Fourteen University of Guelph music students have been invited to compete in an international vocal competition after placing in the top tier of competitors for the National Association of Teachers of Singing Auditions (NATS).

The prestigious vocal competition saw students from the College of Arts bring home multiple first, second and third-place awards competing in commercial music and musical theatre categories.

Some students performed original works composed as part of their studies in the music program.

A person in white sleeves and a blue vest with a long brown braid stands at a microphone coached by a person with curly, brown hair wearing a black top with flowers and black pants.
Marion Samuel-Stevens works on vocal technique with a student in the College of Arts.

“That is such a huge win and so exciting when students feel confident in themselves to do that,” says Marion Samuel-Stevens, adjunct professor of voice performance in the College of Arts, who accompanied the students to the first qualifying rounds of NATS, held this year at Western University.

This year marks U of G’s biggest presence at NATS with a record number of participants and qualifiers. Each is a music major or minor varying from first to fourth-year students. They competed against 150 entries from the Great Lakes Region which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, and left as one of the most decorated post-secondary institution.

“I really view my job as a voice teacher to help every singer find their own individual voice and artistry and figure out who they want to be as a creator,” Samuel-Stevens says.

“It is so valuable to be out in the world performing in front of people. I feel like it is my job to offer those opportunities.”

U of G’s unique approach to music embraces the contemporary

The music program at U of G has seen some changes in the past decade or so Samuel-Stevens has been part of the faculty. The curriculum is embracing contemporary music, weaving it into the teaching of both the history of music and music theory, a unique facet of the program, she says.

“Marion Samuel-Stevens is a phenomenal vocal educator who takes students’ potential and turns it into something breathtaking,” says Dr. Kimberly Francis, professor of music and director of interdisciplinary programs in the College of Arts. “U of G’s program offers something special to anyone looking to develop their creative craft, and we could not be prouder of our vocal studio.

“We are so proud of our students, who graduate ready to work in today’s industry, singers who have a strong command of technique, expression, and personal artistry,” Francis adds.

The National Association of Teachers of Singing is an American organization with chapters across the country as well as in Ontario. Through conferences, workshops, master classes and competitions, NATS’ mission is to advance excellence in singing through teaching, performance, scholarship and research.

The 14 qualifying students will next compete in the semifinals for a chance to go on to the finals this summer in Knoxville, Tennessee.