Lawrence students among NATS winners

Grace Christiansen

On the weekend of November 2, Lawrence University hosted the Wisconsin chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition.Six Lawrentians, including junior Lacey Jo Benter and senior Emily Fink, won in their respective divisions.

Benter earned first in the junior women’s division for the third year in a row, and Fink earned first in the senior women’s division and was named the competition’s outstanding female singer, a new award presented for the first time this year.

The NATS competition is held every year, drawing students from around the state. This year, 425 singers competed, including 66 Lawrentians, 22 of which advanced to the finals.

There are three rounds in the competition. Each student sings for eight minutes in the preliminaries and six minutes in both the semifinals and the finals. There are three judges, all NATS members, in each of the rounds.

In the finals all teachers are present and score the finalists in 1-2-3 order. This year, all first-place winners were awarded $150; Fink received an additional $100 for the outstanding singer award. Second-place winners received $125 and third-place winners received $100.

“The students behaved so professionally,” said Associate Professor of Music Karen Leigh-Post, the voice teacher for Benter and Fink. “They really had to pace themselves and have enough energy to bring life to the music.”

Leigh-Post commented on Benter, saying that she “has been described as a force of nature. She’s a younger talent and has been blessed with an instrument and a natural skill that is undeniable — she has the ‘wow’ factor.”

Fink received second place in her division as a sophomore and said that because of this she wasn’t surprised to be in the final round but also didn’t expect to win.

“I didn’t expect anything. I feel great,” said Fink. “I feel like having a good performance under my belt gives me confidence. Because of my performance I know that I can sing in my full voice, and that feels good.”

But Fink’s modesty may be misleading. One judge commented that “she sang like a world star.”
Said Leigh-Post, “She had some really gorgeous moments and you forgot she was a student. Emily’s singing transported an audience of more than 30 voice teachers from the role of critical listeners to that of a rapt audience.”

Though Fink graduates this year, there seem to be several other singers ready to carry on Lawrence’s reputation in the NATS competition. Other Lawrence students who earned first place include Katy Harth in the freshman women’s division, Katherine Meckel in the women’s lower-college musical theatre division, sophomore Nicholas Benson in the men’s lower-college musical theatre division, and senior Ashley Korolewski in the women’s upper-college musical theatre division.