CU College of Music recognizes two outstanding artists

Bass/baritone Ashraf Sewailam, writer/guitarist Izzy Fincher honored by the College of Music

By Peter Alexander April 27 at 7:01 p.m.

The University of Colorado College of Music recently announced honors for students and alumni. Two of the honorees—bass/baritone Ashraf Sewailam and writer/guitarist Izzy Fincher—may be familiar to readers of the Sharpsandflatirons blog, as their names have appeared here many times.

Ashraf Sewailam (CU-Boulder BM ’94, MM ’96, DMA ’08) has been selected to receive the College of Music’s 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Award. As a freelance operatic bass/baritone, Sewailam has appeared around the United States at the Minnesota Opera, Seattle Opera, Washington Concerto Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, among others. His international career has taken him to New Zealand and Australia, and he was a member of the Cairo Opera Company in his native Egypt for eight years.

Ashraf Sewailam

In announcing the award, the College of Music wrote that Sewailam is “an internationally recognized and prize-winning opera star (whose) extensive travels . . . include roles on the world’s most prestigious stages. . . . Sewailam’s stunning career stands out for its range. From serving as a voiceover actor for Disney when he was still living in Cairo . . . to winning over audiences around the world, Sewailam is ‘one of our most successful voice alums,’ according to associate professor of opera Leigh Holman.”

The announcement also states, “Sewailam credits his career accomplishments and accolades directly to the education, professional connections and personal relationships he gained while studying at the College of Music. ‘I couldn’t have started my professional career without having been situated at CU Boulder,’ he says.”

Sewailam first appeared in Sharpsandflatirons in January 2017, when he appeared in a performance of the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra singing the music of Shostakovich. He has since been noted for performances with the Boulder Bach Festival and at Central City Opera, including roles in The Magic Flute and Il Trovatore. 

Most recently, Sewailam was reviewed here in Seattle Opera’s world premiere production of Sheila Silver’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, where I wrote that he “sang beautifully, using his resonant bass to create contrast with the violence that surrounds his family.” He is scheduled to direct Central City Opera’s production of Rossini’s Othello this summer. 

Izzy Fincher

Among current undergraduate students, the College of Music singled out Izzy Fincher as their outstanding graduating senior. Fincher will graduate with a BM in classical guitar performance, a BA in journalism and a business minor, and has also been named outstanding graduate of the CU College of Media, Communications and Information. 

Outstanding students in the College of Music are selected each semester based on academic merit, a strong record of musicianship and a record of service and leadership. Fincher will be recognized and deliver a speech at the College of Music commencement ceremony on May 11.

Fincher served an internship with Sharpsandflatirons in the fall of 2020, writing both news articles on the limited events taking place during the COVID shutdown, and opinion pieces on “The White Male Frame” in classical music and “Reflections of a Female, Japanese-American Classical Guitarist.” Since then she has continued to write occasional preview articles and reviews, and she served as both a reporter and editor for the CU Independent. Her senior guitar recital April 23 reflected her research work on female composers of music for guitar.

After graduation, Fincher will attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to pursue a master’s degree in classical guitar performance under René Izquierdo. An outstanding and insightful writer, her presence at Sharpsandflatirons will be missed. 

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