Two Albion College vocal students earned top awards in the Michigan NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) solo vocal auditions held recently on the campus of Grand Valley State University.
Abigail Leitch (right) earned the First Place award in the First-Year College Women category. Judges' comments included: "You are already a fine artist," "Beautiful; musically so well shaped—you really took (us) on a complete musical journey" and "top tones are shimmering and exciting." Leitch is a voice student of Albion professor Maureen Balke.
McKenzie Schafer earned the Third Place award in the Second-Year College Women category. Judges' comments included: "Wonderful facial expression and your eyes really have power!" "Great high note! WOW!" and "You have it all—go for it!!! You can have a career!" Schafer is also a voice student with Balke.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of these students," said Balke. "McKenzie Schafer comes to every voice lesson eager to show me the work she has done. That's what it takes to be a professional. You don't go to your voice lesson just because it is a class, or to passively take critique; you go because you are serious about pursuing this extremely challenging career path."
"NATS is a very useful learning experience for a singer," Schafer said. "It was quite an honor to place, and I have Dr. Maureen Balke and all the Music Department to thank."
Balke noted that while Leitch has just begun her college career, she is well set to also excel. "She is talented and smart and hard-working/dedicated, the three most important characteristics for success in the vocal field."
"Participating in events like NATS is a really good way for vocal music students to gain performance experience. It was tremendously constructive to get feedback from experts and to see so many other singers dedicated to their art," said Leitch. "I learned a lot and got so much encouragement from my fellow Albion singers."