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Huron Symphony Orchestra performance a tribute to Broadway and opera classics: Joe Mahowald, Stan Felix to join Symphony in concert Saturday at Fine Arts Center

Posted: Monday, Mar 18th, 2013

Huron natives Joe Mahowald and Stan Felix will join the Huron Symphony Orchestra Saturday for an evening of Broadway favorites and light opera classics.

The concert will be presented at 7:30 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center.

The concert, under the direction of Robert Vodnoy, will include Broadway melodies and show tunes from “South Pacific,” “The Music Man,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miz,” and “Jekyll and Hyde.”

“I think this is a really wonderful program. Joe and Stan and their wives have done a great job of picking a cross-section of works from Broadway and a couple of Mozart,” Vodnoy said. “Basically this is a show that represents the long and glorious history of Broadway.

“In my career I’ve done a lot of programs like this with other Broadway singers, and I really enjoy it,” Vodnoy said. “It’s fun to do and challenging, too.

“A couple of numbers I’m particularly looking forward to: Stan is singing ‘Where is the Life That Late I Led,’ that’s a really wonderful number, and Joe’s singing, ‘This is the Moment,’ from Jekyll and Hyde, a really great song,” he added. “There’s some real treasures on this concert.”

Mahowald, a 1977 graduate of Huron High School, lives in New York City and has appeared in a number of Broadway productions and national tours.

Stan Felix lives in Minneapolis and is the founder and artistic director of the Minnesota Concert Opera. Their spouses, Elizabeth Mahowald and Antonia Felix, are also gifted performers and will be featured as well.

Both Mahowald and Felix studied vocal music under Milo Pietz of Huron, former vocal music instructor at HHS.

Now retired, Pietz said he remembers the tremendous talent he was privileged to work with.

“I feel like I was blessed to be at the right place at the right time as far as they're concerned,” Pietz said. “I had a lot of great kids to work with, but those two really stand out as individuals as far as their talent was concerned.

“Stan’s deep bass baritone voice was very obvious in high school already,” Pietz said. “When I think of Joe, I think of the fact that he had one of those unbelievably strong voices — he sang both tenor and baritone — he had a tremendous range.”

In a message submitted by Mahowald for this article, a chance meeting with Pietz in the hallway at HHS gave him the courage to pursue his gift for music.

“When I was a senior in high school I went to the guidance counselor seeking direction,” Mahowald said. “He told me that, based on my grades (they were horrible), and my family’s history in the hardware business, that I should be a small-engine repairman.”

Mahowald said he walked away feeling deflated. And that’s when Pietz noticed him in the hallway and gave him a shot of confidence.

“He asked why I was so down in spirits, so I told him what the counselor said,” Mahowald remembered. “Milo looked me in the eye and pointed a finger to my chest and said, ‘I fully expect to see you singing onstage at the Metropolitan Opera someday.’  I was overwhelmed!”

Mahowald did pursue his interest in music, and he’s never looked back.

“Many years later, I wrote a postcard to Milo telling him of a new opera I was starring in — with the Metropolitan Opera Company,” Mahowald added. “Teachers are among our most valuable citizens, they are heros, national treasures!”

It’s always gratifying to know you made a difference in someone’s life, and Pietz said he wasn’t surprised to see these two performers make it big.

“I'm not surprised that they went as far as they did; they had the talent,” he said. “If you stay with it, good things are going to happen.”

Admission to the concert is by Huron Symphony season ticket or single admission ticket. Single admission tickets are available at American Bank and Trust. Because seating is limited, there will be no free admission for children under the age of 18. For more information, contact Pat Erickson at 352-7154.

About the performers

Joseph Mahowald, lyric-baritone, has appeared in the title role in numerous Broadway shows,

He has recorded five CDs, including “Wonderful Words of Life,” his first solo CD, “Sondheim Tonight,” recorded with the City of London Philharmonic and benefitting the Alan Jay Lerner fund for research into Cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital, “Scattered Thoughts” benefitting The Lord’s Pantry in New York City, as well as the original cast recordings of “Lone Star Love” and “The Pirate Queen.” 

He was a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall, and has sung with nearly a score of major symphonies around the world, including the Seoul Symphony, London Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony and at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Combined with his active performing career, he teaches voice and diction and gives musical theatre acting workshops in New York City and around the country. He is a certified Cantor in the Roman Catholic Church and the Director of Music at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, Tenn., and has taught Cantor workshops in several New York City area churches and is currently Cantor at St. Kevin Church with Bishop Chappetto, and substitutes at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Spirit Churches, among others.

Elizabeth Mahowald was born in Nashville and studied at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

In New York she studied the Meisner technique at the Acting Studio with James Price, voice with Shari Anderson and has been involved in several workshops and dance classes. Some of her favorites are “Nellie” in South Pacific, “Ellie Mae Chipley” in Show Boat and “Sister Mary Leo” in Nunsense. She is a talented dramatic actor as well.

She was the opening act for the charming and zany Phyllis Diller and she has been in several television commercials as well as guest co-host for Kaleidoscope on KAKE TV in Wichita, Kan. She and her husband, Joe, have two children, Molly and Patrick.

Stanford Felix is founder and executive/artistic director of Minnesota Concert Opera, based in Minneapolis, and currently teaches voice and performs in the Twin Cities area.

He most recently was artistic director of Kansas Concert Opera and was on the voice faculty at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan. from 2006-2011. Having earned his B.F.A. in Theater and Voice from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., he has based his singing career in New York City for 12 years. He received his M.M. in voice performance from the Manhattan School of Music in New York, and was on the Voice Faculty of Texas A&M University where he ran the opera department for two years.

As a bass-baritone he has performed extensively throughout the United States on the opera, musical theater and concert stage.

Felix is also the composer of many choral and art song compositions and the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide Music Dictionary,” released by Penguin Books in 2010.

Antonia Felix, a native of Minneapolis, has sung on concert and recital stages throughout the United States and Europe.

In Paris, her performances have included a recital for the concert series Les Arts George V, and she has performed several recitals in New York City and Chicago, as well as at the Vishnevskaya Performing Arts School in Moscow, where she also conducted a master class.

In the Czech Republic, she toured as the guest soloist with the Virtuosi di Praga chamber orchestra for concerts in Pilsen and Prague. Her most recent recital was a program of French and Scandinavian art song for the St. Olaf Music Series in Minneapolis in December 2012.

In addition to her music career, she is a New York Times bestselling author with 16 books to her credit. These include, most recently, a novel, “Fatal Remedy,” and the first major biography of the America’s first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, “Sonia Sotomayor: The True American Dream.”

Her other political biographies include “Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story;” “Laura: America’s First Lady, First Mother;” and “Andrea Bocelli: A Celebration.” Her books have brought her many speaking engagements and appearances on CNN, CNN International, NPR, SkyNews, FoxNews Channel, C-Span, “Entertainment Tonight,” and “Inside Edition.”

Felix studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Mannes College of Music, Texas A&M University, where she earned an MA in English literature, and Wichita State University, where she received an M.F.A. in creative writing. She is an adjunct professor in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Hamline University in St. Paul.

For the complete article see the 03-17-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-17-2013 paper.

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