Phillip Morgan, Henderson native and a junior at the University of Louisville School of Music, surprised his teachers last month with the news that he had been selected as one of 10 finalists for the national Grand Concours de Chant competition Feb. 26 in Austin, Texas.

Without their knowledge, Morgan had submitted to the competition a recording of his rich baritone voice singing French opera and love songs.

“I saw a poster and it seemed a pretty big idea,” Morgan said, “I didn’t think I had a chance so I kept it quiet.”

The Franco-American Vocal Academy presents the event, which is dedicated to the discovery and support of talented young singers who perform French art song, opera and operetta. The French Embassy and the Consulate General of France in Houston support it.

As one of the finalists, Morgan will compete against other singers from such schools as the San Francisco Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and Indiana and Vanderbilt universities

He will sing before a panel of international experts for a $3,000 first prize and opportunities to grow in his repertoire of music performance.

That’s not bad for a piano player who thought he was not a singer.

When Morgan’s voice changed, though, a successful audition landed him in the 2004 Governor’s School for the Arts summer session. Support at the summer school and interest from UofL voice faculty changed his life.

“I attended a rehearsal at UofL and thought it was the best music I had ever heard,” Morgan said. “The faculty was sincerely interested in me regardless of the school I chose to attend.”

 It was music professor Daniel Weeks’ love of French music that led Morgan to similar interests.

“Phillip is an incredibly talented young man,” Weeks said. “He is tremendously gifted with a beautiful voice and superb musical instincts and will be singing all French music for the competition.”

At UofL, Morgan’s voice joins others in the Collegiate Choir, Opera Theatre and the noted Cardinal Singers. His world of music now goes well beyond Kentucky. In addition to performing in UofL’s Comstock Concert Hall, Morgan has sung in China, Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Spain and Lithuania as a member of the school’s ensembles that have won international accolades.

A highlight of the China trip was getting lost on the Great Wall of China.

“My friend and I took a lift to the top while others walked,” Morgan said. “We ended up a mile and half away and missed the group picture.”

Morgan does not know where his musical journey will go next, but he is looking forward to the trip.