SJU alumnus is semifinalist in prestigious competition

Alum Features Music

March 12, 2021

A 2012 Saint John’s University graduate is one of 31 performers selected from a pool of 500 international contestants to advance to the semifinals of the prestigious Lotte Lenya Competition.

Ty Chiko, a native of the Bahamas, now resides in Arizona where he teaches music, and has embarked on a successful performing career.

The competition, named in honor of famed opera singer Lotte Lenya (and wife of well-known composer Kurt Weill), recognizes singers/actors of all nationalities ages 19-32 who are “dramatically and musically convincing in repertoire ranging from contemporary Broadway scores to opera/operetta, including the works of Kurt Weill,” reads a description on the competition’s website.

The competition is sponsored by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music.

A release said the 2021 competition, the first rounds of which are being held virtually, drew 500 applications, which is a record. Applicants came from 29 countries and 39 U.S. states. Each had to submit a video featuring four contrasting song selections including musical theater, opera and a selection from the Kurt Weill repertoire.

Chiko’s submission included “Where Is The Life That Late I Led”  from Kiss Me Kate, “It Never Was You” from Knickerbocker Holiday, “Make Them Hear You” from Ragtime and “O Lawd Jesus, Heah My Prayer” from The Emperor Jones.

“I’ve known about this competition for years, but have always thought that I was not ready for it,” said Chiko, who is in the process of changing his name from Ty Cox. “I still somewhat feel this way because I’m sometimes too self-critical about my artistry.

“However, I decided to give it a shot while we're living in this virtual world and it’s easy to send in video auditions versus finding finances to fly somewhere and audition. It’s all paid off so far and I’m going into the next round hopeful and ready to share art.”

Chiko now moves on to the semifinal round, which will take place via video audition and online coaching sessions next month. A release said that for the first time since the competition began in 1998, two previous top prizewinners will return as judges.

The finals are scheduled to be held in person on May 29, the release stated. Or, if circumstances related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic do not allow for that to be possible, they would be held in late August in either Rochester, New York or New York City itself.

The release said the final round will be streamed live on the Lotte Lenya Competition website, and available as a broadcast on  OperaVision shortly after the finals are completed.

Top prizes in the competition are $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000. But the release said discretionary awards from $3,500 to $5,000 “recognize outstanding finals performances of individual numbers or particular aspects of performances.”

“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Chiko, who is in the final year of pursuing his doctoral degree at Arizona State University and is also an Amputee Coalition peer visitor and youth counselor.

“It’s said that when you do something with no expectations, you save yourself from getting hurt. I went into this competition with no expectations, and on the flip side of getting hurt, if you succeed, you feel a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment.

“I’m extremely grateful to have made it this far. I get to represent my country, the amputee community, my schools and my family when I take the stage and all of those groups are holding me up and moving me forward. I could not be more thrilled.”

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