National voice competition comes to Mercer

Annual auditions are held for high school and college voice students to participate in a competition through NATS, the National Association of Teachers of Singing.  This year, Mercer’s Townsend School of Music had the honor of hosting this highly anticipated two day event.  On November 15th and 16th, over 300 vocalists came from all over Georgia to prove themselves among their peers.

There are two categories for which students can audition.  Auditions for classical music took place on Friday, and auditions for the musical theater category took place on Saturday.  Beginning early on Friday morning, hopeful students auditioned for a panel of three judges for first, second or third place among several sections within their gender and age divisions.  The judging panels were comprised of NATS certified voice teachers from all over Georgia.  The first, second, and third place winners from each section received monetary rewards, but the first and second place winners went on to compete in the final round for best overall in their divisions.

In the classical category, many of Mercer’s vocalists placed with a few taking first overall.  These vocalists include freshmen Mary Lathem and Andrew Hearn, sophomores Dominique Williams and Clay Mote, juniors Rachel Snapp and Betsy Swanson, seniors Katie Elliot and Leah Parris, and graduate students Katie Trotter and Barbara Martinez.  Each of these students placed within their divisions.  In addition to these students, sophomore Betty Cantrell and Junior Clay Young won overall in their categories.  When asked about his experience this year Young said, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to finally win after two years of competition.  I could not have made it where I am without my voice teacher Marie Roberts.  It’s an honor to represent Mercer.”

On Saturday, musical theater auditions began the process all over again.  For this category, students were grouped either in the freshman and sophomore division or the junior and senior division.  Mercer students succeeded in this category as well.  Sophomores Clay Mote and Parker Van Riper and junior Clay Young placed in their divisions.  Sophomore Betty Cantrell won overall for the freshman and sophomore musical theatre category.  A recital for the winners took place on Saturday at 2:00 to sum up the competition.

This competition, however, does not solely revolve around winning.  Many students compete because it is a good way to practice their audition skills.  They also receive remarks from each judge encouraging them or advising them on how to improve.  Junior Alexis Setteducato said, “I enjoy receiving an outside perspective to my vocal work.  The feedback is always very helpful.”

This event was made possible by the president of the Georgia NATS chapter, Rebecca Lanning, the state registrar and competition coordinator, Dr. Richard Kosowski, and the state repertoire consultant and Mercer University host, Dr. Martha Malone.  Mercer’s music fraternity, Mu Phi Epsilon, and Mercer’s voice students volunteered to help make everything run smoothly.