Erin Lee, a student of Jane Leibel from the NATS Canadian Atlantic Provinces Chapter, has been awarded the inaugural Roberta M. Stephen Memorial Scholarship.
The Stephen Scholarship is awarded at the NATS National Student Auditions (NSA) finals for an outstanding performance of a Canadian art song in the college-age classical categories. Lee’s performance of “Kalypso,” a composition by Cecilia Livingston, earned her the $500 scholarship.
While Lee is Canadian herself, any singer who qualifies for the national level of the NSAs is eligible for the scholarship. A Canadian Art Song Syllabus is available to guide singers and teachers in selecting repertoire that would qualify for the scholarship.
“Erin winning the first-ever Roberta Stephen Scholarship makes my heart dance!” Leibel said. “I know Roberta would so very much admire Erin’s ability to learn and memorize challenging scores and deliver deeply communicative performances. Erin enjoys investigating new music and is drawn to the most demanding repertoire; choosing texts that speak to her heart and preparing it with the same integrity that belongs to the finest professionals. I have seen Erin in many different performing mediums and am always moved by the innate responsibility she feels for the art of music-making.”
Roberta Stephen, the founder of the first Canadian NATS chapter, was part of a musical family from Southern Alberta. She earned a master's degree in voice from the University of North Texas and a bachelor’s degree in composition from the University of Calgary. She received the highest award for her ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music and her associate’s degree in music from the Western Board of Music (Conservatory Canada). Throughout her teaching career, Stephen’s students were consistent award winners at the local, provincial, and national levels and many former students teach and perform professionally.
As a composer, Stephen was best known for her vocal works for children, her song cycles, and her vocal chamber music for professionals. She was one of four composers chosen for the first National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Art Song Composition Award. Her music has been performed throughout North America, including New York City where “The Eye of the Seasons” for voice, piano and clarinet received critical acclaim. This work was commissioned by New Works Calgary for the opening of the Eckhardt Gramatté Hall in the Rozsa Centre at the University of Calgary. Many of her compositions are listed in the voice, piano and strings syllabi of major examining boards in Canada.
Stephen served as president and owner of Alberta Keys Music Publishing, president of New Works Calgary and the founder of Contemporary Showcase in Calgary.
NATS of Southern Alberta provided $5,000 CAD to seed the funds for the scholarship and commissioned the creation of a syllabus and resource center for Canadian music. The Vancouver Chapter of NATS is facilitating the awarding of this scholarship and accepts donations for funding the scholarship.