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Music has always been in Forrest Bunter’s blood.

In fact, it was during high school marching band practice that his parents first met.

“We’ve always been a big musical family,” says Bunter. “Ever since elementary school, I’ve loved singing and playing trumpet. I was in show choir in high school, concert choir, wind ensemble and concert band.

“I started off as a music education major in college, but a few years ago decided to switch to performance. My goal is to go on to grad school for operatic performance and teach at the university level.”

His music resume is about to get another boost. He was recently accepted into the Franco-American Vocal Academy, to be held July 7-Aug. 18 in Angers, France. The program, which is affiliated with the University of Texas’ Butler School of Music, immerses students in another culture as they study vocal technique, operatic technique, stage training and more.

“I sent in an audition video the first week of December,” he says. “I sang an aria and an art song – both in French. My voice teacher, Dr. Susan Smith, helped me prepare both pieces. I found out I had been accepted right before Christmas.”

The academy accepts students from around the world. Staff members include vocalists who have performed internationally.

Two operas are staged as part of the summer program, and Bunter has been cast as Robert in Jacques Offenbach’s “La Fille du Tambour Major” (“The Drum Major’s Daughter”). The opera – which combines music and spoken dialogue – tells the story of a French soldier who falls for a young woman he believes to be the daughter of a duke, and whose hand in marriage has been promised to another aristocrat.

“I have to have everything prepared and memorized by the time I get there, so I’m furiously working on that,” says Bunter.

In the years since the Neosho native began his college career at Missouri Southern, he has participated in a variety of ensembles – from choir and marching band to orchestra and a wind ensemble.

“I’ve whittled it down to Concert Chorale and the Chamber Singers now,” he says.

He has also appeared on stage in several local and Missouri Southern theater productions. Opera remains one of his biggest passions, however.

“It’s steeped in a lot of tradition,” says Bunter. “There’s a different style of singing that goes into it, there are storylines and there’s not a lot of music that’s performed with a full orchestra. You get the full package.”