About Us

The Handel Aria Competition was established in 2013 by Dean and Carol “Orange” Schroeder, enthusiasts of the vocal repertoire of George Frideric Handel. The purpose of the competition is to encourage emerging singers of all voice types to explore the repertoire of Handel.   Entrants for 2013, our inaugural year, included singers from across the US and Canada.  In addition to cash prizes to the top three winners, the audience selected an “audience favorite.”  The field of applicants has now expanded to include singers for around the world, and the cash prizes have been increased significantly.


Dean & Orange Schroeder 2Dean and Carol “Orange” Schroeder
have been co-owners of Orange Tree Imports, an award-winning gift and gourmet shop on Monroe Street in Madison, Wisconsin,  since 1975.  Dean’s passion for Handel stems from his love of singing and playing the piano, as well an appreciation of the work of musicians ranging from The King’s Singers to B. B. King.  He shares Orange’s interests in the theater, Celtic harp music, and all things Danish.

The Schroeders founded the Handel Aria Competition in 2013 and also support a number of arts organizations including Candid Concert Opera, Madison Early Music Festival, and Forward Theater.


Headshot.RoweCheryl Bensman-Rowe (Artistic Director) has performed extensively in North and South America, Europe and Japan.  Her voice has been described having “timbral purity with dramatic intensity” (New York Times) and she received a Grammy for singing on the Nonesuch recording of Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich.  A former member The Waverly Consort, and the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, she has also performed with New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, the St. Louis Symphony, and has sung at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Ravinia, Mostly Mozart, Wiener Festwochen, Holland Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival. She has recorded for Nonesuch, ECM, and CBS Masterworks.  In Wisconsin she has sung with Madison Opera, the Madison Symphony, Oakwood Chamber Players, Madison Bach Musicians, Token Creek, and Present Music of Milwaukee.  She is the Co-Artistic Director of the Madison Early Music Festival with her husband, Paul Rowe, and has a voice studio in Madison.

Board of Directors

John Barker,  Cheryl Bensman Rowe, David Ronis, Dean and Orange Schroeder, Nick Schweitzer, Dan Shea, and  Jeff Turk