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NATS establishing the Florence Birdwell Award at the National Musical Theatre Competition

Florence Birdwell was a professor of voice, but that title doesn’t do her work justice. Florence Birdwell taught her students how to transform from a singer to an artist. She taught them to understand and empower themselves, to celebrate life, pain, and love, and to communicate what they had to say in order to better connect both with themselves and with others. 

She cared deeply about her students, and with that care came a demand for excellence. She taught people to be both vulnerable and strong. She devoted her life to others through teaching for an incredible 67 years! 

Florence Birdwell was a giant. If we continue to listen to her, we and musical theatre will be better. 

In recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the vocal arts, the National Association of Teachers of Singing is actively raising funds to establish the Florence Birdwell Endowment, a dedicated fund aimed at providing permanent support for the Florence Birdwell Award. This prestigious award will be presented in perpetuity to the winners of the National Musical Theatre Competition. 

NATS is not simply honoring the impact Florence Birdwell had on her students during her lifetime, we are carrying her inspiration forward. In a deliberate way, we are infusing this competition with her insight and her spirit so that we do more than acknowledge her legacy, we build on it. 

We cannot duplicate the unique persona of Florence Birdwell, but we can pass on her wisdom. We can love this art form and the people who make it by sharing the honesty and authenticity that she demanded. This is the best we can do: to help people find their voices and to share their truth with other human beings through musical theatre. 

“I watch students change from {confused} singers to the most poised communicators of singing. Singing isn't just sound. It has words. If I want to hear something without words, give me a piano or a violin. Most singers have to learn to give up the sounds of their own voices. The words are the most important. It's the message that brings the soul into play. Finding this changes their lives.” — Florence Birdwell* 

“Most of our lessons were spent deepening my understanding of myself. Not being afraid of the uglier and scarier and rawer parts of me and being brave enough to put that authenticity not only into my performance but also into my life.” — Meredith Pyle, Student of Professor Birdwell’s at Oklahoma City University 

*From The Oklahoman August 31, 2008 

Please consider a gift to the Florence Birdwell Endowment, which will serve as a lasting tribute to her remarkable legacy. Your generous gift will enable us to establish a permanent remembrance and ensure the continuation of her impact on future generations.