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Ouachita students earn four finalist, 13 semifinalist honors in virtual state NATS competition

Ouachita NewsMarch 18, 2021 - Claire Phillips

Four Ouachita Baptist University music students were recognized with finalist honors at the 2021 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) auditions for the state of Arkansas. Over 130 Arkansas college students competed to reach the final round of the competition, which was conducted virtually this year, and 14 Ouachita students earned semifinalist and finalist recognitions.

The annual competition not only includes the student auditions – with over 20 competition categories –  but also includes workshops, professional presentations by NATS members, live performances and master classes.

During auditions, each student is evaluated based on their skill, interpretation and artistry in the performance of their piece. They receive immediate feedback from the judges, who provide critique and direction. Students also have the opportunity to advance and earn cash prizes. 

“The competition is all designed to make them better performers in the end,” said Dr. Jon Secrest, Addie Mae Maddox Professor of Music at Ouachita. “It’s promoting singing as an artistic endeavor; it’s promoting singing as an art form and helping our students to grow to become the very best artists possible.”

Held near the mid-semester mark, NATS also provides an opportunity for the students to showcase what they have been working on in their vocal lessons.

“It forces students to be ready. It gives them something to work toward,” Secrest said. “It’s easy to fall into a pattern of not working very hard. NATS motivates them to have more continuity in growth.”

Unlike previous years, this spring’s NATS competition was held virtually out of continued caution due to COVID-19, with Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark., hosting the workshop. And instead of the audition process spanning the course of a few days, this year students were required to pre-record their performances.

“The competition being held virtually was definitely a unique experience,” said Stuart Sowerbutts, a senior music industry major from Hot Springs, Ark. “I miss the energy of in-person competition, but submitting videos online allowed us to still participate while keeping everyone safe.”

The following are finalists from Ouachita, listed in order of hometown:

Benton, Ark. – Veronica West, a freshman choral music education major and student of Dr. Maggie Garrett, earned third place in the freshman treble division. West also was a semifinalist in the freshman treble division.

Bryant, Ark. – Meredith Medford, a freshman music industry and communications & media double major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the lower college music theatre treble division. Medford also was a semifinalist in the lower college music theater treble division. 

Cleveland, Texas – Hannah Gothard, a senior musical theatre major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, received first place in the upper college music theatre treble division. Gothard also was a semifinalist in the upper college music theater treble division.

Hot Springs, Ark. – Stuart Sowerbutts, a senior musical industry major and student of John Alec Briggs, placed third in the upper college music theatre TBB division. Sowerbutts also was a semifinalist in the upper college music theater TBB (tenor, baritone, bass) division.

Other Ouachita students named semifinalists, in order of hometown, include:

Alexander, Ark. – Matthew Mayfield, a sophomore vocal performance major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the sophomore TBB division. 

Benton, Ark. – Brennon Humphry, a freshman worship arts major and student of John Alec Briggs, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theater TBB division.

Caraway, Ark. – Karlee Sanders, a senior choral music education major and student of John Alec Briggs, was a semifinalist in the junior treble division.

Grand Cane, La. – Sarah Franklin, a sophomore musical theatre major and student of Dr. Maggie Garrett, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theater treble division.

Plano, Texas – Paige Price, a senior musical theatre major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theater treble division.

Prattsville, Ark. – Anna Holiman, a sophomore choral music education major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theater treble division.

Sheridan, Ark. – Madeline Martin, a senior musical theatre major and communications & media/strategic communications double major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theater treble division.

Texarkana, Ark. – Makenna Schaeffer, a junior musical theatre major and student of Dr. Maggie Garrett, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theater treble division.

Wylie, Texas – Kinsey Potts, a junior music theatre major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theater treble division. Mavric Herrera, a freshman worship arts major and student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theater TBB division.

Ouachita’s collaborative pianists for the competition included Kristen La Madrid, Susan Monroe and Phyllis Walker.

For more information, contact Dr. Jon Secrest at secrestj@obu.edu or (870) 245-5134.

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