- Artist's Diploma in Opera, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
- M.M., Vocal Peformance, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
- B.M., Vocal Performance, George Fox College/ University
Voice Associate Professor
Director of Opera
An internationally acclaimed artist, Richard Zeller brings great wealth of insight from his career performing major opera and concert roles with other notable artists in a wide variety of concert halls across the world. At the Conservatory, he is the vocal coach for the Opera program and leads the Opera workshop in the spring; in addition he teaches applied lessons, voice workshop, and several other upper-division classes for vocalists. Student Evan Abeling ('16) reflects on Mr. Zeller's ability to inspire and enable students to achieve a greater level of musical artistry, as well as to surrender their gifts to God in a meaningful way. "For any serious student of music, and most importantly for those who are also followers of Christ, it is of utmost importance to seek out a teacher who can help you understand and practice good technique, make good career choices, and above all seek to glorify God before yourself. Since beginning my vocal studies with Richard Zeller, I can say with confidence that I have not only grown leaps and bounds as a classical singer, but as a man of faith as well. Mr. Zeller doesn't stop at what one would expect from a typical voice teacher; he goes above and beyond with each of his students to make a real impact in their lives. Rather than simply showing students how to sing well (which he does quite efficiently) Mr. Zeller always seeks to glorify God in all he does and see the Lord's work being done at Biola and beyond."
Education & Influences
Raised in a musical family, Mr. Zeller participated in his family's singing group as they toured with World Vision across the nation for 11 years, and he continued performing with their ensemble throughout his college years as well. Involved in a variety of musical activities such as musical theater, jazz band, and orchestra during his undergraduate years, he was not immediately sure of the kind of music that he should pursue. He recalls how he discovered his calling for opera and classical music: "When I went to George Fox, I didn't know what kind of music I was supposed to do. John Bowman at George Fox said, "You may have the talent to pursue classical music.' He encouraged me to pursue grad school because he knew that this training would apply to any kind of music I would do. So, I thought that was wise, and within a month I realized what I was wired to do. God had given me a unique skill set to sing classical music and opera. So it was in graduate school that I discovered my true calling."
While at Cincinnati, Mr. Zeller studied with Andrew White, a master-teacher whose pupils were among the best-known opera singers. Sharing his love of oratorios and his devotion to Christ, Mr. White had a profound influence on Mr. Zeller's teaching style. "I saw a man who had affected hundreds of lives with his teaching," he recalls. Mr. Zeller was also influenced by both of his parents, who were teachers. He says, "I knew that I wanted to be teaching—whenever God had that plan for me."
Richard Zeller is internationally acclaimed for both his concert and opera roles. During the 2012-13 season he appeared with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin in performances of Weill's Seven Deadly Sins in Detroit and at Carnegie Hall as a part of the Spring for Music Festival; and opened the Prague Beethoven Festival with a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, which he will perform for his return to the San Diego Symphony Orchestra during the 2013-14 season. His other performances this season include Scarpia in Tosca in concert with the Calgary Philharmonic; Wrestling Bradford in Howard Hanson's Merry Mount with the Rochester Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall for the Spring for Music Festival; Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Voices of Ascension Chorus; and a season-opening opera gala with the Johnstown (PA) Symphony Orchestra.
Richard Zeller made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1989 and has since appeared with the Met in such roles as Marcello in La Bohème, Ernesto in Il Pirata, Eddie in A View from the Bridge, Coroebus in Les Troyens, and Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor. His other opera appearances include Germont in La Traviata with Scottish Opera, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Deutsche Opera am Rhein, Portland Opera, and San Diego Opera; productions of Boris Godunov and Andrea Chénier with the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Athanaël in Thaïs with English National Opera at the Barbican in London; and in the title role in Verdi's Macbeth with Opera de Bordeaux, Opera de Vichy and Portland Opera.
On the concert stage, his appearances include the title role in Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra; Les Troyens with the Boston Symphony; Handel's Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Carmina Burana with the Buffalo Philharmonic and Huntsville Symphony; and appearances with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis. His international orchestra credits include appearances with the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Winnipeg, Ottowa, the Nord Deutscher Rundfunk (Hanover), MDR Symphony Orchester (Leipzig), Dresden Staatskapelle, Czech Philharmonic, Tokyo Philharmonic, Korea Philharmonic, Rotterdam, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Norway), Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, as well as a performance for the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid with conductor Helmuth Rilling.
Richard Zeller's recordings include the critically acclaimed Merry Mount by Howard Hanson and Deems Taylor's Peter Ibbettson with Naxos; and the world premiere of Henri Lazarof's Fifth Symphony on Centaur Records – all recorded with Gerard Schwartz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded Dvorak's Te Deum with Zdenec Macal and the New Jersey Symphony for Delos; David Schiff's Gimpel the Fool for Naxos; Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 for Centaur Records; and Virgil Thompson's Lord Byron and Aaron Copland's The Tender Land for Koch International.
(from Dispeker Artists at www.dispeker.com)
Recalling some of his favorite moments in his career, Mr. Zeller points out that being able to work with great artists has an impact on a person's artistry, and on the audience ability to receive the music. "What's amazing when you work with great artists is that it shows you how far you can go with a musical phrase. The level of artistry is inspiring. The music becomes so much more than you. It points toward a higher thing. It can become more than the sum of its parts. It can touch us deeply. It transports us. That's what great art can do in any medium. God's made us to be deeply affected by art. The goal is to get ourselves out of the way and be a vessel, but worrying about a high note or about appearance can take away from that."
Faith in Action
As a performer, Zeller notes that it is an ongoing process to find a balance between his devotion to art, and his devotion to God and to his family. "There are Christians in the arts (certainly in singing), but I don't see that a lot of people continue on and live with faith as a priority. There are some people that look down on those that have faith as a priority. At some level, there is some kind of cost, but the benefits so far overwhelm any challenges. I can't imagine doing this without God at the center. But, it's a daily battle not to allow the career to take over. People say you have to sacrifice all for art. People think great art can't happen without this. However, God and family allow me to make great art. It would have been empty otherwise...That doesn't mean you don't pursue excellence, but you have to keep it in right balance. You have to keep it in balance with your relationship with God and your relationship with your family."
One of the Conservatory's most recently appointed faculty members, Mr. Zeller sees God's hand in the miraculous way that he found Biola University. He recalls never having thought of Southern California as a possibility, and that the kind of teacher that the Biola faculty was seeking aligned with the kind of impact he wanted to have on his students. "I asked what they were looking for: firstly, a spiritual mentor, and secondly, a really good voice teacher. I thought, 'That's what I do.'" When he visited the campus, he was pleased at the student's rigorous work ethic. "God made it clear I was supposed to be here."
Mr. Zeller notes that a prominent characteristic of this community is that they yield themselves to God's will and guidance for their lives. His hope for his students is that he could encourage them to continue seeking a proper balance in their lives. "You can be a Christian and pursue excellence in the arts. I hope they understand that they can go so much farther with musicianship, with storytelling, and with the intangible things that can make them stretch father than they thought they could."
Dispeker Artists-Richard Zeller profile