Betti McDonald, Dramatic Soprano and Vocal Pedagogue, founded the Institute for Musical Arts, Inc. (I.M.A.) in 1983 as an intensive training center for singers. Acting as its Director and Master Teacher, she and the Institute continue to provide a fertile training ground for artists studying all the vocal genres - opera, oratorio, recital, jazz, pop, and musical theater. For more than twenty years, Ms. McDonald has welcomed into I.M.A. singers interested in a professional career as well as those whose pursuit of singing is personal. Her expertise has always included a dedication to physical, psychological, and spiritual healing through the study of singing. These principles, together with her expertise in the use of the vocal and respiratory apparatus have distinguished the I.M.A. as a leader in the field of vocal education since its inception.
Ms. McDonald has earned an international reputation as an innovative and outstanding educator and has been featured for her work in numerous articles, including Classical Singer Magazine, in which she was honored as the 2004 Teacher of the Year. In addition to heading I.M.A., Ms. McDonald was the Founder/General Director of the Waterbury Opera Theatre, served as Adjunct Faculty at the Curtis Institute for Music, and headed the voice departments at the Albano Ballet and Performing Arts Academy (CT), Caribbean Union College, and Thayer Conservatory/Atlantic College (MA). She has also instructed voice at Lake Michigan College; and has led several lecture recitals, master classes, and workshops throughout the world, including: the University of Pennsylvania, University of the West Indies (Jamaica), West Indies College (Jamaica), Walla Walla University (WA), A Coeur Joie Choral Festival (France), and Le Kleebach (France). Much respected and sought after as a pedagogue, the government of China invited Ms. McDonald to teach pedagogy to a group of their teachers, after which the Bastille Opera in Paris asked her to head their Young Artist Program.
The daughter of missionaries, Ms. McDonald was born in Panama and raised in the Caribbean. She studied vocal technique with Gerald Ferguson and Joseph Klein, vocal scientist, lecturer, conductor and author of Singing Technique: How to Avoid Vocal Trouble. Described as “the most beautiful voice in the world,” by American composer Ned Rorem and a favorite among American composers of the mid-20th century, Ms. McDonald has premiered numerous works by Ned Rorem with the composer himself at the piano, Gian Carlo Menotti, Virgil Thompson, Richard Gofton, and Peter Mathews, in addition to working side by side with Conductor Leonard Bernstein. Featured at Rorem’s 50th birthday celebration, Ms. McDonald performed his song cycle, The Last Poems of Wallace Stevens at Alice Tully Hall. Uniquely, Ms. McDonald’s daughter, soprano Monique McDonald, was also the featured singer at the very same venue for Rorem’s 75th birthday celebration. Most recently, Ms. McDonald and the I.M.A. collaborated with late composer William Hollister on the world-premiere performance and debut recording of his new opera The Inca’s Chosen Bride in Sofia, Bulgaria. Ms. McDonald has performed in every major city in the United States, and in Canada, Mexico, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Panama, Venezuela, Jamaica, Trinidad, Nassau, Grand Cayman, Curacao, and Saint Thomas. She can be heard on the RCA Netherlands, Deogram recording of Songs of the Earth, accompanied by pianist Bob Wilson, singing Spanish compositions by Granados and Obradors, and Negro spirituals.