The NATS Mentoring Program for Composers

The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) is pleased to offer the annual NATS Mentoring Program for Composers. This unique mentoring opportunity for emerging and early career art song composers aims to promote and encourage the composition and performance of new works.

Mentoring Program for Composers Banner with keyboard and headphones

Composers of vocal music (especially art song and opera) are encouraged to apply for this annual program. Around 10 selected composers are paired with a mentor for about 8 months, from mid-October to early June. The mentoring involves one-to-one online contact approximately once a month.

Depending on the schedule of the mentors, the needs of the mentees, and the interests of both parties, the mentors might critique short works, give general counsel about writing for voice, offer advice about resources, point the mentees toward appropriate performers and presenters, give information about recording and publishing opportunities, and just generally be a sounding board for any questions the mentees might have. 

As a special feature of the program, the Cincinnati Song Initiative commissions and premieres a song from each of the composer mentees. These have been presented in the “Let It Be New” concert events since the program's inception. Past mentees also have had the opportunity again to present their works as part of NATS events at the chapter, region or national level.

There is no cost for the NATS Mentoring Program and no application fee. There are no age or stylistic limitations, but the program is intended for those in the early stages of their professional careers or those nearing the end of their formal education.

2023-24 Class

Mentee Mentor
 Joel Balzun  Scott Wheeler
 Evgeniya Kozhevnikova   Tom Cipullo 
 Tommi Paavilainen   Laura Schwendinger 
 Carolyn Quick   Niloufar Nourbakhsh 
 Sofia Rocha  Shawn Okpebholo
 Myron Silberstein  Stephen Eddins  
 Ethan Soledad  Lori Laitman
 Keane Southard  Lori Laitman 
 Linda Uran  Juhi Bansal 
 Stephen Variames  Steven Mark Kohn
 Mena Williams  Tom Cipullo
 Xuesi Xu  Nkeiru Okoye

Application Procedure

The application asks interested composers to submit a short biography (200 words), a composer’s statement (150 words), a head shot, and two short work samples (as PDFs and also as sound files). The composer’s statement should indicate your experience with vocal music, and why this program would be helpful to you.

Currently, we are no longer accepting applications for 2023/24. Applications will be available for 2024/25 in late summer or early fall of 2024.

Previous Years

2022/23 Class

Mentee Mentor
 Stephen Bachicha   Stephen Eddins 
 Spicer Carr   Tom Cipullo 
 Hans Bridger Heruth   Lori Laitman 
 Jordan Knapp   Steven Mark Kohn 
 Mikeila McQueston    Tom Cipullo 
 Nailah Nombeko   Kurt Erickson 
 Kian Ravaei   Richard Pearson Thomas  
 Emily Sullivan   Nkeiru Okoye 
 SiHyun Uhm   Nkeiru Okoye 
 Tyler Weakland   Lori Laitman 

Read more about the 2022/23 class of composers.

Watch the 2023 Cincinnati Song Initiative "Let it Be New" concert.

2021/22 Class

 Mentee  Mentor
 Erik Franklin  Evan Mack
 Kevin Garnica  Steven Mark Kohn
 Molly Hennig  Lori Laitman
 Mikhail Johnson  Nkeiru Okoye
 Joseph Jones  Tom Cipullo
 Marc Migo  Lori Laitman
 Lisa Neher  Tom Cipullo
 Timothy Peterson  Libby Larsen
 Hannah Rice  Maria Corley
 Jorell Williams  David Conte

Read more about the 2021/22 class of composers.

Watch the Cincinnati Song Initiative "Let it Be New" concert from June 26, 2022.

2020/21 Class

2020 class of composer mentees

The inaugural 2020/21 class of composer mentees was reserved for composers from underrepresented groups, with a special emphasis on Black composers. The Cincinnati Song Initiative commissioned a song from each composer mentee and they were featured in a video recording in May 2021.

2020/21 mentors:

2020-2021 Class

Mentee Mentor
Mason Bynes, Boston, MA Tom Cipullo
Jerrell Gray, Baton Rouge, LA  Andrea Clearfield
Jens Ibsen, Pacifica, CA Anthony Davis
Quinn Mason, Dallas, TX  Jake Heggie
Lauren McCall, Lawrenceville, GA  Roy Jennings
James Morris, Westminster, CO  Tom Cipullo
Dave Ragland, Nashville, TN  Michael Ching
Del’Shawn Taylor, South Bend, IN  Juliana Hall
Maria Thompson Corley, Lancaster, PA  Evan Mack
Khyle Wooten, Tallahassee, FL Lori Laitman