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​RIC junior Jacob Chippo had seen his share of concert stages as a member of five different RIC choral ensembles, but when the tenor entered the Music Mansion for the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra’s 8th annual Collegiate Vocal Competition, he knew he was up against the big guns.

Among his competitors were graduate and undergraduate students from Boston’s four most prestigious music schools – the New England Conservatory, Boston University, the Boston Conservatory and the Longy School of Music. 

Only four singers from each of the voice ranges – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – would come away with cash prizes and the opportunity to sing as soloists with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Edward Markward. It was the latter prize that was most coveted by the aspiring singers. 

Chippo selected for his audition an aria from Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation.” His voice is “beautiful,” said Chippo’s voice teacher, Adjunct Professor of Music Don St. Jean. “His voice is clear and strong, with a passion and depth of understanding that is more characteristic of artists with more experience and training. These qualities are unusual for a singer at the undergraduate level, which is a time of considerable development and vocal transition. Jacob performs at a level one would expect from a graduate student or young professional.”

And it was those qualities that won Jacob Chippo the competition. His reaction, he said, was both humility and euphoria.

On March 12 Chippo will make his first venture into the professional world as a soloist. Conductor Markward, professor emeritus of music at RIC, will be presenting two masses: Michael Haydn’s “Missa Sancti Gabrielis” and Schubert’s “Magnificat in C Major.” 

RIC junior Jacob Chippo has voice class with Adjunct Professor of Music Don St. Jean.

Chippo inwardly bowed to his mentor St. Jean for training him so well. The young tenor hopes to become a music educator himself and perform professionally; he cited St. Jean as his model.

Double majoring in music performance and music education, Chippo said he wants to inspire a passion for music in young people the way his early teachers inspired him.

He attributed his elementary and high school choral programs for building within him confidence in his talent, leadership and friendships.

With a smile, he explained what an “awkward kid” he was: “I was incredibly shy. I didn’t hang out with a lot of people or get involved in a ton of after-school clubs like a lot of my friends.” In fact, Chippo’s first after-school program in fourth grade was a choral club. “I’ve been in choruses ever since,” he said. “I wasn’t excited about school, but if it was chorus day, I was excited to go.”

At RIC, Chippo is vice president of Tonally Awesome, an a cappella student club; he is vice president of the RIC Chorus; treasurer of the RIC chapter of the National Association for Music Education; after-school music teacher at Coelho Middle School; a member of the RIC Chorus, Chamber Singers and Opera Workshop; and employed as a choir member at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.  

In the spring, he will perform with fellow RIC Chorus members in Italy, with stops at the Vatican and the Colosseum in Rome.