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Union students participate in NATS and find musical enrichment

JACKSON, Tenn.May 7, 2002 – On March 23, 1944, a group of singing teachers met at the Music Teacher’s National Association convention. It was there that the decision was made to form a new organization, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, or NATS, with the desire to promote vocal excellence, education and research.

Fifty-eight years later, a small contingent of Union students along with teachers and accompanists took a trip to Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn, to participate in the MidSouth chapter’s annual student auditions along with 300 others from the region.

Included on this trip were Matt Jones, a freshman from Dyersburg, Tenn., Joanna Stillman, a junior from Lebanon, Tenn., Lauren Ornsby, a freshman from Poplar Bluff, Mo., Jennifer Curtis, a freshman from St. Louis, Mo., Lindsey Rapp, a freshman from St. Genevieve, Mo, Stephanie Wisdom, a junior from Russellville, Ala., Jennifer Bayuk, a freshman from Hopkinsville, Ky., and Courtney Jamison, a sophomore from Memphis, Tenn. Georgia Wellborn, associate professor of music, and Michael Penny, associate professor of music, accompanied them.

“We go mainly to have our students get the experience of singing in an audition and get feedback from other voice teachers,” said Penny. “Any NATS member that attends must also judge. It’s like a two-day free concert and the final concert is well worth it. It’s an honor for a student to go, even if all they might get from it is the experience.”

The auditions consist of three rounds divided by age and schooling. The preliminary round, which usually takes place Friday afternoon, is open to everyone, and those who score a 90 or above from the judging panel move on to the semi-finals the next morning. The top three students of the semi-final round move on to the final round, which is a public recital, and the top students are recipients of a small cash prize drawn from the registration monies.

“The purpose of the audition is to encourage young singers in excellence, to allow students to hear singers their own age who have achieved excellence, and to promote excellence in voice teaching,” said Wellborn. “The benefit comes from getting a fresh perspective from other teachers, from hearing a lot of students from a lot of schools, and having the exposure of new and different literature.”

Stillman, a semi-finalist in the junior women’s division, said she was surprised and excited to have made it to the next phase.

“Being in the semi-finals was just fun,” said Stillman. “There was less pressure because I had given my best the first time and hadn’t even planned on going to the finals so it was no pressure.” She said her biggest lesson was that the key to good singing is good breathing, pointing out that all of the finalists had good breath support. Other semi-finalists were Lindsey Rapp and Lauren Ornsby who both competed in freshman women.

Other events offered by NATS are the National Convention, the NATS Artist Award competition for singers going into a professional career (NATSAA), internships, a composition competition, a journal, and workshops on various topics. It was from one such workshop that Penny found the comic opera Eve’s Odds, which was just recently performed by the music department as an opera workshop for students.

By Alaina Kraus,
Class of 2005

Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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