For over a decade, Dr. Evan Jones has been preparing and training the next generation of vocal performers at Florida State to take hold of the diverse and rewarding opportunities that are evolving in today’s musical landscape. Now, he’s taking his expertise to the University of Michigan where he’s just been named Assistant Professor of Music in the Department of Voice & Opera. 

Whether it’s prestigious roles in film and television, teaching positions at major universities, under the lights on Broadway, or center stage at MET, his students are entering the professional phase of their careers with the technical, musical, and communicative training it takes to succeed in a myriad of diverse and exciting roles. 

But above all the gifts he gives his proteges that propel them to success, there is one indispensable and ephemeral thing he ensures they discover before they leave his studio:

Their own voice. 

Empowering self-discovery is both the key to artistry and an art all its own, and it’s at the very core of Evan’s teaching philosophy, whether it’s in his studio, at masterclasses around the country, or at his summer teaching home with Orvieto Musica.

We caught up with Evan to talk about training the next generation of vocal artists for success, developing themselves as performers and people, and helping them find their own way wherever their dreams might guide them. 

Orvieto: Tell us about the scope of the vocal industry your students are entering today.

Evan: It’s extremely broad, to say the least! Because we’re often acting as well as singing, vocal performance dovetails with a lot of other career fields that don’t necessarily overlap with other disciplines. 

For instance, there are singers who find themselves doing only plays. If you get involved with musical theater it’s more acting than singing, and then there are straight classical vocalists who only perform on the concert stage. In the past, I think it was easier for people to live in one niche, but today, it makes your life a lot easier if you’re comfortable in multiple spaces. The internet has dramatically changed our ability to connect, and if you put on your entrepreneur’s cap you’ll discover that you can make your own opportunities performing and creating art.

Orvieto: What are some of the skills you develop in your students to help them engage with these opportunities?

Evan: It’s essential to help your students find a balance between traditional “vocal teaching” and the surrounding skills they’ll need to be widely marketable. That means making sure they have a very solid, flexible, and healthy technique that they can then take on whatever road they choose. But while I’m doing that, I always try to make the technique directly applicable to a performing arena. 

“How do you do this on stage? How do you do this in costume? How do you do this with a conductor in front of you?” 

These are all critical aspects of connecting with your audience. There are a lot of excellent singers out there, but if you don’t have great connection skills then they’ll always struggle to develop their career. So, whenever I’m teaching technique—which is my number-one job—I always reinforce how it’s going to serve their performance and help them sing healthily.  

Orvieto: An online presence is increasingly important for performers and singers. How do you guide your students through developing their footprint and persona?

Evan: We live in a world where, if it’s not online, it almost doesn’t exist, right? Of course, the skills to develop an online following are very different than learning to perform. There are a lot of people out there who have a big online presence… but that’s about it. 

I tell my students that they have to have substance, and developing a persona is part of selling their skills. In many fields, you are who people think you are, and that can present a lot of opportunities. However, there’s no substitute for the thrill of a live, unamplified, exquisite vocal performance—you can’t recreate that on social media!

That’s why I emphasize using these tools to develop and explore connections, not just for promoting yourself. 

At the end of the day, everything we do is about personal connections—whether it’s within our profession with our audience. That means going to masterclasses, giving live recitals, exploring summer programs, traveling abroad, and using your online skills to enhance that core work. One way or another, it’s all about giving more of yourself to your art and the people around you. 

Orvieto: Italy is the home of opera and singing—tell us what your students can expect at Orvieto Musica’s Intensive Vocal program. 

Evan: Anyone who aspires to be a classical singer needs to spend some time in Italy because everything we do is essentially based on an Italian style. In fact, it’s a pilgrimage, and one of the things that makes Orvieto so special is that it connects participants with the highest ideals of vocal performance and the culture and world that birthed them.  

The unfortunate part about a lot of big opera mill programs in Italy is that they’re mostly experiences you can have anywhere in America that just happens to be set in Europe. You spend all of your time putting together a production, drink some wine, and leave. You may not even utter a word of Italian when you’re not singing!

Orvieto is so much more immersive. You’re living in a stunning historical city, eating in the local restaurants, talking with everyday Italians in the shops and markets. 

You really have a chance to develop a deeper connection with the culture that produced our vocal tradition. 

Orvieto is also all about making sure participants have a truly individualized experience so they leave with a strong foundation and a usable package for various styles. There are a lot of opportunities in addition to the standard repertoire— including contemporary music—and learning is supported with multiple perspectives and feedback opportunities. 

Orvieto: How does Orvieto Musica help mold a singer’s technique and persona? 

Evan: Some teachers want to make all their students sing like them, and I have a fundamentally different perspective. I’ve sung all over the world, but art is about finding your own way. I want the young people I coach to become the singers they are—not another me! You have to develop awareness, independence, and integrity, and that’s what leads you to authenticity and success. 

You also need to have a great team behind you like at Orvieto. Developing a singer from this perspective takes a lot of eyes and ears, and by collaborating we can put together a unique package for each student that merges all their strengths. It’s part of building a successful career, as well as creating the persona and portfolio that support it. 

Orvieto: Final question—do you have a favorite contemporary composer you’re connecting your students with? 

Evan: One of my favorite additions to the repertoire is I Want to Die White You Love Me by Undine Smith Moore. It’s a beautiful song and it’s very rewarding for students to learn. I also just premiered an English song cycle on the life of Hugo Wolf. It stands on its own as a great piece of music in addition to providing a lot of insight through his letters about his struggles with mental health. 

I think it’s a valuable habit to keep looking for new experiences as a singer and embracing opportunities to stretch yourself as an artist. Exploring and bringing new ideas into your sphere is how you learn to connect with a bigger audience as a singer and as a person. That’s what I give my students at FSU and now Michigan, and it’s what we’re creating for participants at Orvieto Musica. 

Dr. Evan Jones will be joining the voice faculty at Michigan in 2024. Look for more updates on his career soon!