Ninth-grader Sophia Gleeson and juniors Haha Shi and Elise Watson were recently honored for their performances in musical theater and contemporary commercial music (CCM) categories in the local National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) annual event, the results of which were announced on Nov. 5.
The San Diego chapter’s fall auditions program, in which singers who are students of NATS members perform and receive written feedback on those performances, gives top performances the opportunity to be featured in concert. This year, the auditions were recorded, submitted and adjudicated online and the honors concert took place via Zoom on Nov. 7.
Elise earned first place honors for her performance of “Heather” by Conan Gray in the CCM category; Sophia won first place in the musical theater category for younger high school students for performing “Much More” from “The Fantastics”; and Haha performed “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” from “Sweeney Todd” for third-place honors.
Describe the genre you participated in and why you chose it.
Haha: I’ve always loved singing and acting; musical theater is a perfect blend of both. It allows me to have a deeper connection/understand my songs better since the songs always have context to them – a character. The wide range of characters and songs just shows how much I can do with this category and it’s also always fun to add my own unique element to the pieces. Watching the other competitors also helped me learn how I can personally improve. Overall, it was just a really fun and rewarding experience!
Elise: I chose to participate in the CCM or the Pop Event and the Musical Theatre Event as well. I competed among other high schoolers at the same level and I chose these two contests because they allow me to explore how versatile I could be with the tone, interpretation, technique and artistic expression. Pop and Musical Theatre require the ability to look at music and be able to reproduce it off a page or track, but being able to define each genre depends on how a singer reacts and interprets each piece. I was ready for the challenge and discovered how I can change and calibrate what I do for each style.
How long have you been singing?
Sophia: I have been singing my whole life because my dad enjoys singing, so I grew up singing a lot with him, but I only started doing it seriously and taking voice lessons less than a year ago. When I started voice lessons, I was told I already had decent technique and pitch, which most likely came from piano lessons and singing with my dad. Now that I know how much I can learn from taking voice lessons, I wish I had started taking them sooner.
Haha: I have been singing for about seven years.
Elise: I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I truly started learning the actual technique for singing around age six.
What do you love about singing?
Sophia: I love how you can always improve your voice. There is always something more to work on, and the growth never stops. Singing never bores me because I know that I can always explore a new part of it. Sometimes a song will go really nicely, and sometimes it won’t, but the inconsistency is what makes singing interesting because it reminds me that I can always improve. The voice is much more complicated than one might think, and singers are truly athletes.
Haha: I love the freedom of expression I have when singing. Even though most songs have certain scores and characters written in, I can interpret that character in a way that is unique to me. Singing has also just always been a really fun activity for me and I always look forward to my singing and choir classes.
Elise: I love how singing is a universal language. Both as a singer in choir and a soloist, I constantly come across the situation where I am singing in another language in front of an audience or even just my family and friends and they find the beauty and artistry in the piece despite not knowing what is being said. Music in general is universal, but I find that when your instrument is your voice, there is an originality and authenticity of emotion that can only be portrayed by one person. Also, it is kind of fun to just let go and sing your favorite song with your friends and family. It is a release in that sense.
Why is the competition called an “audition”?
Haha: This was actually more of a competition than an audition, but usually with performing arts we call our submissions “auditions.” However, the competition is definitely not as important to me as the feedback I get from the judges, which lets me know how I can improve and also gives me a glimpse of what other, more experienced/professional singers think of my singing and acting, which can be really helpful for when I want to identify my weak and strong spots.
Elise: Auditions are a general term when it comes to the performing arts. Whether presenting your skills to be a part of a group, to win a contest, to advance to another level, or to be a part of a larger production, usually they are called auditions. In this case, we are auditioning to be recognized by the judges as excellent in our skill and ability to sing.
Who or what inspired you to participate?
Sophia: My voice teacher told me I should think about doing it and encouraged me to participate. She told me that when you submit audition videos, the judges score you and give you feedback, and then your score determines your ranking/placement. I knew that even if I did not do very well, I would still get valuable feedback and it would be a good experience, so I decided to do it. I never expected to do so well!
Haha: My vocal teacher. Before, I was really scared to do any singing outside of school (besides maybe honor choir). She pushed me to go out of my comfort zone and try some solo singing competitions. Dr. Micu has also always been a great source of encouragement for me, and she and Ms. Korneychuk were two other people who pushed me to audition for California region and all-state choir, which I have been doing since eighth grade. Every honor choir event I have attended has been such a great experience and doing a singing event outside of school definitely factored into my decision to compete in NATS.
Elise: My vocal teacher. I am extremely grateful for her support and advice; without her, I don’t think I would have had as much success in this contest or as a singer. Also, my mom has always pushed me to explore what is out there in the performing arts and encouraged me to try for both pop and musical theater despite my self-doubt. I recognize her as a huge part of my success.