NATS Orlando Conference Recap

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The national conference was an exciting time to be a singing teacher. I think there were about 600 NATS members in attendance at the conference which was held at the beautiful Renaissance Sea World Hotel in Orlando. We were just across the road from Sea World but I never got there as there was always so much to do at the conference. Gloria Gassi and Barbara Dunn-Prosser were more adventurous than I and went to visit Universal Studios. We had an opportunity to meet with our own Regional Governor, Laurie Lashbrook, and had a lunch with her and other members of our region who were in attendance. It was so nice to have a chance to discuss issues that affect us all, such as student auditions and professional development opportunities. They were quite interested in our use of the auditions registration website last year.

There were many very interesting, educational and inspirational sessions. Unfortunately, many of them are offered simultaneously, so it’s never possible to attend everything, but on the other hand, there is always something of interest on offer. I arrived late for the opening session (delayed flight) but heard Jane Eaglen’s masterclass, the NATSAA finals (a lovely baritone called Andrew Garland from the New England region), the finals of the first National Music Theatre Competition (the results of which sparked lots of controversy and had everyone talking) the main artist concert of Nathan Gunn, bariione with his wife, Julie, accompanying, their masterclass the following day, and the recital of the last NATSAA winner, Thomas Florio, baritione, which was, for me, the highlight of the conference. Sessions ranged from Yoga for Performers to Vocology and Speech Pathology, Vibrato and non-Vibrato singing, Male Passaggio Pedagogy, Talented Kids, Finding Your Agent, Your Oratorio Audition, Copyright and Fair Use, Keeping Music in the Schools:Advocating for the Arts as Core Curriculum, etc, etc, etc. There were also poster papers and publisher showcases and vendors exhibits – a veritable cornucopia of voice teachers’ stimulation.

There was a big presence at this conference of the Carnegie Hall Royal Conservatory Achievement Program, which was being introduced to the American membership in several sessions which were co-presented with Robert Loewen from our Ontario Chapter. Barbara Dunn-Prosser was also in attendance and was recognized for her contribution to the voice series. Congratulations also to Colleen Skull who presented her poster paper, Sustaining Elite Performance and to Rita Di Ghent who presented her paper, When Classical Singers Cross Over to Jazz.

The conference culminated with a beautiful banquet at which Florence Henderson was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award and we all got to have our pictures taken with her. She was lots of fun and very gracious with all of us. Her speech was in part hilarious, in part very moving and informative about her journey towards a life in acting and singing from a childhood of poverty. We were treated to a video collage of Florence’s career from very early days through the Brady bunch (we all sang along to the theme song!). Very entertaining!

It was great to have an opportunity to talk with our outgoing president, Don Simonson and to meet the new president, Kathryn Proctor Duax from Wisconsin.  There is a wonderful, hard-working core of NATS members who take the executive positions in our organization and are much to be admired and thanked for the energetic work they do. They inspire us at the local level to continue to celebrate the art of song and to share our knowledge with one another and our students. The next national conference will be in July 2014 in Boston. I do hope some of you will plan to attend. It’s so worthwhile!

Have a wonderful summer, and we’ll see you next at the Student Auditions at Wilfrid Laurier University on November 17th. Watch for news of the dinner and meeting on the Friday night, the 16th in Waterloo.

Yours in song,
Catherine Robbin, O.C.

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