Last weekend, over 40 Drake students returned with high honors from Decorah, Iowa, for National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), a vocal competition. Thirty-four Drake students made it to the semifinals round and 14 placed in finals, making Drake one of the leading schools for music students.
NATS is a national vocal competition that is held annually in each state. Students prepare classical music and sing for judges who are vocal professors from across the state. Students are given feedback based on their technique and performance, and some are selected to move to the next round. Competitors are divided up into different categories based on gender and age.
Leanne Freeman-Miller, associate professor of voice, had 29 of her students participate in the 2010 NATS competition, and all but five moved on to semifinals with 12 making finals and four receiving honorable mentions.
Freeman-Miller not only prepares her vocal students for the NATS competition, but also assists with the judging.
“I love judging because I consider it a teaching moment,” Freeman-Miller said. “I feel as though every student that goes to NATS works hard and deserves to receive feedback. That being said, I try to be as direct as possible because this business is tough.”
Many of Freeman-Miller’s students placed in the top three for their categories. One of these students was Eric Ferring, a freshman vocal performance major. This year, Ferring placed first among freshmen men. He attributes much of his success to Freeman-Miller.
“We pick our songs early in the year and work on them throughout the semester on our own and in our lessons,” Ferring said.
Ferring has competed in NATS before, but this was his first time making it to the final round. Only three students are selected for the last final in each category and two of the three for the freshmen men category this year were Drake students.
Ryan Bower, a music and biology double major, placed second among freshmen men. This was Bower’s first year at NATS and he was very excited by the outcome. He spent a lot of time practicing his songs and mentally preparing himself for the nerves.
“I get a lot of nervous energy before I sing, which can be really negative when performing classical music,” Bower said. “Before I sing I try to just shake it all out and focus on my goals for the piece.”
Lauren Shun, a sophomore vocal performance major, competed at NATS for her second time. Shun has wanted to have a career in voice since she was in third grade.
“I am really happy with my NATS placement,” Shun said. “I competed last year, but I didn’t make it past the semifinals round.”
This year, with the help of her voice teacher, Freeman-Miller, Shun placed second among sophomore women.
“My advice is to find a teacher you can trust and to learn your own instrument,” Freeman-Miller said. “Part of my job as a teacher is to make the singer independent. You only live once. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. If this is your passion, just go for it.”
Freeman-Miller was very proud of all the Drake students that competed in NATS last weekend.
All students interested in singing can participate in the NATS competition and voice lessons can be taken at Drake regardless of major. NATS awards cash prizes of $100, $80 and $60 for the top three placements in each category.
Drake students who placed this year include Claire Ottley, Katie Hahn, Molly Schunicht, Katie Galliart, Gabrielle Sarcone, Kelly Kretschmer and Leah McIntire-Barnett.