History of Potomac Vocal Institute

It all started when…

Elizabeth Bishop (mezzo soprano) and Patrick O’Donnell (pianist) have been long-time collaborators and friends; during a work session in 2014, they began to discuss education:

“We were talking about how different opera training seemed to be from the way it was when we were in school. Some things we liked, some things we didn’t, but overall we recognized a gap in the training of those who had COMPLETED school, were really talented, but weren’t taken into the “traditional” route of young opera singers. Somewhere in the conversation, we laughed and said ‘We should just start our own school!’ And then we looked at each other and said ‘We should start our own school!’ We didn’t laugh after that!!

After many discussions about what that “school” would actually look like and to whom our project would be beneficial, we started planning our first workshops and masterclasses. We met for classes wherever we could rent space and began the beta version of PVI. Our first real event was Divas & Donuts with Isabel Leonard on May 14th, 2015; by fall of 2015 we had produced several weekend classes in drama, Italian style, and voice training, and presented our first Fix Your Five audition workshop in September.


Because our singers held jobs to support themselves, we planned PVI to be completely different from what was available: a weekend/weeknight organization that allowed them to continue their study in the time they had available, allowing them to pick the events they needed. Over the next year, we tried different types of workshops on a variety of subjects, and have created a basic curriculum that meets the needs of our singers. It’s sort of an a la carte Young Artist Program, designed specifically for this group of people, and it is unique. The singers themselves have formed an amazing community- they are so warm and supportive of each other! It’s beautiful.

We have added an immensely talented faculty, staff, and professional guest artist roster to the organization, greatly expanded our class offerings, found our home at The United Church, and have begun connecting our singers with opera companies ready to hire them.

The model is working….our people are out working!…and we could not be prouder of our singers, our staff, and our Potomac Vocal!”

- Elizabeth Bishop, Mezzo Soprano
Founder and Executive Director, Potomac Vocal Institute