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.



Artistic Director Sarah Brailey was one of the first Handel Aria Competition finalists, in the 2nd year of the event, and won first prize the following year.  She joined the Handel Aria Competition as artistic director in the fall of 2018.   Sarah enjoys a career filled with a plethora of diverse projects including soloing in Handel’s Messiah with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, performing with Kanye West and Roomful of Teeth at the Hollywood Bowl, and recording cello and vocal soundscapes for the current Fog x FLO Fujiko Nakaya public art installation in Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system.

Highlights of current and recent seasons include Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Colorado Symphony, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the Johnstown Symphony, and George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song with Lorelei Ensemble and Boston Symphony Orchestra. She is delighted to be returning to Boston for several projects including Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with The Handel and Haydn Society, and Puccini’s Suor Angelica with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Lorelei Ensemble. .

Sarah recently returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study for her DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) with voice professor Paul Rowe.  She continues to maintain a busy international touring schedule, and in addition has already co-founded a monthly Madison concert series entitled Just Bach.

Board of Directors

John Barker, Cheryl Bensman-Rowe (past Artistic Director), Chelsey Bowles, Karlos Moser, David Ronis, Dean and Orange Schroeder, Nick Schweitzer, Dan Shea, and  Jeff Turk