On April 28th, ten Covenant voice students traveled to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida to compete in the annual South Eastern Regional National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. Each student prepared 3-4 pieces to compete in the classical or musical theatre categories against other students in their particular voice year across the southeast regional schools.
During the preliminary rounds, three judges listen and critique singers in their specific category. A select few progress to the semi-finals round, then the finalists are chosen to perform in a finals concert. The judges are composed of voice teachers from southeast regional colleges and universities.
Among the Covenant students who participated, eight are vocal majors, one is a voice minor, and one is a voice concentration as an IDS Major. The students who competed in NATS were Eddie Sunder (‘19), Sarah Huskey (‘20), Milagro Guerra (‘20), Abbs Kern (‘20), Mark Perry (‘20), Hannah Pulliam (‘20), Mary Brook Diamond (‘22), Alexis Dupree (‘22), Ian DeGraaf (‘22), and Elaine George (‘22).
“All of the students received inspiration and helpful feedback for how they can grow and improve from other teachers, other sets of ears and eyes,” Professor Beth DuRoy said.
DuRoy, an adjunct professor at Covenant, teaches all of these singers in weekly half an hour or hour lessons. These students must put in a significant amount of preparation outside of lessons to attend this competition as well. DuRoy also said that hearing so many different voice types during the finals concerts is encouraging and inspiring to these aspiring vocalists. They also hear a variety of vocal literature including operatic arias, art song, and oratorio, expanding their familiarity with the art form.
Diamond and Huskey proceeded to the semi-finals round in the classical and musical theatre categories, respectively.
This was Huskey’s third time competing at NATS, but her first time competing in the musical theatre category. She was humbled and encouraged upon making it to semi-finals. “I had been timid to try the musical theatre category since freshman year, but I was determined to give it a shot this year and I learned so much,” Huskey said. “I am very thankful for the experience.”
DuRoy expressed praise for Huskey and Diamond on their progression to semi-finals. “When you are competing with the largest music schools in the South East, that is quite an accomplishment for a school of our size,” DuRoy said.
Huskey said she always looks forward to NATS each year. “I love spending the weekend in a different place each year with some of my closest friends and having the opportunity to read the feedback from three judges,” Huskey said.
She had a few goals realized this year as she sought to improve in her breath support, body alignment, and expressivity. Her scores from the judges went up in these categories, which she said was encouraging. “It is humbling to see how my hard work pays off each year in the judge's comments.”
Diamond also was thrilled to make it to the semi-finals in her first year competing in NATS as a college student. “With as many talented vocalists as there are competing at NATS every year, it was an absolute honor,” Diamond said. “I feel like I need to specially thank professor Beth DuRoy, my voice teacher, in this area. Without her, there is no way my technical capabilities would have been adequate to make the semifinals!”
Diamond enjoyed spending time with the other participants during the weekend as well. “Getting to spend time with everyone and bond and form deeper relationships and just have fun was really great,” Diamond said. “The music department at Covenant is so full of wonderful people and getting to know them over the past several months has been such a joy.”
Next year, NATS for the south-east region will be hosted at Georgia Southern University. Diamond and Huskey are both looking forward to the competition.
“It was both encouraging that my hard work paid off as a singer,” Diamond said, “and also exciting, as I cannot wait to see how much farther I can go in the years to come.”