Students procure finalist status at NATS

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Seven vocal students out of 26 reached the finalists round during the Southern Region Convention of NATS. Courtesy of Alissa Rowe

Vocal students and faculty explained the process and their feelings on the Southern Region Convention of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

In early November, a university press release stated, “A total of 26 Southeastern students competed in the competition held earlier this month at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, with 13 advancing to the semi-final round.” 

Out of the 13 students who advanced to the semi-finals, seven went on to the finalists round. The finalists included Brennan Simmons, Wesley Newton, Ryan Blanchfield, Cody Sires, Caitlyn Rodrigue, Rachel Denton and William Dopp.

Senior music major Sires, who received second-place, explained how he felt about the experience in its entirety and his feelings about the results he received throughout.

“Placing in a competition where there are participants from universities in a tri-state area is definitely a confidence boost,” said Sires. “I’m constantly questioning if I’m improving at all. The results are what they are. I prepared for it just as everyone else has. I feel second place is what I earned. Now, I am a better musician because of the positive feedback and critiques I’ve received.”

Sires accredited his love of music to his great-grandmother who would sing and speak to him in Italian.

In the junior men’s division category, senior music major Simmons placed second, and as a first- time competitor in a singing competition, he was happy with the results. He discussed some challenges he ran into during his time competing

“A big challenge for me is keeping my ADHD in check,” said Simmons. “Music is a very independent and intensive program. You’ll find yourself in a practice room for hundreds of hours each semester. Being able to focus in that room all by yourself for hours is very challenging for me, but when I get it, the outcome is so incredible. It even helps me retain my focus on my school work, allowing me to make better grades.” 

Additionally, Simmons explained how he felt about the competition process.

“The competition was very exciting for me,” said Simmons. “I was able to perform for some really talented musicians and get great feedback. I am full of anticipation for the next time I am able to compete.”

Faculty and staff pianists Charles Effler and Mary Bresowar accompanied students during the competition. Professor of Voice Dr. Stephen Rushing described how faculty members help and guide the students leading up to and during the competition.

“All of the faculty who are members of NATS will send their students to the competition, and they assist the students in choosing their repertoire,” said Rushing. “They also coach them in all the music that they are performing. They work with the dimensions of the foreign language diction, with style, with accuracy, with their visual presentation, their acting of the piece. It’s all part of the art of song. So essentially, they’re helping them out with three languages: the language of the text, the language of the music and also their body language. Those three simultaneously are a part of what they present and is part the art form.”