Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program

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Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program

In 2012, VO launched the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program. Made possible through a gift from the family of Yulanda M. Faris, the program engages, enriches, mentors and trains rising young Canadian opera artists and offers a bridge between formal academic educational programs and the professional world in a supportive and encouraging environment.

The program is led by Program Director, Leslie Dala; Principal Coach, Kinza Tyrrell; Coach, Tina Chang and the continued guidance of Vancouver Opera Music Director Emeritus, Jonathan Darlington.

The Young Artists Program provides artists – singers, pianists and stage directors – with the opportunity to train with industry leaders through master classes, one-on-one coachings and performance opportunities as part of a residency program.

Applications to the 2022-2023 season are now closed. Keep an eye out on our audition page for more information on future audition opportunities.

Thank you to our 2020–2021 Program Sponsors


TD Bank


Dr. George Luciuk
Alan and Gwendoline Pyatt Foundation
Patricia Charles

The Edwina and Paul Heller Memorial Fund,
     held at the Vancouver Foundation
Mrs. Ronnie E. Tessler

Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program Staff

Music Director Emeritus
Jonathan Darlington

Sensitivity for depth and balance and an infectious dynamism are the hallmarks of Jonathan Darlington’s work. As music director of the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of Vancouver Opera since 2002, his demand for the highest level of professionalism and precision, infused with genuine enthusiasm, has ever increased the quality and popularity of both orchestras. Born and educated in England, he is fluent in several languages and currently resides in Paris. Maestro Darlington has conducted an impressive array of ensembles in many of the world’s greatest concert halls and opera houses.

Program Director
Leslie Dala

Maestro Leslie Dala is Associate Conductor and Chorus Director of Vancouver Opera, and Music Director of the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra. He recently conducted Vancouver Opera productions of Madama Butterfly, Albert Herring, The Magic Flute, and The Marriage of Figaro, as well as the world premieres of  VO-commissioned operas, Stickboy and The Overcoat – a musical tailoring.

Principal Coach
Kinza Tyrrell

Dr. Kinza Tyrrell is Principal Répétiteur, Assistant Conductor, and Assistant Chorus Director at Vancouver Opera, Lyric Diction and Collaborative Piano Professor at the University of Victoria, and guest faculty at the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Kelowna, and Opera Nuova, among many others.  Dr. Tyrrell’s coaching and performing portfolio make her one of Canada’s leading vocal coaches.

Tina Chang

Pianist and Coach, Tina Chang, is currently on the music staff at Vancouver Opera, and most recently at Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland. Based in Vancouver, she has been involved with various musical organizations in town, including Chor Leoni, re:Naissance Opera, Health Arts Society, and Queer Arts Festival. She is currently on faculty at the Vancouver Academy of Music, and is also on the coaching staff at the University of British Columbia. Tina holds a Bachelor of Music degree from University of British Columbia and a Master of Music degree from University of Minnesota.

2022–2023 Program Participants

Singers receive regular coachings with Vancouver Opera’s resident music staff as well as training in diction, movement, acting, stage combat and a variety of other areas in this comprehensive program.

Pianists, under the guidance of the Vancouver Opera music staff, work with YAP singers in regular coachings and may also act as rehearsal pianists for mainstage productions.

Singers and pianists take part in master classes, sessions with international guest coaches as well as participate in seminars on a range of topics from audition techniques to securing an agent.

The program is performance-oriented and there are numerous performance and understudy opportunities throughout the season. Stage Directors work with YAP singers in dramatic coachings and participate in mainstage productions working closely with production stage directors and Vancouver Opera production staff.

Sawyer Craig

Sawyer Craig is a colorful, versatile artist from Edmonton, Alberta. A stage director and soprano, she is committed to storytelling in ways that are vibrant, collaborative, and inclusive.

Praised as a “standout” performer (Edmonton Journal), “particularly radiant in coloratura passages” (Opera Canada), Sawyer holds a Masters degree in Voice Performance from the University of Manitoba, where she studied with Monica Huisman. She then completed an Artist Diploma in Direction for Opera at McGill’s Schulich School, during which she co-founded an indie company in her home province, Good Mess Opera Theatre.

Recent highlights include attending Music Academy of the West as the festival’s first-ever Directing Fellow, performing Szymanowski’s Songs of a Fairytale Princess with the UMSO, and helming a new production of Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias at Opera McGill.

When not singing or directing, Sawyer enjoys sipping coffee and relaxing at home with her cat, Stevie Nicks.

Luka Kawabata

Praised for his “well-projected, heroic baritone” (Opera Canada), Nikkei-Canadian, Luka Kawabata returns to the Yulanda M Faris Young Artist Program for the 2022-2023 season.  He previously appeared as Bill Bobstay in HMS Pinafore and in the 2020-2021 digital season as Dmitri in Wargo’s The Music Shop and Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen: Up Close and Personal.  He is a graduate of the Digital Emerging Artist Program with Manitoba Opera and The Association of Opera in Canada’s ‘RBC Fellowship’. 

In the 2021-2022 season, Luka made two company debuts as Schaunard in La Bohème (Edmonton Opera) and Escamillo in Carmen (Saskatoon Opera). He is a mentor for the BC chapter of Opera InReach’s community engagement programs and alumnus of the Banff Centre’s ‘Opera in the 21st Century’ program.

Past highlights include Tadeusz in Pasazerka, Lieutenant Audebert in Silent Night, the title role in Don Giovanni and the Asahi Baseball player in Shadow Catch.

Amy Seulky Lee

Described as “an absolute powerhouse of technical accuracy melded with chameleon-like adaptability” by Opera Canada Magazine, Amy Seulky Lee is a sought after pianist based in Vancouver and Dubai. Ms. Lee made her debut with the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra in 2010 and has since performed across North America, Europe, and Asia. Ms. Lee received her Master of Music degree from University of Toronto and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from University of British Columbia. Ms. Lee is a participant of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists’ Program for Vancouver Opera’s 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 season.

Jeremy Scinocca

Jeremy Scinocca is an award-winning tenor from Toronto and a recent graduate of the Masters of Voice and Opera program at McGill University. Jeremy has had the privilege of being a part of many concerts, ensembles and productions. Last year, Jeremy performed the roles of Edoardo, in Un girono di regno, Mr. Buchanan in Street Scene, Mr. Pinkleton in Cinderella and Hector in Rosa by Canadian composer James Rolf.

Jeremy has worked with teachers Laura Brookes Rice, and Stefano Algieri. He has participated in masterclasses with world renowned conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Canadian tenors, Michael Schade and Richard Margison.

Jeremy is an active member of the music scene in his hometown of Toronto, performing in many recitals and shows across the city including a self-organized fundraiser for Special Olympics Ontario.


Hillary Tufford

Hillary Tufford was raised on a farm in Southwestern Ontario, where she began honing her passion for performance at the ripe young age of 6, by concertizing to chickens and cattle from a stage of strawbales. Hillary completed an Honours Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and a Masters in Voice Literature and Performance from Western University  

Hillary is a recipient of a Jeunesse Musicales du Canada bursary and an RBC Emerging Artist Project Grant. Hillary was a finalist in The Mozart Project Competition and she was part of the Tapestry Opera’s Dora Award winning ensemble (Oksana G). Hillary performed Ramiro (La finta giardiniera), Clara (The Light in the Piazza), Despina (Cosìfan tutte), Nadia (Oksana G),2nd witch (Dido and Aeneas), alto soloist (Messiah) and she performed with Magisterra Soloists Chamber Group. 

Hillary has studied and worked with Elizabeth McDonald, Sophie Roland, Emily Martin, Anita Kraus-Wiebe, Simone Lutì, Tyrone Paterson, John Hess, Lorne Richstone, and David Eliakis

McKenzie Warriner

McKenzie Warriner is a Saskatchewan-born soprano bringing music and text to life in works ranging from 17th century opera to the cutting-edge. Alongside her work with Vancouver Opera this season, she is excited to make her United Kingdom debut at the 2023 Aldeburgh Festival premiering new works as a Britten Pears Young Artist, and to sing Handel’s Messiah with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in December. Recent credits include Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s Alligator Pie with the Regina Symphony Orchestra, Bessie Brent in The Shop Girl (COSA Canada), Madame Herz in Der Schauspieldirektor (Eastman Opera Theatre), and Gretel in Hansel and Gretel (University of Manitoba). Together with composer Tristan Zaba, McKenzie co-founded Slow Rise Music in 2021, a concert series devoted to creating bold new vocal works. McKenzie earned her Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Manitoba.