LEFT — Alumna and voice teacher Beverly Wolff (AVA 1953) with Henry Paxson and Adele Paxson (Daughter of AVA’s founder, Helen Corning Warden). RIGHT — Former AVA Director, Vernon Hammond with Tito Capobianco
Stage Director, Tito Capobianco, backstage
Gianni Schicchi, 1954.


In 1933, the United States was still in the grip of the Great Depression. Few people could afford any kind of higher education, especially the long and costly training needed for a career in opera. Helen Corning Warden, a prominent member of Philadelphia society, recognized the need for a school where talented singers would receive the highest quality professional training they needed to master their art. Encouraged by voice teacher Edgar Milton Cooke, Mrs. Warden and a group of her friends set out to establish a school for professional singers, a school that would provide tuition-free education.

For more than seventy-five years, gifted singers have come from throughout the world to seek the exceptional guidance and training that the Academy of Vocal Arts offers. Admission into AVA’s four-year program is highly competitive, with approximately 30 singers enrolled in any given year. Those who are accepted are immersed in an intensive performance program led by some of the most dedicated and inspired teachers and creative artists in the world of opera.

Today, AVA is the only tuition-free institution dedicated exclusively to the study of voice. When singers leave AVA, they are prepared to share their gifts with audiences of the world, fulfilling not only their own hopes and dreams, but those of AVA’s wise and generous founder.