Judith Farris Musical Theatre Scholarship Endowed at Southeast

by News Bureau on Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2012

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., June 13, 2012 – The Judith Farris Musical Theatre Scholarship has been endowed through the Southeast Missouri University Foundation.

Dr. and Mrs. Ray Ritter Jr. of Cape Girardeau made a $10,000 gift to establish the scholarship.

The talent-based, renewable scholarship will be awarded for the first time this fall to a theatre and dance major.

“I have been fortunate to receive several honors in my career, but this gift is the most treasured since it came from such dear friends as Ray and Ann Ritter, that it bears my name, is ongoing and will go to a deserving musical theatre major in Southeast’s Department of Theatre and Dance,” Farris said. “I am very honored, grateful and proud.”

Farris, renowned contralto artist and voice instructor, became a full-time faculty member at Southeast Missouri State University in August 2005 as an artist in residence and instructor.

She is a member of the Department of Theatre and Dance, where she teaches both theatre and musical theatre courses. She also collaborates with dance, music and theatre faculty on musical theatre productions and recitals, and has performed with the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to faculty responsibilities, Farris teaches master classes for University students, and coaches both music theatre majors and non-singers for theatrical singing roles. To assist with student recruitment and retention, Farris gives master classes in regional high schools, and assists the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance to establish internships in New York City and other locations where she has professional contacts.

Farris was born and raised in Cape Girardeau. She is a graduate of Cape Central High School and is a 1971 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, where she majored in voice and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education.

A protégé of the late Keith Davis, Farris is the teacher of many of New York’s finest singers. Some of the renowned “Broadway style” singers Farris has instructed include Tyne Daly (“Gypsy”), Donna McKechnie (“A Chorus Line”) and David James Carroll (“Grand Hotel”). Farris also is frequently called upon by non-singing actors such as Matthew Broderick (“How to Succeed in Business”) and the late Peter Allen, as the “specialist” who can get a non-singing “actor” type to pull off a singing role in a musical.

Farris is often called upon to assist singers who have vocal damage due to poor or faulty technique and help them renew and rebuild their voice. The students in Farris’ studio also learn to master all types of singing and are not limited by singing just classical repertoire, opera or “traditional” musical theater. Her singers master all types of singing that are commanded in the business today with ease and vocal health.

As a singer, Farris’ primary performance genre was opera. In addition to having had a successful career in Europe, she has enjoyed appearances with the Santa Fe Opera, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Washington Opera and the Chicago Opera Theater, and performances at Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center.

Farris has appeared with many of the finest orchestras and conductors, including the St. Louis Symphony, National Symphony, the American Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. She has appeared and recorded with the New York Philharmonic and has sung as a featured soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Farris has been a frequent guest with New York Musical Sacra and has sung under the baton of master conductors such as Leonard Slatkin.

Her many awards include the Marian Anderson Scholarship, the National Arts Club of New York City Contraltos, The Minna Kauffman Rudd Award from the Metropolitan Opera, The Lucrezia Bori Award, and the Metropolitan Opera Katherine Long Grant Award.