Maryland's new Senior Idol from Elkridge

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Robert Friedman

MaryAnn Evangelista performs “You Raise Me Up” in the April 4 Maryland Senior Idol contest. She placed first, winning from among singers selected from county-level competitions throughout Maryland.

Photo courtesy of MNCPPC

MaryAnn Evangelista, who teaches voice and piano in Elkridge, won kudos for her own vocal expression when she was named this year’s Maryland Senior Idol.

The attractive 63-year-old lyric soprano, a Howard County resident for the past 23 years, was judged best of 16 contestants who had been selected from auditions conducted throughout the state. The finals were held at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts on April 4.

“It was just thrilling to win,” said Evangelista, who remembers feeling similar joy when she was selected earlier in her career as a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera auditions. “I always compete with my heart and soul, and I do it because I love to sing,” she said.

As the winner of the competition, Evangelista received a crystal trophy, a gift basket, and gift cards and cash worth about $250, she said.

Evangelista, a native of Washington state, is married to Paul Evangelista,  a retired Army sargeant major, and they have a son who is a Navy SEAL.

Singing about hope

A concert singer who has performed in Europe and around the United States — including in Hawaii, where she lived for several years — Evangelista took the senior singing honors with the inspirational song, “You Raise Me Up.”

“I chose that song because it is about hope. I believe you can accomplish whatever you put your heart to and your feet under,” she said.

What Evangelista has accomplished, so far, are performances with the Baltimore Opera touring company, the Honolulu Symphony and the Honolulu Opera, the San Francisco Children’s Opera and the Atlanta Opera companies.

She was a co-founder and leading soprano of the Pocket Opera Players, which toured the states and appeared on TV. She also co-starred in a review in Hawaii called Polynesian Extravaganza with Jim Nabors, best known as Gomer Pyle on the “Andy Griffith Show.” Nabors later gained critical success as a singer of romantic songs.

When Evangelista, a graduate of the Oberlin (Ohio) Conservatory of Music, was asked what part music plays in her life, she answered, “Music is my life. It fills my heart with joy to sing. I sing with my soul. I love to share what I do.”

Multi-faceted talent

She has sung opera, oratorio and musical theater songs at “perhaps thousands of concert appearances,” and interprets her repertoire in “12 or 13” languages.

“I love all kinds of music,” Evangelista said, “folk songs, ethnic songs, children’s music. My efforts at country music didn’t work out too well. But maybe I could sing the new country sound,” she said.

“I’m starting to sing jazz, also. I haven’t mastered scat-singing yet. But I think I have about 100 years left. I expect to live to about 150, with all the years filled with song.”

The winner of Maryland’s sixth annual Senior Idol competition was generous in her praise of her contest rivals, including retired high school teacher Mary Ratcliffe of Columbia, who also represented Howard County.

She also noted the guest performance of Sylma Gottlieb, a fellow voice teacher in Bowie. Gottlieb, who is 89, sang Gershwin’s “Summertime” with beauty and gusto, Evangelista said.

Adding a lovely note — or notes — to Gottlieb’s performance was the harp accompaniment of Mary Fitzgerald, the retired harpist of the Navy band assigned to play at the White House.

A record crowd of over 700 people attended the finals in Bowie.