Connect with us

FacebookFacebook TwitterTwitter YouTubeYouTube LinkedinLinkedin

Michael Heaston
Being a Zealous Advocate for the Arts

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 Michael Heaston discussed the abrupt ending to his final semester of teaching at Rice University and the subsequent transition to the Metropolitan Opera. I found that his advice to young artists was particularly moving as he encouraged them to define their own version of success.



 Michael Heaston, Professor of Opera and Director of the Opera Studies Program at Rice University, Music Director for Houston Grand Opera Studio, and Artistic Administrator for the Metropolitan Opera
Interviewed May 15, 2020

 TB: Thank you for joining me today. I always like to start these interviews on a positive note. So, what is the best thing that’s happened to you in the last week?

MH: Oh, that would probably be an afternoon spent coaching the HGO Studio a couple of days ago, actually. We got a lot of good work done, albeit over Zoom, but there was good musicmaking to be had this week.

TB: Even at a distance, good music is good music. So, I know that you're in the midst of a transition, but would you mind giving a bit of your background and then what your plan is?

MH: Sure, so in a nutshell, I started my career as a pianist and coach. I went to Drake University and did degrees in piano pedagogy and music business and then did a master's degree at the University of Minnesota in collaborative piano. Then I moved to New York and freelanced in voice studios (most notably Diana Soviero) and played many auditions. I also was working in different opera companies as an assistant conductor, répétiteur, and completed a couple summer programs at Des Moines Metro Opera and Glimmerglass.
      I was then able to build a career that encompassed both music and administration, and I kept that balance into my early 30s. I became the Head of the Music Staff at The Dallas Opera, while simultaneously serving as the Director of the Young Artists Program and Head of Music Staff at Glimmerglass. I had a close association with Francesca Zambello at Glimmerglass and she eventually named me Associate Artistic Director. So, for many years, I was able to spend time in the summer at Glimmerglass being an administrator while, during the year, I was at The Dallas Opera, working as a pianist and assistant conductor. I would also fit vocal recitals into my schedule whenever I could. Additionally, I worked at the Met as the first score consultant on their Live in HD series back when it started in 2006.
      Eventually, when Francesca Zambello went to Washington National Opera as the new Artistic Director, she asked me to join her. At WNO I assumed leadership of the young artist program as well as the American Opera Initiative, which I helped build during its first year of existence. After several seasons I left WNO and Glimmerglass to join the Met for two years as Director of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. I’ve most recently been in
Houston as Professor of Opera and Director of Opera Studies at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, and also the Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. This summer, I return to the Met as Artistic Administrator, which is the job that oversees all artistic planning and casting and partners most closely with Peter Gelb and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

TB: So clearly, this is an interesting time to be moving back to New York City. But could you discuss a little bit about the recent past? Could you describe where you were and how you first realize that your life and the lives of your students at Rice University were going to be affected by this pandemic?

MH: It was late February, and we were loosely having discussions as things unfolded worldwide; these were discussions that weren't necessarily happening in so many places. But I remember being in a chair's meeting and, while we didn't know everything was going to happen so quickly, we all did believe there could be a significant impact on our operations later in the spring. Reality honestly didn’t settle in for me until classes were cancelled the week prior to spring break.
      I remember it vividly because it was a Sunday afternoon. I believe it was March 8. We were in the middle of a run of La Clemenza di Tito. We had just finished the matinee that started at 2:00, we finished at 4:45, and I had just cleared out of the theater. The moment I stepped out the door to leave the music building at 5:15, the Rice emergency alert system went into effect, and I got a text saying classes would be cancelled this week. We had literally just finished a performance a half-hour earlier… At that point, the university was also telling undergraduate
students to just pack up their things if they could and plan not to come back from spring break. And so, it became very evident that everything had shifted immediately. We had literally just been performing an opera 30 minutes earlier, and suddenly everything was cancelled. We didn't know what would happen to the rest of our semester. So, things moved extremely quickly at that moment.

TB: So, with leaving [Rice] University and this being your last show, that had to be a difficult transition as you weren’t able to finish this run of La Clemenza di Tito. So, can you talk a little bit about the mindset that you saw in students as the production was cancelled and they were sent home?

MH: Obviously, there was a lot of sadness about not getting to do our third performance, which was to have happened the following Tuesday. But we also had two other major events that were scheduled to perform in April that were cancelled, and staging was set to begin right after spring break. One of our upcoming productions was a 75-minute adaptation of Handel’s Tolomeo that I created with Tara Faircloth, a wonderful stage director. I was going to conduct from the harpsichord and also have a string quintet. Because graduate students were still allowed on campus prior to spring break, we were able to at least do a complete sing-through of the piece.
      We had also been preparing a large staged art song concert that I had curated. We managed to do a sing-through of that as well. So, while we didn’t get to stage and perform full productions of either project, we managed to at least provide the students with the opportunity to sing what they had prepared so thoroughly earlier in the semester.
      I think that there was a sense of shock for many of the students, and many weren’t sure how to process what was happening. I believe that this is something all of us came to realize ourselves. The students more fully understand the gravity of the situation when they had professors who, at 60-75 years old years old, were saying, "Nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime. I don't what to tell you." [Realizing] The fact that hardly anyone alive today had been through such a pervasive pandemic was uneasy and left us all without answers. It also made us very unsure of the future and how the way we train artists could transfer in a meaningful way to an online platform for delivery.
      We’re mostly a graduate student program at the Shepherd School, with a smaller number of undergrads. So, the majority of our students are only with us for two years. We had students needing to graduate who were facing the reality of going away and not getting to perform their recitals. We had students in the middle of their first year of graduate study, with just one year remaining, and no end to the pandemic in sight. They would say to me, “Well, what’s going to happen next fall? Is half of my grad degree going to be completely up-ended because of all of this?” The impact was, and continues to be, profound.

TB: So, I don’t think that anyone has a specific answer to this problem at this time, but what were things that you were telling your students?

MH: First, I quickly created an online curriculum that would keep them engaged and motivated. For me, it was important to show them that we, as artists, are always infinitely creative. And this is a time where we have to, perhaps, be at our most creative and employ the most ingenuity as we try to move forward. I tried to lead by example with the kinds of activities I was doing with them. I think that many of the students needed reassurance. I also believed it was our responsibility as mentors to be very honest with them about the impact of this pandemic on the industry and what that could mean for them in the next couple of years.
      One of my great joys at the Shepherd School was being able to create a real world experience within an academic environment. Dean Robert Yekovich specifically recruited me with this mission in mind, wanting me to treat it like a young artist program at a professional company. And so, given my ties to the professional world and varied experiences, I believed I had a responsibility to provide the students with an accurate, well-rounded representation of the opera world, whether positive or difficult. My students knew me to be an intrinsically positive person, an optimist by nature. I have never lost that trait. And I do believe it allowed them to hear difficult things from me about our business, without thinking it was all gloom and doom. I’ve always believed strong, measured, and empathetic leadership is what is needed during a crisis.

TB: What ways do you think that the industry will be affected or could be affected by this pandemic?
MH: Certainly, the first thing we look at is money, right? Can we afford to do this given that we're in an industry that relies so heavily upon contributed income, as opposed to the revenue from ticket sales, to make our seasons happen? Well, given the state of the economy, the pockets of even our wealthiest donors aren't running as deeply as they used to. And we certainly aren’t selling any tickets right now. So, I do expect that we're going to see reduction in budgets and we may lose some companies. I think we might see fewer performances at some companies for the next few years as we try to pivot back. But I do believe that things will ultimately improve and grow again. But we are facing at least 2-3 years of constriction.
      For people at the age of my students and people at the emerging artist level: I do believe the young artist programs are going to continue. I don’t think that those are going anywhere. I believe that they [young artists and emerging artists] may have a harder time launching careers the next couple of years, with reduced opportunity and limited travel. They may not have access to as many competitions or auditions in general. So, the kind of exposure that they've previously received will be reduced. I believe that people will make up for that by continuing to embrace
online media. But at the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to opera, and that is: “What do you sound like acoustically? What is the voice actually like when heard live and in person?" For me, it always has to come back to that.
      I believe we’re going to see companies needing to realize that the new normal is going to involve continued use of more digital media and online platforms as a way to increase marketing efforts. And I think this must continue beyond a return to ‘normal’ life in a theater. It has long been my opinion that so much of what we do in the classical arts, from a marketing perspective, has tended to lag behind what’s happening in more popular art forms. One of the things we prize most about opera is that, unless it’s been intended, we perform unamplified within a live space. It’s unique and something we should continue to value. But the concept of digital media and opera? Well, that doesn't always seem to go together so easily. I think now, perhaps, is the wakeup call that the industry needed. That means going further than Instagram takeovers and other activities that have become commonplace. We need to keep pace with digital marketing trends in other industries—which might help us in the endless quest for the two most elusive
demographics in the classical arts: new audiences and younger audiences. I believe that companies who are thinking in this manner will be the most successful in the ensuing years.

TB: Backing up and reflecting on the situation thus far, what would you say is the hardest lesson that you have learned so far?

MH: Oh, that's a very good question. I think the hardest lesson I've learned is how quickly so many people can just roll over and accept defeat. I have seen far too many people wallow, instead of being a zealous advocate for the arts. We see a dichotomy so clearly right now: the people who are creating dynamic content on one side and then the gloom-and-doom population on the other. I was saying to someone earlier today that there are some days that I have to close Facebook because I feel like someone must have been saying, "We're holding casting auditions for Chicken Little.” Everyone is saying the sky is falling. [Laughter] And I get that everyone has those up and down moments. I do myself! But it's been hard to see so many people reach such a deep state of wallowing that it incapacitates them. When I see that, I start to worry that artistic creativity begins to wither on the vine. While it makes me a little downhearted, it also gives me more resolve, and reminds me I need to get out there and keep doing more.
      It is also difficult to look at our emerging artists as they transition out of school. I hate the loss of momentum that they will face. That normally isn’t something that would worry me so much, but the fact is, you’re going to keep having the next group [of artists] coming up the ranks directly behind you. This could result in even more competition for fewer opportunities at this crucial stage of career building.

TB: How has this impacted your creative process?

MH: I haven't been able to coach in person in a couple of months, and there's no substitute for that energy that naturally occurs when you are in the same room and making music with someone. There's just no way to match that and I feel the loss of that creative outlet. I'm still working with HGO Studio Artists to the end of next week. I was teaching Rice students, up until the end of the school year. So, I’ve been very fortunate to have positions that took me through the April and May with very consistent work. I think it’ll be a bit of a different story in June and July when my jobs are done and I am focused on selling my home and trying to get back to New York. That sort of transition is always big reality check, but even more so this time around given the state of the world. But, at the moment? I just miss the music and the performances with other people.

TB: So, what was a normal day like, and how has that changed?

MH: I can generalize, [Laughter] because every day winds up being a little different from what I expected or had planned. But a usual day for me was getting up and working out first thing in the morning…or sometimes later in the evening. It usually involved Bikram yoga, which I can't practice in a studio right now. So I take Zoom classes on my terrace as an alternative.
      I would usually then go to Rice in the mornings. I would spend a couple of afternoons a week coaching at HGO. I would then return to Rice from 4:00-7:00, because that was dedicated opera time. So, my schedule would generally go from from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, full of coaching, student meetings, staging rehearsals, faculty meetings, and things of that nature. There would also be evening rehearsals at HGO that could extend my day to 10:00pm. I rarely have a real lunch break scheduled. It was a full day because my faculty appointment at Rice was obviously a full-time position in its own right, but then I also had apart-time position at HGO. I worked six days a week, every week, and sometimes seven. Sunday was usually my dark day if I got one.

TB: So, what is the snapshot of your life thus far in the pandemic?

MH: Thus far, I work at HGO about 8-10 hours a week. [However,] The Rice year ended April 24, so I was teaching classes but not nearly as busy given that I didn’t a full coaching schedule and regular production rehearsals. I had quite a bit of planning for my newly-online classes, and I created a quarantine conversation series that included many different opera stars who would Zoom into my class and speak with the students. So that took a lot of coordination, but the actual face time with students went down dramatically. Also, because they had other classes they were doing, I didn’t want to overburden my students. I was already aware—even before we started— that the students were going to reach a place of screen-time fatigue very quickly. So, I didn’t want to overdo [it]. I believed that the best thing I could do for them was to give them 60-90 minute sessions, a few times a week, that were carefully planned and very uplifting.
      As a result of the pandemic I've actually had two-day weekends, which honestly blows my mind. Anytime I've gotten a two-day weekend in the past I've been a little mystified by it. I would always say, "Oh, this is how civilians live. They get these all the time, this is amazing." But I have now had two-day weekends for two months, and I must say: it’s a little unnerving. I always feel like I am forgetting to do something. So that's been a mind shift.
      The number of working hours is less, the amount of screen time though—Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype—I find that exhausting. I find that even if I have only done four to five hours of it, it feels like I had done an eight- or nine-hour day already. Zoom or FaceTime coaching is especially tiring. I have to listen even more intently than in a normal studio, and it's a different sort of energy. When I finish an online coaching day? I'm done. Completely spent, even
though it's not as many hours.

TB: So, I should thank you, especially for this, then! So, what is one thing that you’re most grateful for in this experience?

MH: I'm most grateful that for the first time in, I think any of our lifetimes, literally the entire world is having a shared experience at the same exact moment. How people choose to react to that is up to them. I quickly became weary of the commercials featuring A-list celebrities in their mansions declaring, "We're all in this together." And I'm looking at their house behind them, saying, "Your experience is so different from so many other people."
      But that said, there is something to be learned from the entire world having to go through the same thing at the same time. We are, actually, “all in this together.” And I think it is something that we should not forget is possible. Even though this is a very unfortunate way to realize this, we’re living in a time where there is a common experience. I believe that is something that is an opportunity for growth.

TB: That's a really good point. Thank you for that. So how do you think that this is going to change our musical landscape?

MH: I do believe that even before this happened, I was already thinking that the pendulum was starting to swing back a bit about people wanting to experience live performance. I look at my students at Rice and realize most of them have grown up with a gadget in their hands. They can’t really fathom life without one. But I believe people are craving more authentic, shared experiences and public performances, not just living their lives streaming Netflix all the time. And so, I am hopeful that with everyone being cooped up with TV, Hulu, Netflix, and all these things, that they're going to want to get out and see a live performance more than they ever have.
      I believe it is imperative that we are ready for it and on our A-game. I think we can capitalize on that. As I look at my own work as a musician and the work that I do in opera companies, I have an opportunity and responsibility to reach people and use my platform. I believe that all artists have platforms, they just have to choose to use them. That should incite creativity.

TB: Are there ways that you’re looking for companies, artists, and everyone who is involved in our field to prepare for this?

MH: I'm just keeping track of all of the innovative programming that I've been seeing in the last couple of months around the world, and I'm also mindful of the leaders of organizations who seem to be forward-thinking in interesting ways. I believe there is a sense of community that has to come from this. And when I say community, I think every organization is starting to figure out what their individual, local community needs and expects from them.
      Obviously, I'm privy to things that are happening here in Houston, and the kinds of discussions one has here are different from another city. And this should make sense: no two cities are alike. I think that, at the end of the day, cultural institutions have to become an integral part of the fabric of their local community. We shouldn't just be thought of as frivolous entertainment but rather, a necessary institution that makes living in that place great. We have a value-added sort of effect on our local communities. So, I look at our companies in terms of how they program, how they cast, how they hire administrative staff, what kind of community outreach they do, what sort
of civic impact they’re creating, and what their educational programs are doing. And I believe you have to identify what your brand has to say as a constituent of the city that you’re in. That’s when things can get very interesting.

TB: As I hear you say, that brand will then also go forward into how the art is viewed as a part of the community. So, it should be a kind of symbiotic circle.

MH: Absolutely.

TB: One of the things that you talked about earlier is young artists that are going through this. So, what would be some advice that you would give them as they're going through this lifechanging experience?

MH: The first thing I would say to them; it’s going to be tough. But it's always been tough for young artists. It's never been an easy career to start. These are particularly interesting times to try to do it. So, the amount of ingenuity, patience, and perseverance required for the next few years might, perhaps, be greater than before. The pandemic honestly shouldn't have changed anyone’s work ethic. They should have already possessed that when they decided to pursue this career, and it has always been a career where you have had to give 150% to make it happen. You've had to look around yourself, not in a way that's horribly competitive, and say, "I'm going to work harder than everybody around me because I want this career." And you find that inner drive and go for it. Eyes on the prize.
      I think that for young or emerging talent, we shouldn’t pretend that it’s not a difficult time to start a career…but we mustn’t think that it’s impossible—because it isn’t. My students always laugh when I quote something Jack said on Will and Grace, which is, “Can’t lives on Won't Street." Think about it. It's very easy for people to think 'can't,' when actually what they're saying is 'won't.' So, I would tell young artists you need to be 'can do' about this. You must. Even though you're at the start of a career, you have agency, and you have an entrepreneurial spirit that needs to come to the fore. And don’t confuse ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t.'
      We’ve always had to maintain an interesting sales mix of jobs to make it through our scrappy, early years. Very few people leave school and just make money full-time doing music. There are people who temp, wait tables, or you name it. So, we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that, "Well, now I just can't go right into music directly." You never really could. We need to own that truth. But just know that it may be a little harder to get started than it was. And you must ultimately decide if this is for you, which again, has actually always been the case. I told my Rice students—I guess three weeks ago, during one of our last classes—you may find yourself in a place where you feel like you are just waiting for something for a couple of years. You're waiting for something to restart. You're waiting to just get your foot in the door. I think that's a very hard place to be in. It isn’t comfortable.
      I've been in other calls with my colleagues, and they get very gloom-and-doom about, "Well, how are the young artists going to start?" And I say, what about the artists who are in their late 20s and early 30s, who were just starting a trajectory. They've done the programs, they were doing “the thing,” and now they have no contracts for two years. They hadn't gotten far enough yet, and now their momentum has completely stopped. With people the age of my Rice students, they haven't even really put the key in the ignition yet, and they can ultimately do so. It can be harder to restart something that had momentum and then stopped.
      So, to young artists I would say, you could look at this [situation] one of two ways: you can look at this and say, “Well, this is just going to be really, really difficult for the next couple of years. I don’t know if I want to do it.” Or, you can say to yourself, “I can be patient and then get this thing started,” as opposed to the car breaking down in the middle of your journey and having to call for roadside assistance, which is what’s happening to a lot of artists right now.

TB: So, what would your advice be to those who are in that emerging professional position that are facing that two-year stall?

MH: I believe they’re in a very tough spot. I think that what's harder for them is that they're in a different place than a 22-year-old. Some of them have families. They have paid some dues and know more about themselves, what kind of career they want, and (most importantly) what quality of life they desire. So, I think that they must take full stock of where they are and where they think they'll be able to resume from. They must look at when the next confirmed
engagement is on the books, and are they with a good manager who will help them through the rebuild? The reality is: what are the chances we're going to see live performances before January of 2021? I think very, very slim. And I think January 2021 might even be very optimistic at this point. So, as a result, arts organizations are probably going to be continuing to rework seasons that were already planned beyond that, depending on how far out they were planning.
      So, if this level of artist is in a place to be flexible, I think that’s ideal. I’ve counseled some of them that there is no shame in having to go and drive for Amazon or seek other employment. We have to be resilient and make ends meet. I think some people are experiencing a crisis of conscience, thinking, "Well, do I love this enough to go back to it with things being as difficult as they are?" I’ve also advised a couple of people who have asked me a common
question, "If my career is not gaining momentum by 30 (or whatever age they have decided), should I do something else?" That’s a different sort of discussion, one where we ask, "What to you is a successful career? What kind of career are you desirous of? How much of your money needs to come from singing? Where do you want to live? Is a family important to you? What sort of quality of life is important to you? And does quality of life relate to a certain income level, might it be related to owning a home or apartment?”
      People in the emerging professional segment are reaching the age where they start to become the kind of people who they swear they wouldn't become: people who care about quality of life. Because when we start this career in our 20s, it all seems so glamorous and fun, "I'm going to do my own thing, and I'm going to enjoy it. And I’m going to travel to great places and perform and live a glamorous life!" Then you tire of the travel, get tired of packing the suitcases, look at your friends with amazing homes, and start to think you might want something different. This brings about the existential thoughts about their life and what they want much sooner than they had anticipated.
      I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There is never a wrong time to reconsider what your priorities and what makes you happy. So, I would encourage these out-of-work, emerging professionals to use time of no performances to start figuring all of this out. Ask yourself if you were honestly happy with your life and career. Because oftentimes the merry-go-round just starts going, and no one gets off. They never have the time and space to stop and say to themselves, "Do I really like this? Am I happy about this? Is this going the way I wanted it to? Is it going the way where I feel like five to ten years from now, I'm going to have the career that I'm desirous of?" I think now is the time for them to have this stillness to examine their lives, and I would tell them to do that.
      Start to consider 'what life do I want to have, and how am I going to get there?' They may decide singing is not part of that. I believe a lot of them will still decide singing is a crucial part of that equation.

TB: So then, what advice would you give to the musical community at large as they are going through this?

MH: I think that if we ever lose positivity—that’s not the end of it, I won’t say that—but it makes all of our lives more difficult. Through every struggle, people have had to use some ingenuity to figure out how to get through it, and I believe people are doing that. I would say that because we are conditioned as a society with shorter attention spans now and instant gratification through electronic devices and such, we can't expect that long-term solutions can happen as quickly as clicking a button. We need to allow human creativity to take a little bit of time and not expect that we have to have the answers immediately. I think that answers reveal themselves as people have constructive conversations. I don't think that means that we rest on our laurels and become complacent, but I believe if we get rid of the added stressor of needing to have the answers right now, we will be more open when making difficult decisions. But that's not necessarily the way our society functions now, where everything is fast-paced, and we just want Google to give us the answer.

TB: In closing up the interview, first, is there anything else that you would like to add to our conversation today?

MH: I will reiterate that I have full faith that we will be returning to theaters. We will be returning to performances of this beloved art form in the way that it was intended to be performed. I don’t think that is going anywhere. And along with it, I think we’ll start to see ways that our live acoustic art form and digital marketing and media can work more closely together than before. I think that is an interesting thing.

TB: So, what is your Netflix, Amazon Prime, or video binge recommendation?

MH: Ok, so Schitt’s Creek, Ozark, Dead to Me; those are the ones that I have made it through recently, and they are all marvelous.

 TB: Well, thank you so much for your insight and thoughts.

About Michael Heaston

A well-respected artistic administrator, collaborative pianist and vocal coach, Michael Heaston has established himself as one of opera’s most important leaders, visionaries, and mentors. Artists he has developed currently enjoy major careers on the world’s most important stages. He has recently returned to The Metropolitan Opera as its newly named Artistic Administrator, where he oversees all casting and artistic planning for one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, partnering closely with General Manager Peter Gelb and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Before this appointment he held dual posts: Professor of Opera/Director of Opera Studies at Rice University and Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Prior to these appointments he was the Executive Director and Acting Artistic Director of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at The Metropolitan Opera. He was also the Director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative and served as Advisor to the Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Mr. Heaston assumed numerous roles of increasing responsibility at The Glimmerglass Festival over 11 seasons, completing his tenure in the position of Associate Artistic Director, in which he was integrally involved with all matters of artistic planning, casting, and musical administration. As part of these duties he oversaw the direction of the Young Artists Program for a decade. He spent six seasons at The Dallas Opera as Head of Music Staff and Assistant Conductor for more than 25 productions.

Mr. Heaston has enjoyed a wonderful concert career as well, having partnered some of today’s most important artists in recital, including Stephen Costello, Christine Goerke, Eric Owens, Ailyn Pérez, and Dolora Zajick, among many others.  

A sought-after adjudicator, he has been a frequent judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and also served on the juries of the Marilyn Horne Song Competition at Music Academy of the West, Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, Jensen Vocal Competition, Young Patronesses of the Opera Competition, Giargiari Bel Canto Competition at the Academy of Vocal Arts, NATSAA Competition Finals, McCammon Vocal Competition, DC Vocal Arts Art Song Competition and many others. Mr. Heaston is also in demand as a clinician, having served as an artist-in-residence and/or presented master classes at The Juilliard School, University of Michigan, Florida Grand Opera, Southern Methodist University, University of North Texas, Drake University, Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, Miami Summer Music Festival,  University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Abilene Christian University and Boston Conservatory at Berklee, to name a few. An active member of OPERA America, he serves on the steering committee of the Performer Development Forum. He is also a member of the Artistic Advisory Board of The Glimmerglass Festival.