter of Britten’s music, Vickers has performed the orchestral song cycles, the Burns, Donne, Hardy, Hölderlin, Michelangelo, and Pushkin cycles, in addition to the Canticles and the War Requiem. Vickers is currently writing his first opera libretto on the subject of British MP Jeremy Thorpe for American composer Tony Solitro. Dr. Vickers is Associate Professor of Voice at Illinois State University in the United States, and is currently a 2020-2021 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to the United Kingdom.

In spring 2017, the Vickers and Duce performed American, British, and Canadian musical responses to World War I at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. During the summer of 2017, Vickers participated extensively in the Britten-Pears Foundation’s 2017 exhibition – Queer Talk: Homosexuality in Britten’s Britain – commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality. There in Aldeburgh, England, Vickers appeared in recital pianist with Karyl Carlson at Britten’s home, The Red House, where he performed the world premiere of Zachary Wadsworth’s Secret Songs (Edward Carpenter), a song cycle that the tenor commissioned for the anniversary of decriminalization; Vickers contributed a commissioned essay to the Queer Talk exhibition booklet: “The Indecency of the Closet”; and participated in an historic public reading of The Wolfenden Report (1957), the landmark social findings that anticipated decriminalization in Great Britain a decade later. Vickers has also contributed essays to the Britten-Pears Foundation’s 2018 exhibition booklet, Britten in America, and will offer a further essay to the 2020 exhibition booklet on Peter Pears’s eclectic range of commissions. In 2010, Vickers sang the first performance of Benjamin Britten’s “Epilogue” (1943) to The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, using his own transcription from the composer’s lost manuscript, which Vickers uncovered in the Britten-Pears Library; his article on the work’s discovery is published in The Musical Times (December 2015) and an expanded version in Kate Kennedy’s Literary Britten (The Boydell Press, 2018). Vickers is editor of and contributor to the recently published Benjamin Britten Studies: Essays on An Inexplicit Art with Vicki P. Stroeher (The Boydell Press, 2017), with multiple articles, reviews, dictionary entries, and chapters at press. His current monograph project, The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts: A History of the Britten and Pears Era, 1948–1986, will be published by The Boydell Press to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Aldeburgh Festival in 2022. Vickers is again joining Vicki P. Stroeher as co-editor of Britten in Context for the new Composers in Context Series by Cambridge University Press, to which he is also a contributor. Vickers is also currently engaged in editing a series of art song anthologies on British music from 1880-1960. Vickers holds his Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance and Literature (A.Mus.D.) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where his 2011 dissertation on the genesis and compositional process of Tippett’s The Heart’s Assurance was awarded the 2014 Nicholas Temperley Prize for Excellence in a Dissertation. While at the University of Illinois, Vickers also completed the coursework for the Ph.D. in historical musicology. 

At Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, Vickers was director of the international Benjamin Britten at 100: An American Centenary Symposium (24-27 October 2013), where he is Artist Teacher of Voice, Artistic Director of Illinois Festival Opera, and Associate Professor of Music. Please visit justinvickers.com

 

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