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NATS Winter Workshop offered a wealth of practical guidance

posted on 11:12 AM, January 16, 2018
2018 workshop in New York city featured today's top professionals in the classical and music theater realms
Director Chuck Hudson leads a class on movement

By Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, NATS Vice President for Workshops

The 2018 NATS Winter Workshop, held at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, concluded last Sunday, and I was delighted that the blizzard did not stop many of you from attending! Held concurrently with the NATS Artist Awards and the National Musical Theater Competition finals, our workshop featured professionals from both classical and music theater realms.

Pre-order DVD session recordings from the Winter Workshop: DOWNLOAD ORDER FORM

Mikki_Sodergren_cr350w_2018_WW.jpgOur first presenter was sadly unable to get to New York due to the weather. Mikki Sodergren (pictured, left), Artistic Director for the American Traditions Vocal Competition, joined us at the last minute and gave an informative talk about the options available for young singers. A performer herself with a great deal of crossover experience, her session was warmly received, and she provided a resource list which is available online.

Celebrated collaborative pianist Arlene Shrut (pictured, right)Arlene_Shrut_perf350w_2018_WW.jpg presented a session covering topics such as the "audition package," background research, the audition notebook, collaborating with the pianist, and the “Before/During/After” checklist. Included was a singer's’ demonstration audition with feedback and a short coaching session. Kristin Cowdin of Sempre Artists offered a feedback session during two mock auditions, and included a lively Q & A session on the business of singing. Pianist Nanyi Qiang accompanied at the piano admirably. Again filling in on short notice due to the snow storm were Frank Ragsdale and Sheri Sanders. Frank’s experience in variety of styles of voice including classical, music theater, pop, rock, and country allowed him to talk about real-world expectations for singers of all genres. Sheri’s extensive and varied musical theater experience, as well as her online Rock the Audition series, allowed her to share useful information for aspiring performers and their teachers.

Dynamic director and teacher Chuck Hudson began our second day with an interactive, highly physical class on movement. The excitement in his Psycho-Physical Acting class was palpable both during and afterward. His background in acting and mime makes him a delightfully different director than one normally sees in opera, with compelling results. The rest of the day was devoted to the realities of auditioning for an performing music theater in our time. Casting Directors Michael Cassara and Jason Styres talked us through the expectations in today’s world, and theater agent Mikey Nagy led us through a feedback session in which ten singers received feedback on their audition cuts. Several also were rewarded with alternative repertoire options for their audition books. Pianist Will Shuler made the mock auditions possible with his solid, stylish playing.

Mary_Saun-Bart_375w_perf_-_2018_WW.jpgWe began our final day with Mary Saunders-Barton (pictured, left), who approaches voice teaching for music theater as cross training rather than “crossover,” closing the distance between music theater and opera. Her session was widely anticipated and did not disappoint. Handouts of her session are available online.

Two master classes with famed composer Ricky Ian Gordon (pictured, right) were transformative, both musically and personally. Ricky_Ian_Gordon375w_coaching_-_WW_2018.jpgSingers were able to coach songs by the composer, again with pianist Nanyi Qiang. Occasionally, Ricky sat down at the keyboard and played himself, a special gift to both the singers and the pianist, who surely understand the composer’s intentions better after these insightful classes.

We capped off the weekend with a presentation and demonstration by Norwegian YouTube sensation, Aksel Rykkvin. We were treated to a retrospective of his rise to fame as a boy soprano, and learn how his teachers carefully mentored him through the process. We even enjoyed a taste of how his recently turned voice sounds as a young baritone: it seems hard to believe that he was still singing in another octave mere months ago in Stockholm at the International Congress of Voice Teachers.

As always, I am deeply grateful to the presenters for their shared experience and generosity. Few people know, however, how many hands it takes to make things happen behind the scenes. Debbie, Margie, Amanda, and Tina from the NATS National Office keep all of us on track, and are helpful and good-natured throughout even a blizzard and other unplanned moments. Blake and his son Tripp video recorded all sessions (which will be available to all participants in the coming weeks. (CLICK HERE FOR DVD ORDER FORM.) and tended to many last-minute technical needs with their usual skill. Paul Witkowski kept us up to date on the web site, and handouts from the presenters are available online thanks to him. Executive Director Allen Henderson helps us all stay afloat with his expertise and calm assurance. I am grateful to all of them, especially given the extraordinary circumstances the weather presented.

For those registered for the workshop who were unable to get to New York, stay tuned: you will have extended online access to all videos. We hope to have those online and available within the month. Join us next January in warmer climes—we plan to see you in Florida!



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