Students in the music department at John Brown University have been preparing to compete in one of the biggest collegiate vocal competitions in the region, The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition.
The competition will take place on Feb. 26 and 27 and will attract students from several schools in Arkansas.
Luke Merrick, junior political science major, is one of several students representing the University at the competition. He plans to perform three pieces that he began preparing at the beginning of the semester.
“Just trying to get in requires a lot of practice,” Merrick said. “I’ve been getting in four to five hours of vocal practice weekly, and I’m striving for six. We’ve been working on interpretation, especially with the Italian pieces. I have to reflect the styling of the songs and the meaning of the words.”
The National Association of Teachers of Singing is the standard for solo completion. After the Arkansas chapter of the competition, those in the top tier will go to a regional competition. Those who do well at regionals will proceed to the national competition.
TaraJane House, freshman general music major, has been singing all her life and is excited for this new opportunity.
“Honestly I didn’t know I was going until two weeks ago,” she said. “I walked into my lesson and my voice teacher was like ‘so you wanna go to NATS?’ and I was like ‘Yeah! What’s NATS?’”
A student familiar with the competition is Nephtali Cantu, sophomore music education major. This will be his second time attending, and he is coming off of a first place finish in his category last year.
“I had never taken voice before last year so I wasn’t expecting much from it,” Cantu said. “I was just doing it for fun and putting myself out there to see how it would go. When I made it to finals I thought, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’”
Cantu explained that on the first day, students have preliminary rounds where they sing for judges. The next day those who made it past preliminary rounds compete again, and that night they have the final competition.
Students will be judged based off of diction, tone quality, interpretation and style, among other things.
Merrick explained that he is a little nervous, but excited because University students have placed first in the past.
House agreed. “I’m nervous. Oh my goodness, I’m so nervous,” she sad. “I’m not super comfortable singing in front of people and this will be the first singing competition I’ve ever been in so I’m not sure how it’s going to go.”
She added that she is excited to get to see the different talent that students have to offer and to discover where she fits in.
Merrick, House and Cantu said they are planning on enjoying the experience, having fun with peers and giving their all.
“I’m going to do my best unto the Lord and let him work out the results,” Merrick said.