Weston H. Noble Award

Weston Noble served on the music faculty of Luther College from 1948 to 2005. For the fifty-seven years that Mr. Noble served as a teacher and conductor at Luther College, he transformed this community of music. The college grew in numbers, in national reputation, and he became a leader in training trailblazers in the field of music education. This award was established in 2004 and honors music educators who continue the legacy of Weston Noble, a man who influenced vocal music education in America and around the world. An award winner is chosen each year by a Luther College voice and choral faculty nomination process and selection panel. Luther College is pleased to announce Eric Melear ‘95 as the recipient of the 2020 Weston H. Noble Award.

Based in Vienna, Austria, Eric Melear enjoys a diverse career as a conductor and pianist, working regularly on multiple continents and with a wide variety of singers and companies. A recipient of a Sir Georg Solti Foundation Grant, he has conducted at the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, with numerous U.S. companies, and as part of his duties on the music staff of the Vienna State Opera. Mr. Melear has also long been a champion of young artists, having led Studios at both Houston Grand Opera and Wolf Trap Opera, as well as serving as a guest coach for programs and universities in the U.K., Italy, and the U.S.

Since returning to the Vienna State Opera full-time in 2015, Mr. Melear has conducted performances of Wagner’s Nibelungen Ring for Children and Pünktchen und Anton and assisted Zubin Mehta, Peter Schneider, Simone Young, among many others. Sharing the duties of preparing the 45-50 operas a season, he also conducts the full-time stage orchestra, regularly coaches the ensemble of singers and the newly created Studio program, and can be seen in recitals and featured on continuo.

As a guest conductor, Mr. Melear was invited by Maestro Seiji Ozawa to conduct two casts in performances of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges at the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival in 2016. In his long association with Wolf Trap Opera, he has led a wide range of productions, “drawing highly-charged playing from the orchestra in a performance that felt like a new artistic milestone for Wolf Trap” (Opera Magazine), and has also conducted at Houston Grand Opera, Arizona Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program.

In his three seasons (2011-2014) as HGO’s Associate Music Director, Eric Melear oversaw the HGO music staff and worked closely with Artistic Director Patrick Summers in overseeing the musical activities of Houston Grand Opera. He served as music director of the renowned HGO Studio, auditioning singers, guiding their musical development on a daily and seasonal basis, and programming their role assignments, recitals, Studio Showcase, and major concerts. As a member of the Artistic Planning committee, he was active in casting and choosing future repertoire and helped lead the company to its celebrated performances of The Passenger at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. He also conducted performances of A Little Night Music and La bohème and collaborated in recital with Susan Graham, Brandon Jovanovich, Ryan McKinny, and Tamara Wilson.

During Mr. Melear’s previous eight seasons with Houston Grand Opera, he conducted performances of Tosca, L’elisir d’amore, Rigoletto, Beatrice and Benedict, Aida, Carmen, and Le nozze di Figaro. He assisted Patrick Summers, Carlo Rizzi, and Edoardo Müller and led the workshop of Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, in addition to preparing two other world premieres. As Assistant Chorusmaster, he worked closely with the HGO Chorus on many productions, including Lohengrin, Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci, and Chorus! In addition to working regularly with the celebrated HGO Studio, he also performed in recital with Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Ana María Martínez, and Chad Shelton.

In 2010-11 Mr. Melear was on staff at the Vienna State Opera, where he conducted performances of Iván Eröd’s Pünktchen und Anton and Wilfried Hiller’s Das Traumfresserchen. He assisted on over 14 productions and worked closely with some of the world’s best conductors, guest artists, and the State Opera’s ensemble singers. He was also featured on continuo for Don Giovanni, L’italiana in Algeri, Il barbiere di Siviglia, and L’elisir d’amore.

Mr. Melear made his conducting debut in 2005 with Oregon Lyric Opera’s La traviata and subsequently served as their Resident Conductor. In 2006 the Sir Georg Solti Foundation honored him at a gala event in Chicago featuring Renee Fleming and Lady Solti and presented him with the prestigious award for young conductors. Consequently, he traveled to London as a guest of the late Sir Charles Mackerras, to Ann Arbor to study privately with Gustav Meier, to San Francisco to shadow Patrick Summers on Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, and to Siena to intensively study Italian. In 2008 he conducted a gala performance with the Los Angeles Opera Domingo-Thornton Young Artists. At Wolf Trap Opera he led new productions of Alcina in 2008 and Il turco in Italia in 2010, for which he received praise in Opera News: “Conductor Eric Melear always allowed room for lyrical phrases to bloom...But above all, he emphasized momentum and sparkle. The performance went by in a flash.”

As Head of Music Staff and Studio Manager at Wolf Trap Opera, Mr. Melear assisted Director Kim Witman in auditioning singers and determining the season’s repertoire, and was instrumental in developing the Studio Program for young singers. In his eight seasons there, he served as chorus master for nine productions, assisted on Carmen and La bohème with the National Symphony Orchestra, and prepared regular season productions.

An accomplished amateur photographer, his work can be seen on the covers of HGO’s commercial recordings of André Previn’s Brief Encounter and Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers and has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Observer, and in numerous promotional materials for HGO, Wolf Trap Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Arizona Opera.

A native of Moline, Illinois, Mr. Melear was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program. His studies also included graduate work with esteemed pianist Martin Katz at the University of Michigan and a double major in music and math from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa.