Shenandoah Hosts NATS Virginia Chapter Spring Conference

Shenandoah Hosts NATS Virginia Chapter Spring Conference

More than 500 student singers, voice teachers and parents will descend on Shenandoah University from Thursday, Feb. 27, through Saturday, March 1, for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Virginia Chapter Spring Conference.

The conference kicks off with a preliminary NATS Artist Award (NATSAA) competition on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. in Goodson Chapel/Recital Hall. Judges are UNC-Chapel Hill Professor of Voice and Voice Area Head Louise Toppin, D.M.A.; Washington National Opera Head of Music Staff and Chorus Master Steve Gathman, D.M.A.; and Shenandoah University Associate Professor of Music Michael Forest, M.M.E.

This biennial competition is designed to assist singers prepared to launch a professional career, and is held in conjunction with NATS national conferences. Preliminary competitions are held regionally, and semifinals/finals take place at the NATS National Conference.

Singers and teachers from across the Commonwealth will gather for student auditions on Friday, Feb. 28 (college level), and Saturday, March 1 (high school level). Teachers serve as judges, and student singers scoring high enough are eligible to proceed to the regional auditions in April. Students who excel at the regional auditions have the opportunity to compete at the national level this summer.

“Students only compete against others who share their same age and level of study, which allows them to feel more confident because they are judged against their peer group,” said Associate Professor of Music Byron Jones, who is coordinating the conference. “Students also have the opportunity to sing for teachers who haven’t met them before, and get feedback on their singing. This fosters their growth and supports the learning process, which is what NATS is all about.”

On Friday, Feb. 28, National President of NATS Kathryn Proctor Duax will present “The Role of NATS and the Voice Teacher in Today’s Culture” at 3 p.m. in Ruebush Hall, Room 128. Other conference events include: a round table discussion for private studio teachers; musical theatre workshop; discussion on auditioning for college and beyond; and masterclasses with UNC-Chapel Hill Professor of Voice and Voice Area Head Louise Toppin, D.M.A.

Toppin’s masterclasses are presented on Friday, Feb. 28, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Goodson Chapel/Recital Hall and on Saturday, March 1, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Ruebush Hall, Room 128. Masterclasses are free of charge and open to the public.

“If you’re a private teacher in a rural county of Virginia, this is your one time of year when you can be in a room full of voice teachers to network and make connections,” said Jones. “If you’re in the middle of nowhere, that can be tough to access. So this gives that added level of professional support.”

The conference culminates with the Honors Recital & Awards Presentation slated for Saturday, March 1, at 3 p.m. in Goodson Chapel/Recital Hall.

Shenandoah University’s full-time and adjunct voice faculty, as well as doctoral students, are members of NATS, the largest professional association of teachers of singing in the world with more than 7,000 members in the United States, Canada, and nearly 30 other countries. Shenandoah faculty members hold current leadership positions in the organization and have served in past years as well.

Questions about the Virginia Chapter conference should be directed to Associate Professor of Music Byron Jones at