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International opera star and educator Luretta Bybee joins Loyola's flourishing opera program

Loyola press release - May 27, 2014

An international opera star who is not new to New Orleans stages will soon be molding a new generation of opera singers as a music professor at Loyola University New Orleans. American mezzo-soprano Luretta Bybee, known early on in her career for singing the title role in the world tour of Peter Brook’s “La Tragedie de Carmen,” also performed with the New Orleans Opera this year in Massenet’s “Cendrillon.” Bybee, who continues to star in operas nationwide, will join the faculty of Loyola’s College of Music and Fine Arts in August.

Bybee is married to Loyola alumnus Greer Grimsley ‘76, himself an international opera star who recently sang the eminent role of Wotan for the Metropolitan Opera’s “Ring Cycle” in Robert Lepage’s landmark production in Spring 2013. Bybee and Grimsley, drawn to New Orleans because of family connections and the Crescent City’s rich opera heritage, are relocating from Boston, Mass., where Bybee most recently served as part of the leadership team for the New England Conservatory's Opera Studies program, where she will remain involved on a limited basis.

As an associate professor of music in Loyola’s prestigious School of Music, Bybee will teach studio voice classes—which are one-on-one private lessons with students. Loyola students will have the opportunity to take advantage of Bybee’s expert coaching and teaching as a value-added part of their Loyola music education. Standalone private lessons with international opera stars, for example, can cost hundreds of dollars a lesson, not to mention additional charges for the accompanist.

“We are proud to offer our students the incredible value and the exposure to Luretta Bybee’s expertise, experience and connections in the opera world,” said College of Music and Fine Arts Dean Donald Boomgaarden, Ph.D. “We believe she shares the same passion of all our music faculty here at Loyola: a real commitment to working with fresh, young talented singers in New Orleans where opera has always had such a rich history and tradition.”­­

“She takes young singers and turns them into opera stars—that’s her job, and she’s been doing it very well,” said Meg Frazier, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at Loyola.

That passion for teaching is very important in the world of opera where stars are not simply made by raw talent alone, but more so by developing a sophisticated artistry and stage presence, according to Ellen Frohnmayer, longtime Loyola opera professor.

“You’re born with a gift and with a big voice,” Frohnmayer said. “But just as a really great athletic coach works with his players on every level—physically, mentally and also spiritually—a great opera teacher trains students how to stay calm under the pressure, how to be a part of a larger team and how to develop their minds to understand the languages and the music so an audience will be reached.”

In this realm, Bybee excels.

“She’s a recognized name and there will be students who will want to come to Loyola to study with her, to be around her,” Frohnmayer said. “Singing is passed down one to one—from a teacher to a student. You can’t learn it by a computer; you can’t learn it by a book. You learn it by being in the presence of a teacher. Luretta Bybee is that person. She walks in with all her brilliance and something is passed down to the student that’s beyond words.”

"Loyola presents such opportunity for me. The students are open and eager and the faculty warm, welcoming, talented and supportive,” Bybee said. “I'm happy to be a part of growing the vocal program and nurturing young talent there. My daughter just graduated from Loyola this month and she received a wonderful, well-rounded liberal arts education. I'm excited to be a part of the Loyola community."

Bybee is the successor to acclaimed Loyola professor, author and performer Philip Frohnmayer, whose untimely death in September 2013 was greatly mourned by students, faculty and musicians throughout the world.