Miss A Columnist

Dena Miller is the Dallas Editor for Miss A. She has been described by Style Network as a "Queen Bee". Formerly a glam rock scene Diva, Dena is now a Socialite on the Dallas philanthropy scene, specializing in Polo events that benefit women's and children's causes.

While never forgetting her small town roots from a Midwestern farming community in rural Missouri, she’s fit right in the “Big D” since coming here in 1984. After 11 years of promoting the music scene, hobnobbing with the most popular bands from coast to coast, she switched gears after meeting her husband at the first Polo match she ever attended. Always one for excitement, Polo became her new rock n roll.
With her marriage and new found passion for polo, came Philanthropy. Miller founded the Ladies Polo Auxiliary of Texas in 2005 with the goal of promoting the Sport of Kings in north Texas via charity events for causes that are close to her heart. To date the LPA has raised over $500,000 for causes such as domestic violence, children with serious medical needs, therapeutic horsemanship, the Polo Training Foundation, children’s advocacy and food drives for north Texas food Bank. When not working on her own events she is attending Charity luncheons and balls as well as volunteering at golf tournaments and Special Olympics events. She is a member of the USPA Equine Welfare committee and on Board of Dress For Succes Dallas.

Writing has been a lifetime passion of Dena’s. Besides working on a book that proceeds will benefit domestic violence organizations, and writing for two national polo magazines, is a frequent contributor to Dallas area publications, winning Best Contributor Award from Dallas Morning News Neighborsgo, she is co-authoring a book on the phenomenon of cyber bullying by adult women, referred to as Cyber Harrassment.

Recap: 26th Annual Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition

Cecile Bonte with winner Audra Methvin. Photo by

Cecile Bonte with winner Audra Methvin. Photo by Tom McGurren

No amount of locally heavy rains across North Texas  could dampen the spirits of excited patrons and participants on Saturday, March 15 as The Dallas Opera Guild presented an impressive array of highly talented young artists competing for top prizes in the Finals Round of the 26th Annual Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. This on-stage showcase for young opera singers with Texas connections is conducted annually in the acoustically acclaimed setting of the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.  The Dallas Opera Guild’s Vocal Competition, not only provides vital assistance to the young opera stars of tomorrow, but also creates an outstanding opportunity for people from throughout the community to hear exceptional up-and-coming talents, in free performances in a magnificent setting. This free, spring musical event has become a favorite among opera aficionados and vocal music lovers across North Texas.  The singers in both the semi-final and finals rounds on March 15th were accompanied by Laurie Rogers of the Dallas Opera Music Staff and Jason Smithan accompanist and faculty vocal coach at Southern Methodist University, with guest pianists Jeffrey Arnold and Saule Garcia.The honorees for the 26th Annual Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition were Cecile and Dr. Fred Bonte. The Bontes have been consistent donors and supporters of the Guild’s Vocal Competition since its earliest days.  Cecile has had the pleasure of designing and doing the calligraphy for the winners’ certificates for many years.  Both have won the respect of their peers for their tireless contributions of time, talent, energy and resources. “We wish to thank the Dallas Opera, The Dallas Opera Guild and all of its members” wrote Dr. and Mrs. Bonte.  “When it is all said and done however, this is all about the very talented and worthy participants of this outstanding competition.  It would please us immensely if all who believe in this competition, as we surely do, and the wonderful opportunity it brings to the singers, would be as generous as possible as part of their continued commitment to the project.”

Brent Reilly Turner, Audra Methvin, Matthew Stump and Reginald Smith Jr. Photo by tom McGurran

Brent Reilly Turner, Audra Methvin, Matthew Stump and Reginald Smith Jr. Photo by tom McGurren

“This year as the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition Chair has been the most rewarding, exhilarating volunteer position I have ever held,” says Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition Co-Chair Dr. Sharon Bird Stupp.  “I have gained such respect for these talented, dedicated young singers.  An individual’s voice is such an integral part of their being, and they courageously put their voice ‘out there’ to be judged and found worthy.  They have my total and complete admiration.”  “Everyone views the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition as a tremendous opportunity for gifted young opera singers with Texas ties,” says Mr. Pell.  “However, the fact is, this is just as significant an opportunity for those of us in the field to gauge the next generation of singing talent, as it is a chance for these young artists to shine. My commitment to this competition grows year-by-year,” he adds, “because I’ve seen its incredible impact on lives, as well as careers.”   “Previous winners have built upon the encouragement and financial support they received to earn spots in prestigious young artists’ programs and advance in their studies at leading vocal institutes,” explained Vocal Competition Co-Chair Dr. Sharon Bird Stupp.  “Many who received early recognition here have gone on to stellar international careers, award-winning roles on Broadway, and prestigious debuts and teaching positions.”

Soprano Winner Audra Methvin. Photography by  Luke McKenzie.

Soprano Winner Audra Methvin in action. Photography by Luke McKenzie.

The $10,000 First Prize and second annual Bessylee Penland First Place Award, was presented to Audra Methvin by one of this year’s honorees, Cecile Bonte.  The 27-year-old soprano wowed the crowd with “Ah! non credea…Ah! non giunge” from Bellini’s La sonnambula and “No Word from Tom…I Go to Him” from The Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky.   Now living in Dallas, Ms. Methvin is a recent graduate of Eastern New Mexico University and a Studio Artist (2010-2011) at Central City Opera in Colorado.  She won Third Place in last year’s Guild competition (and was a finalist the year before), as well as First Place Winner in the 2012 Vocal Artistry in Song Competition.  She has performed on several occasions with the Boulder Symphony, AIMS Orchestra (Graz, Austria) and the Colorado Symphony and was a Studio Artist at Central City Opera. Among her awards was First Place in the Meistersinger Competition in 2013, and the 2014 Woman’s Voice Award presented by the Women’s Chorus of Dallas. During today’s semi-finals round, she performed “Dove sono i bei momenti” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro accompanied by pianist Jason Smith, in addition to “Depuis le jour” from Charpentier’s Louise.    She now studies with Virginia Dupuy and is pursuing a Performer’s Diploma at Southern Methodist University.

Brent Reilly Turner. photo by Luke McKenzie

Brent Reilly Turner. photo by Luke McKenzie

The $7500 cash prize for Second Place, presented by Dallas Opera Guild President Sydney Phillips, went to 30-year-old tenor Brent Reilly Turner from Amarillo, who regaled the audience with renditions of “Ah, la paterna man” from Verdi’s Macbeth and “In fernem Land” from Wagner’s Lohengrin accompanied by Laurie Rogers. Mr. Turner delighted the Winspear Opera House audience with more Wagner from Die Walküre, “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater,” as well as “Addio, fiorito asil” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Mr. Turner has a Master’s from the University of Cincinnati and is currently studying with Michael Paul.  Last year, he won First Place in the Florida Suncoast Opera Competition and was named Grand Prize winner in the Orpheus Vocal Competition.  He has worked with Santa Fe Opera and is a frequent guest artist at Utah Opera, Ash Lawn Opera, Utah Symphony, Amarillo Opera and other companies across the U.S.

Bass-Baritone-Mathew Stump. Photo by Luke McKenzie

Bass-Baritone-Mathew Stump. Photo by Luke McKenzie

The award for Third Place ($5,000) went to 24-year-old bass-baritone Matthew Stump, a graduate of Luther College in Iowa, now pursuing a graduate degree at the University of North Texas College of Music under the direction of Dr. Stephen F. Austin.  He is a four-time NATS competition winner (National Association of Teachers of Singing), Brudos Opera Prize winner, MET Regional Finalist and Winspear Scholar. Mr. Stump’s roles in student productions have included Sweeney Todd, The Pirate King, Capulet, Figaro, Mercutio, Frank Maurrant (Kurt Weill’s Street Scene), and Don Alfonso. The Indiana native performed “Hear me, O Lord” from Carlisle Floyd’sSusannah as well as a memorable rendition of the “Catalogue Aria” (“Madamina, il catalogo è questo”) from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, accompanied by Laurie Rogers. Earlier in the day, Mr. Stump impressed in the semi-finals round with performances of “Vous qui faites l’endormie,” a devilish aria from Gounod’s Faust – and another Mozart selection, “Non piu andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro. The cash prize was presented to Mr. Stump by former Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition Chair Don Jones.The 2014 “People’s Choice Award” went to a 25-year-old baritone from Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Program: Reginald Smith, Jr.  During the Semi-final Round, Mr. Smith delivered powerful performances of “È sogno? O realtà” from Verdi’s Falstaff and “Avant de quitter ces lieux” from Gounod’s Faust.  This evening during the Finals Round, he delivered stirring renditions of “Lord, Jesus, Hear my Prayer” from Louis Gruenberg’s The Emperor Jones and “O Carlo, ascolta…Io morrò, ma lieto in core” from Verdi’s Don Carlo.  Mr. Smith has performed with Opera Theater of St. Louis, Houston Grand Opera, Cincinnati Opera and Lyric Opera Studio (Weimar).  This year’s $1500 cash prize decided by the audience was presented by Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition Co-Chair Ketty Fitzgerald.The remaining six 2014 finalists were each honored with a $200 grant:

  • Bille Bruley, age 25, tenor
  • Rebekah Howell, age 22, soprano
  • Sooyeon Kang, age 24, soprano
  • Jeawook Lee, age 30, tenor
  • Sarah Clementine Mire, age 18, soprano
  • Chaazi Munyanya, age 24, mezzo-soprano

2014 Semi-Finalists were:

  • Erin Alcorn, age 24, soprano
  • Cristina Bakhoum, age 28, mezzo-soprano
  • Natalie Cummings, age 26, soprano
  • Moretta Irchirl, age 20, mezzo-soprano
  • Youna Jang, age 30, soprano
  • Natalie Logan, age 22, soprano
  • Trevor Martin, age 25, baritone
  • Saïd Pressley, age 27, bass-baritone
  • Coretta Smith, age 27, soprano

The 2014 Distinguished Panel of Judges:  

Michael Heaston,Evan Mirageas,jonathon Pell,Andreas Melinat and Roberto Mauro. Photo by Tom McGurran

Michael Heaston,Evan Mirageas,jonathon Pell,Andreas Melinat and Roberto Mauro. Photo by Tom McGurren


  • Michael Heaston (Director, “Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program,” Washington National Opera and Director, Young Artists Program and Head of Music Staff, Glimmerglass Festival)
  • Roberto Mauro (Artistic Administrator, Canadian Opera Company)
  • Andreas Melinat (Director of Artistic Administration, Lyric Opera of Chicago)
  • Evans Mirageas (Artistic Director, Cincinnati Opera and Vice-president of Artistic Planning, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)
  • And from The Dallas Opera, Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, who also acts as artistic advisor to this eagerly anticipated annual competition. 
  • Preliminary judges for this year’s competition included Dallas Opera Music Director of Education and Family Programming and Adjunct Faculty at the University of North Texas Mary Dibbern; world-renowned tenor Clifton Forbis, recent star of the Dallas Opera’s Tristan und Isolde and Associate Professor and Chair of Voice at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts; and Dr. Stephen Dubberly, Opera Music Director at the University of North Texas.   

Underwriters for the 2014 competition included:  

AT&T Performing Arts Center and Staff

Consuelo Chavez and Joe Dyer (Judges’ Dinner)

Central Market (Daytime Catering)

Stephen Fitzgerald (Stage Greenery)

Hodge Printing Company (Competition Program) 

Tom McGurren (Guild Photography) 



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