Lauren Bird – Staff Writer
While many Dordt students take voice lessons, only four students took the opportunity on April 5 to go to Sioux City for the NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competition. Sophomore Marshall Fynaardt and junior Rachel De Boer both advanced to the final round of the competition.
Each year, there are two NATS competitions: one in the spring and one in the fall. The fall competition is state-wide while the spring competition is regional. Students who participate in NATS are separated into divisions by gender, style of music they perform and year in school.
De Boer says that the regional competition is less competitive.
“There aren’t as many big schools at the spring NATS,” said De Boer. “At the fall competition though, you get to hear a lot of amazing singers from bigger schools, which is really neat.”
De Boer and fellow Dordt student Marshall Fynaardt were able to make it through all three rounds and perform in the recital at the end of the day. Fynaardt, a sophomore, credits his success to the fact that he prepared well for the competition.
“Last year, I didn’t think it was a big deal, so I didn’t prepare as well,” said Fynaardt. “When you don’t prepare, things don’t go as well as you want them too. This year, I learned more about the importance of preparation. You have to make it a habit.”
For De Boer and Fynaardt, the NATS competition isn’t just about winning. De Boer believes that it’s important to use the opportunity to learn.
“It’s also important to see it as an opportunity to get more experience performing. The more you do it, the easier it becomes,” said De Boer. “The critique you get from the judges is also good. You learn to watch what they watch for in good singers. Since I plan to be a choir teacher, I’m going to need to learn how to critique my students in the same way.”
Fynaardt also believes that more performance is important for a singer.
“If you’re not comfortable standing in front of a judge, then that stress comes through in your singing,” said Fynaardt. “You need to be able to stand in front of judges and not freeze up or get nervous. I want to go to seminary and become a preacher, and I know that when I get up in front of people as a preacher, they will be judging me. So learning how to feel comfortable in front of people now will help me later.”
Not only can the student performers learn from their NATS experience, but the teachers who go as judges can learn as well. Pam De Haan, a vocal instructor at Dordt, believes that the judges can take advantage of this opportunity too.
“I go looking for new literature and ideas for my own students,” said De Haan. “As a judge, I can see the bar that has been set for where students should be and I can ask myself, ‘Are my students at that bar?'”
Dordt usually sends at least ten students to NATS every year, but this year the turn out was low. Fynaardt believes that students should be taking this opportunity while they can.
“Many students have an attitude of just getting through lessons for their scholarships,” said Fynaardt. “But this is the only opportunity you’ll get to do this. Take advantage of it; excel rather than coast through it all.”
De Haan encourages her vocal students to experience NATS.
“It takes initiative on their part,” said De Haan. “I know they’re going above and beyond the normal requirements. But they’ll be able to see self-improvement and begin to enjoy singing at the performance level.”