With ATS as one of his sponsors, Önay Köse could change from an engineering career to his dream career as an operatic artist studying at The Juilliard School in New York. 

He completed his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies and Masters of Music in Opera as one of the The Ahmet Ertegun Memorial scholars for talented musicians of Turkish descent at The Juilliard School in May 2016. The scholarship, supported by ATS, continues Mr. Ertegun’s legacy of promoting talented artists while contributing to greater cultural understanding between the United States and Turkey.  

Here is his story…


Önay, you studied engineering at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. How did you become an opera artist?

When I participated at the University exams in Turkey, I became eligible for studying engineering at this prestigous university. Even though I was already interested in opera, I decided that it would be better for me to finish my degree first. Besides, my family has a tradition of studying at the Middle East Technical University. 

In 2012, I won second prize at the Siemens Opera Competition in Istanbul and had the opportunity to participate in a six-week summer residency at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg in Austria. This gave me the courage to try my luck at an audition for The Juilliard School in New York, and they accepted me!


How did you hear about the school and the Ahmet Ertegun Memorial Scholarship that you received?

The Juilliard School is one of the most prestigous schools for Performing Arts, so I had already a great interest in pursuing my education there. The school worked together with The American Turkish Society to find and sponsor Turkish students through the Ahmet Ertegun Scholarship. 


Can you tell us about your studies at The Juilliard School? 

I had an incredible time in New York and at Juilliard, not only because of the program, but also because I had a lot to learn. There were many professional artists from around the world who have been in this field since their childhood. I did not have the experience that they had. I basically had to start from scratch, so I took extra lessons. This was very demanding for me, but at the same time very rewarding. Even as students we had to perform regularly in front of a real audience. This was new and very exciting to me. I could learn opera on the job!


How did the program and the scholarship impact your life and work?

My dreams came true! The experience in New York was a life-changing opportunity for me. All the performances and the education that I had at Juilliard made me a versatile artist and helped me to understand the opera world better. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best artists and musicians in the world, which was a huge benefit on a personal and professional level. The Ahmet Ertegun Scholarship was a door opener to The Juilliard School and having received such a prestigious scholarship has brought me more recognition and enhances my biography. 


What’s next for you?

I’m currently working at the Komische Oper in Berlin, Germany and I’m going to perform at the Oper Frankfurt in Germany as well. There are also plans to perform in San Antonio, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma in the US next season.


Turkish Bass Önay Köse recently completed his Master’s Degree and obtained his Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at the Juilliard School. He is now a member of Berlin's famed Komische Oper, where his roles include the Nightwatchman in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte and Pluto in the Monteverdi/Katz-Chernin version of Orpheus. Mr. Köse also makes his debut with Oper Frankfurt this season as Sparafucile in their new production of Rigoletto.

In March 2014, Önay Köse made his Alice Tully Hall debut in a Juilliard Vocal Arts Recital. He also appeared in a Young Artists Concert at the Salzburg Festival. In 2015 he made his Carnegie Hall Debut as the Bass soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the New York Youth Symphony. During past seasons, as part of his studies at the Juilliard School, he appeared as Pantalone in Le donne curiose, Priest/Badger in The Cunning Little Vixen, Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Le Roi in Cendrillon. Last season he was seen as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte. Mr. Köse has also sung the Cappadocian in Salome with Opera San Antonio.

Interview by Funda Akin