Jan. 24, 2024

Butler Studio Artist Demetrious Sampson, Jr.: My Concert of Arias Story

DEMETRIOUS SAMPSON, JR. First-Year Butler Studio Artist. Audience Choice, Second-Place Winner, Concert of Arias 2023. 2023-24 HGO role: 3rd Esquire in Parsifal. Photo Credit: Michael Bishop

Like many Butler Studio artists, tenor Demetrious Sampson, Jr. started his relationship with HGO as a member of the company’s Young Artist Vocal Academy. He found the program himself, looking for opportunities online, and traveled to Houston from his home in Georgia in the spring of 2022. “It was an amazing time,” he remembers.


“We got to see Romeo and Juliet at Miller Outdoor Theatre, and all the principals were Studio artists. We got to see what type of talent the Studio fosters, and Emily Treigle was there, and Elena Villalón, and Ricky Garcia, and Nicholas Newton. I thought, I love this space, I love these people.”


At that moment, Sampson knew he wanted to join the Butler Studio and decided to audition for Concert of Arias 2023. When he thinks back to the experience, a range of emotions, many of them happy, come flooding back. But the emotion that dominates all others: anxiety. “It was not fun,” he shares with his trademark honesty. “The process is so stressful.”

“I never actually felt imposter syndrome, but I did feel in a different space than everybody else. I was the youngest competitor. There was so much riding on it. I made sure to ask: if you don’t make the finals, does that mean you don’t make Studio? They said, typically, yes. So I was just really worried.”


After a couple of grueling days of singing and stressing as a semi-finalist, Sampson got the call that he’d made the finals. “A literal—not figurative, literal—weight was lifted off my chest,” he says. But the stress returned the moment he learned that, during the Concert of Arias, he would have to sing the aria “Addio fiorito asil” from Madame Butterfly. While it was one of the options he’d submitted, it wasn’t his first choice, and he had no control over the evening’s program, which is decided by HGO staff. Sampson wondered: was his voice going to work? Was he going to place?


“But then I sang my dress-rehearsal ‘Addio,’ and all of my cares melted away. I sang it, and thought, this is exactly why I sing. This is why I’m here. (singing) Non reggo al tuo squallor, ah! son vil, ah! son vil!...I knew I didn’t need to worry.”


One of his favorite parts of the Concert of Arias experience was the interview portion. “I felt like a celebrity,” he says. “I love to talk about my blackness, I love to talk about my queerness, and I love to talk about my family and where I come from.” It wasn’t easy growing up in East Augusta, Georgia, he says, but he always pushed through. “No matter what my family went through, we went through it together, and we came out of it together.”


After singing his “Addio” on the Cullen stage during the live final round of the competition, shouts of bravo! rose up through the crowd. In the end, Sampson won not only the Audience Choice Award, but second place overall. He was especially proud that the audience had voted for him. “I wanted to know that the audience truly loved me,” he says simply, “and they did.” He joined the Butler Studio this fall, right after graduating from Georgia State University.


Asked what advice he’d give the hopeful artists competing in Concert of Arias 2024, Sampson has this to say: “When your heart, mind, and shoulders are heavy, remember that the best thing to do is not to sing to impress, but to sing to express. When you do that, it’s impressive.”


By Colin Michael Brush, Butler Studio Director, and  

Catherine Matusow, Communications Director

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