The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit, national competitions designed to recognize and reward the very best in the performing arts in the United States. Founded in 2009, The American Prize has been awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts.

Directed by Tracelyn Gesteland, D.M.A., assistant professor of voice/opera, “Dido and Aeneas” was choreographed by student Rebecca Hebda of Yankton, S.D., while music was conducted by David Holdhusen, Ph.D., director of choral activities at USD. “Dido & Aeneas” was presented in the spring of 2012 by USD Opera in conjunction with USD Theatre, USD Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Singers. The production edged out other operas from Harvard University, dell’Arte Ensemble out of New York City, Undercroft Opera of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Ithaca College, among others.

“It is truly an honor for our program to receive a second national award,” said Gesteland, who also noted that that USD Opera was awarded third place in the National Opera Association’s Collegiate Production Competition last November ( “It is a testament to how talented our students are and to the hard work and dedication demonstrated by all involved with the production. We are all pleased that the quality of our performance didn’t go unnoticed.”

The American Prize was founded from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in major cities but all across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians. Finalists for The American Prize receive professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition based on submitted recordings of their performances. A list of finalists and award recipients is available at The American Prize is administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a 501(c) 3 non-profit performing arts organization based in Danbury, Conn.

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