Six Participating Artists in Vancouver Opera’s 2021–22 Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program

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AUGUST 25, 2021, VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Opera is proud to welcome two new participants to the 2021–2022 Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program. Hillary Tufford and Amanda Testini will join returning artists Ian Cleary, Luka Kawabata, Amy Seulky Lee, and Jonelle Sills.

“Our 2021–2022 participants are an exceptional group of artists who will have an opportunity to work and train with world-class opera professionals this coming season,” says Tom Wright, Vancouver Opera General Director. “With our anticipated return to stage this year, we are pleased to welcome back a few of last year’s young artists—who had extraordinary performances in two of our digital productions­—for exciting live performance opportunities this season.”

This residency program is a bridge between formal educational programs and the professional opera world and provides singers, pianists, and stage directors unique opportunities to train with industry leaders and receive hands-on experience. Made possible through a generous donation by the family of Yulanda M. Faris, artists receive one-on-one coaching, attend masterclasses, and are provided performance opportunities where possible.

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“The Vancouver Opera residence program provides these artists with an experience that is instrumental in preparing them for a successful professional career in opera,” says Leslie Dala, Program Director. “We strive to provide high-calibre training and mentorship alongside performance experience. This year we are delighted to be back on the stage performing for live audiences.”

The participants of the 2021–2022 Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program are:

Jonelle Sills, Soprano                

Toronto soprano Jonelle Sills is a Dora Award winner for outstanding performance of an Ensemble in Vivier’s Kopernikus with Against the Grain Theatre. Jonelle has an Artist Diploma in Voice Performance/Opera from The Glenn Gould School and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, Specialized Honours in Music from York University. Jonelle has recently been named as one of CBC Music’s classical “30 under 30” performers for 2020.

Jonelle has studied and worked with Stephanie Bogle and Rachel Andrist and performed in masterclasses with Gerald Finley, Liz Upchurch, Adrianne Pieczonka, Tim Noble, Martin Katz, Catherine Robbin, Dawn Upshaw and Joan Dornemann. During the 2020–2021 season, Jonelle performed in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Hillary Tufford, Mezzo-Soprano

Raised in Southwestern Ontario, Hillary completed an Honours Bachelor of Musicin 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.

She 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 (Così fan tutte), Nadia (Oksana G), 2ndwitch (Dido and Aeneas), alto soloist (Messiah)and she performed with Magisterra Soloists Chamber Group.

Ian Cleary, Tenor

Originally from Chatham, tenor Ian Cleary recently completed an Opera Diploma at the University of British Columbia and has a Bachelor of Music from Wilfred Laurier University.

He has studied and worked with J. Patrick Raftery, Kimberley Barber, Richard Epp, Leslie Dala, Raffi Armenian, Rosemary Thompson, Nancy Hermiston, Anna Theodosakis, Brian Deedrick and Rob Herriot. During the 2020–2021 season, Ian performed in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Luka Kawabata, Baritone

Vancouver baritone Luka Kawabata holds a Master of Music in Opera Performance from the University of British Columbia.

He has studied with Peter Barcza and worked with prominent names including Carol Isaac, David Agler, Bramwell Tovey, Russell Braun, Eric Owens, and Luca Pisaroni.

In the 2019-2020 season, Luka understudied the role of Owl in Vancouver Opera In Schools’ production of The Flight of the Hummingbird.  During the 2020–2021 season, Luka performed in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Amy Seulky Lee, Pianist

Vancouver-based pianist Amy Seulky Lee holds a Master of Music in Collaborative Piano from the University of Toronto, where she studied with Professor Steven Philcox, and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of British Columbia where she studied with Dr. Terence Dawson.

Amy has participated in masterclasses with notable clinicians including Martin Katz, Soile Isokoski, Warren Jones, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Graham Johnson, Katherine Chi, André Laplante, Alain Lefèvre, Leon Fleisher, Christopher Taylor and Lydia Artymiw.

During the 2020–2021 season, Amy played in The Music Shop and Carmen: Up Close and Personal.

Amanda Testini, Stage Director

Amanda Testini is a performer, choreographer, director and educator based on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. She is a Jessie Award nominee and a graduate of Studio 58

Amanda has worked for the Arts Club, Bard on the Beach, the Cultch, Theatre Replacement, the Firehall, Vancouver Opera, the Belfry, Opera Kelowna, the Gateway, Savage Society, VACT, Carousel Theatre, shameless hussy productions, Electric Theatre Company, the Caravan Farm Theatre, the response, and Axis.

The application deadline date for the 2022–2023 Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program is September 30, 2021. Interested applicants can apply at


In 2012, Vancouver Opera 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 coaching and performance opportunities as part of a residency program.


Vancouver Opera creates extraordinary experiences that engage, inspire and entertain the community through voice, music and theatre. Vancouver Opera is the second largest professional opera company in Canada and is regarded worldwide for its fine mainstage productions, country-leading education programs and innovative community programs. Learn more at


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