PITTSBURG — Undergraduate college students from across the state will converge on Pittsburg State University on Saturday, March 9 for a classical singing competition, with $1,500 prizes to be awarded to first place winners in each of four categories: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass/baritone.

The PSU Department of Music is hosting the Barbara Rondelli Kansas Statewide Classical Voice Competition starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. Out of more than 30 applicants, 16 singers have been invited to compete in the event’s final round on Saturday. The competition will be open to the public to attend free of charge, according to PSU Department of Music professor Stella Hastings.

Performances will feature operatic style singing with piano accompaniment. The event will start with mezzo-soprano performances at 10 a.m., followed by bass/baritone singers, and a 1 p.m. lunch break. At 2 p.m. the competition will resume with soprano performances, and tenors to follow. An award ceremony and Winners’ Concert will begin at about 5:20 p.m., with a post-award reception planned for 5:45 p.m.

The annual event is taking place for its third year in Pittsburg thanks to a gift from PSU alumna Barbara Rondelli Perry and her husband, Dr. Richard R. Perry.

After graduating from PSU in 1960, Barbara Rondelli Perry traveled the world in her career as an opera singer, performing and competing in singing contests in Russia, Germany, England, Mexico, and South Africa among other places. She was the first PSU graduate ever to receive a Fulbright Scholarship, attending the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1975, she joined the faculty of the Department of Music at the University of Toledo. In May 2000 she was given the Meritorious Achievement Award from PSU.

In 2005 Rondelli Perry’s husband, Dr. Richard Perry, endowed the Barbara Rondelli Voice Scholarship at PSU, with scholarships awarded to voice students in the Department of Music.

“My mother taught me to play piano and sing,” Rondelli Perry said in a 2010 interview with Pitt State Magazine. “By the time I was 14 or 15, I knew voice was for me.”

In that interview she discussed the challenge she faced in getting awarded the Fulbright Scholarship, “one of the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange programs in the world” according to U.S. News & World Report.

“Nobody thought I would get it,” Rondelli Perry said. “But as the granddaughter of immigrants, I worked hard.”

The $1,500 prizes for the winners of Saturday’s vocal competition at PSU may not be Fulbright Scholarships, but they are a generous award and an impressive achievement to add to the resumes of the winning singers who will travel to PSU from across Kansas to compete in the March 9 event.