Luke Merrick, a senior music education major, won the National Association of Teachers of Singing vocal competition this past summer.
Though the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) might not be a familiar name to most people, the organization is a widely recognized in the world of professional music. Founded in 1944, NATS is the largest professional association of vocalist teachers in the world with nearly 7,000 members in the United States, Canada, and 28 other countries, according to the NATS website. Their national vocal competition brings in top vocalists from around the nation to compete. In order to compete in the national competition, one must place well in regional and state competitions in a process similar to sporting competitions.
After Merrick won at the state level in the spring of his sophomore year, he was eligible to compete in the regional competition the following Nov. as a junior.
“With other vocalists at JBU, I competed at the regional NATS, where I was also able to place first. The top five competitors from the region were eligible to send in a video audition for national NATS competition,” Merrick said. “I recorded an audition of several of my pieces, sent it in, and it took longer than I expected, so I had somewhat resigned myself to the fact that it didn’t work out.”
Merrick said he was pleasantly surprised to find out that he had made it to nationals. Merrick credited Liesl Dromi, Merrick’s vocal instructor since the beginning of junior year, for much of his success. “She really has a special way of communicating it to students where it’s very easy to understand but it also shows you how to do it a high level. Studying with her I think really took me to another level of musicianship and artistry,” Merrick said.
Merrick also gives credit to the other music faculty and resources at JBU. “It involves a lot of different people to. It involves music history classes, sight singing courses, all the courses that I have taken in my music curriculum that have contributed to the fact that I have been able to perform at a high level.”
Before the competition, Merrick had been planning on pursuing law as his career, and even had an internship with a law office over the summer. It was his experience at the NATS competition that convinced him that a career in music was feasible. “Being able to do well at the competition, and then looking back over my life and just seeing how the Lord has allowed me to do music and what it’s meant to me, it’s been really formative in saying ‘regardless of what happens in the long-term, I want to give this a shot as a career.” Merrick’s experience has boosted both his confidence and that of his peers in the music department.
Olivia Meyers, a sophomore music major, explains how Luke’s success has motivated her in her studies in the JBU music program. “It’s cool to see that JBU can produce success like that. Especially seeing it with somebody that I have known for several years, it’s really cool to see the progress and to know that maybe one day I could achieve at that level.”
Merrick offered advice for anyone considering a career in music. “If it’s something that you really love, then don’t be afraid to go for it. Something that the Lord has put on my heart since beginning this process in thinking about future career stuff, is that He is the giver of passions and gifts, and he doesn’t squander them.”