USAO alumnus returns home for role in Tulsa opera

Ninnekah native Steve Sanders returns to Oklahoma to play the role of Father Grenville for the Tulsa Opera’s staging of Dead Man Walking. Sanders graduated from USAO in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

USAO alumnus returns home for role in Tulsa opera



USAO graduate and Distinguished Young Alumni award winner Steven Sanders will be returning to the state of Oklahoma to sing the role of Father Grenville in the opera Dead Man Walking for the Tulsa Opera on Feb. 25, March 4 and 5.


Sanders, who earned his degree in music education in 1998, has forged an impressive career as an operatic singer. After completing a master’s degree in vocal performance at Oklahoma City University and earning a certificate of performance from Boston University, Sanders landed numerous roles with prestigious opera companies around the country including Opera Boston and the New York City Opera.


“When I came to USAO, I was a local boy from Ninnekah, just a few miles south of Chickasha,” Sanders said. “I always loved music but never really got involved in it until USAO. I remember my first voice teacher, Dr. Robert Jones, telling my parents that I could be a professional singer if I wanted to be. This is the first memory I have of actually thinking that a singing career was possible.”


Sanders has returned to the campus of USAO for two separate Davis Waldorf Performing Arts series concerts – the first in 2005 for a special performance of The Three Redneck Tenors, a show that enjoyed a 50-city tour and rave reviews and a second time in 2007 for a concert of holiday favorites.


“Steve has a great voice,” said Ken Bohannon, assistant professor of music and coordinator for the Davis-Waldorf Performing Arts Series (DWPAS). “While I would like to take the credit for getting him started, much of what he needed as a student was merely in the form of encouragement to pursue an operatic career.”


A recording of John Musto’s Volpone, featuring Sanders as Bonario, was nominated for a Grammy Award as “Best Opera Recording of 2009.

Dead Man Walking is based on the 1994 book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account Of The Death Penalty In The United States by Sister Helen Prejean. An unflinching look at the issue of capital punishment, the book was adapted into a film by director Tim Robbins and starred Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.


The opera was the first opera by composer Jake Heggie and features a libretto written by Tony and Emmy award winning playwright Terrence McNally. The San Francisco Opera premiered the work in October 2000.